The spread of the globalization effect and capitalist societies in the modern world have led to the growth of urban population. In this urban areas, cities serve as the vital economic and administrative centers. Currently, there is a rapid increase in the number of cities across the globe. This increase is driven by the belief that cities are the land of opportunities. In fact, cities are the only places where their varied sources of employment, advanced infrastructure, diverse human population, and intense utilization of technology. However, this high rate of urbanization has its advantages and disadvantages. Despite cities being central in the economic and social development in the society, they have resulted in severe environmental and sociological problems.
The understanding of a city differs with societies. People define a city as an extensive and permanent settlement characterized with dense human population and diverse economic activities (Pacione, 2002, p. 1). However, as Pacione (2002) points out, a city is a complex entity which cannot be sufficiently defined using social or economic perspectives. According to Pacione (2002), it is easier to pose the question about what a city is than providing the answer. Tangibly, a city is a physical entity entailing a built environment within a spatially delaminated territory. Additionally, a city is also a functional, social, administrative, and legal unit. Consequently, “the sphere of influence of city can extend beyond its physical, administrative or legal boundaries” (Pacione, 2002, p. 1). In this respect, a city is a dynamic environment where social, legal, and economic factors interact.
In the last six decades, urban expansion has been occurring at a very high rate. According to Jebweb, Christiaensen, and Gindelsky (2017), the urban population in developing contries improved from 300 million to three billion between 1950 and 2015. A survey conducted by the United Nations established that more people live in the urban than in rural areas. According to the United Nations (2014), 54% of the world’ population lived in urban areas in 2014. Furthermore, the United Nations (2014) projects that this number is likely to increase to 66% by 2050. In commercial terms, this high level of urbanization is an indication of expanding economic and technological activities.
Nevertheless, this high rate of urbanization has led to the emergence of severe environmental, demographic, and political challenges. These problems have emanated from the rapid increase in the urban population. Currently, there are severe shortages of resources and management to meet the growing demands of the urban population. Specifically, housing has been a key challenge in the urban areas. The housing problem has been caused by rural to urban migration levels which are higher than the rate of accommodation establishment in cities. According to Haque (2012), the lack of adequate and affordable housing in urban areas is the leading cause of the rise of slums and squatter settlements. As Haque (2012) outlines, the housing challenge in urban areas can be analyzed from the perspective of availability and affordability. In some cities, particularly those in the developing nations like Bangladesh, housing challenges are caused by insufficient supply. However, in other localities like Hong Kong, housing problems are instigated by high pricing making the houses unfordable (Haque, 2012).
Environmental sustainability is another challenge caused by the rapid urbanization in the current world. The rate of pollution has considerably increased in urban localities due to increased industrialization activities, poor waste management, and utilization of fossil fuels. According to Abasnia et al. (2016), the emission of green house gases like carbon dioxide by industries and vhehicles in urban areas have accelerated the rate of climate change. Apart from air pollution, poor waste management strategies have constrained the availability of clean drinking water. The urban population dumps their wastes in water channels and bodies leading to water pollution. In fact, Abasnia et al. (2016) state that immediate actions are required to contain the current environmental pollution rates. In the recent times, the calls to address the rate of pollution has been intensified by the emergence of pollution-related diseases like cancer. For instance, Beijing residents have been forced to wear masks to protect themselves from adverse effects of air pollution. The image below shows people wearing protective masks in a smog-filled Beijing street due to air pollution.
Furthermore, the rapid increase in urbanization has caused significant employment challenges. According to the United Nations (2014), the rate of unemployment has increased steadily in the last ten years. Primarily, people move to urban centers in search of employment. However, the rate of immigration into the urban areas in the recent years has surpassed that of job creation resulting in a deficiency. Moreover, the United Nations (2014) points out that lack of professional skills by the rural population migrating into the urban areas have contributed to the rising unemployment levels. Employers in the urban areas seek for individuals who are trained in a given field of operation. Since the rural population lack this training, they are forced to settle for casual employment.
