Question of Urbanization (from FP)

Foreign Policy magazine introduces a major article with the following:

The 21st century will not be dominated by America or China, Brazil or India, but by the city. In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. This new world is not — and will not be — one global village, so much as a network of different ones.

Time, technology, and population growth have massively accelerated the advent of this new urbanized era. Already, more than half the world lives in cities, and the percentage is growing rapidly. But just 100 cities account for 30 percent of the world’s economy, and almost all its innovation. Many are world capitals that have evolved and adapted through centuries of dominance: London, New York, Paris. New York City’s economy alone is larger than 46 of sub-Saharan Africa’s economies combined. Hong Kong receivesmore tourists annually than all of India. These cities are the engines of globalization, and their enduring vibrancy lies in money, knowledge, and stability. They are today’s true Global Cities.

City Scene

You note in several places on this site that the human relationship with the natural environment is part of the foundation for values in knowledge.  Presumably this refers not only to the development of an ethical posture that respects and protects the environment, but also the notion that our relationship with nature helps us develop our grasp of reality and thus influence how we generate and assess knowledge.

Do VKF fellows think these trends shown by FP portend any negatives vis a vis healthy human development?


Question of Urbanization (from FP) — 2 Comments

  1. “city mouse vs country mouse” has been and still is a constant battle, but it is much more complex. Cheap food mandated through a variety of government policies makes rural economies weak. Cheap food is required to keep consumption of goods high and wages in urban areas low for those who provide the services. The rise of the “healthy food” movement (organic, slow food, slow money, natural, etc is, in part a way to try to rectify some of this imbalance, not just in the developed world, but internationally. Higher energy costs are changing manufacturing patterns as well as food choices.

    The rise of service and knowledge sectors which have advantages of moving out of urban areas with a wired world, even in developing countries can change the mix of populations in urban and exurban areas. As this site purports to be thinking in post-modern terms, this world has to be seen through different eyes. FP is projecting based on historic models. Maybe it’s time to revisit jane jacobs works?

    It is interesting that few futures see cities surviving as a utopian world other than the Jetsons on TV.

  2. This developing trend contains positive and negative features. It is a positive reflection of both the need to house larger populations on Earth, and a negative reflection of the human tendency to consolidate power and money at others’ expense. Are urban areas developing to serve the world, or to feed off of it? Throughout world history cities have arisen as centers of power and wealth ruled by elites. Often they attempt impose their urban culture on rural areas, and redistribute wealth from the rural areas to the cities.

    In Minnesota, where I live, schools are no longer supported by personal property taxes, leaving them in control of area residents, but by state taxes that shift funds away from rural schools and provide greater funds (and employee benefits) to inner-city schools often in urban ghettos that have lower performance. Such redistribution only serves to increase the size of ghettos and foster alienation of rural people from the state government which is dominated by the interests of more powerful urban lobbies. The same is true of transportation where rural tax dollars are redirected to cities for trains and buses that rural taxpayers may never ride.

    Cities can thus undermine the way traditional rural citizens view the legitimacy their governments. The Taliban in Afghanistan are fighting the urbane regime of Karzai for some of the same reasons. The rural farmers in tribal areas are taxed to support a regime and civilization that is alien to the one they grew up in.

    The solution to unrest fostered by the urban exploitation of rural areas through consolidation of power and control of state governments is not to view the rural citizens as terrorists, for certainly the city dwellers could not exist without food produced in rural areas. Rather the problem has to be seen as one in which equal representation in government gets undermined by more powerful special interests–some of which are wealthy cities.

    While urban centers have a place in a highly populated industrial and post-industrial society, they cannot legitimately fill their role unless they realize they exist on the foundation of sound agricultural sector. They need to learn not to bite the hand that feeds them, but instead ought help rural citizens obtain access to the positive fruits of urban society.

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