The migration of rural people into urban areas and the conversation of rural lands into urban centers have significantly challenged food availability in the modern society. According to Haque (2012), the rural areas are the source of food supply to the urban centers. However, with the young and productive generation moving from the countryside, agricultural activities have been paralyzed. Additionally, due to urbanization effect, people are converting the fertile agricultural land into industrial areas. According to Haque (2012), the results of this shift has been an acute shortage in the food supply. In fact, urban areas around the world rely on imported food products from the developing nation where agriculture is still dominant. For instance in India, one out of six households in urban areas has been a victim of severe food insecurity (Keshari & Shankar, 2016). These statistics indicate a growing survival concern for the urban communities.
Apart from food shortages, the high level of urbanization has led to the increase in crime rates. The rising crime levels are attributed to several factors. According to Agara, Chizea, and Osumah (2016), the increased crime rates have been caused by unemployment, social and economic inequalities, and lack of diversified means of production. As elaborated by the social capital theory, equality of all citizens is one of the key factors that facilitate harmony in the society. However, the high urbanization levels have advanced individualist ideologies increasing the gap between the poor and the rich. The loss of social relations that facilitate collective actions due to urbanization have elevated crime rates in the urban centers. With the United Nations projecting that the current rate of urbanization is likely to increase in the future, it is important to address the current challenges to enhance the livelihood of the urban population.
According to Pacione (2002), the best approach to solving the current urbanization crisis is by promoting economic equality. The social capital theory insists that equality of all citizens is the foundation of a stable and cooperative society. However, addressing economic disparities is not a simple task as it is affected by multiple factors. The first step in enhancing equality is by ensuring that all people have access to quality education. With quality education, individuals in the society can acquire employment qualifications which are required by the urbanized world. Additionally, education assists in the diversification of modes of production. When people have means of income generation, there will be a significant decline in unemployment and crime levels.
Furthermore, the administrative bodies can solve the housing challenges by building more houses to accommodate the growing urban population. This move is particularly useful in regions where housing problems emanate from insufficient accommodation supply. Alternatively, in areas where housing crisis originates from high costs, the government can lower the prices through policy implementation or by reducing the taxes that affect the real estate industry (Jebweb et al., 2017). For food security, adopting modern modes of production like the utilization of green houses and vertical farming strategies can be helpful. These agricultural technologies use limited space for food production. Additionally, the government can address food shortage by increasing food imports from the developing nations.
However, the most challenging issue to address is that on environmental pollution and waste management. According to the United Nations (2014), countries have struggled to lower the rate of pollution despite the implementation of several local and international policies. The policies have been futile due to poor or inadequate enforcement measures. In this respect, to solve the current pollution and waste management challenges, nations need to invest more in the enforcement of the existing laws. Any individual or organization found violating any of the local or international policies should not be spared. However, this move calls for a substantial overhaul in the existing environmental management organizations.
Conclusively, the high levels of urbanization have its benefits and shortcomings. On the positive side, urbanization has led to economic development, infrastructure improvement, and achievement of a globalized society. However, it has also resulted in environmental pollution, food insecurity, unemployment, and inadequate housing. Although there are several ways to handle these challenges, promoting social and economic equality is the most viable approach.
Abbasnia, M., Tavousi, T., Khosravi, M. & Toros, H., 2016. Interactive effects of urbanization and climate change during the last decades (A case study: Isfahan city). European Journal of Science and Technology, 4(7), pp. 74-81.
Agara, T., Chizea, B. & Osumah, O., 2016. When work disappears, crime appears a political economy analysis of urban crime in Edo State Nigeria. Journal of Studies in Social Sciences and Humanities, 2(4), pp. 161-174.
Haque, C. E., 2012. Hazards in a Fickle Environment: Bangladesh. New York: Springer Science & Business Media.
Jebweb, R., Christiaensen, L. & Gindelsky, M., 2017. Demography, urbanization, and development: Rural push, urban pull, and urban push?. Journal of Urban Economics, Volume 98, pp. 6-16.
Keshari, P. & Shankar, H., 2016. Extent and Spectrum of Household Food Insecurity in Urban Varanasi. International Journal, 2(1), p. 31.
Pacione, M., 2002. The City: The city in global context. London: Routledge.
The United Nations, 2014. World Urbanization Prospects. [Online]
Available at: https://esa.un.org/unpd/wup/publications/files/wup2014-highlights.Pdf
[Accessed 22 August 2017].
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