It’s 2013 and you’re a global citizen. You are a whole mechanism, requiring your own support system. You live among 7 billion people: that means a consistent and continuous interconnectedness and interdependence of people and resources. Everything we individually and collectively do reflects on our surroundings.
Global population is growing by approximately 70 million each year: that’s 1.3 million people – a city the size of Prague – every WEEK.
As might be expected, there has to be a limit to how many people we can fit on this planet. What is that limit?
F A C T O R S
SPACE AND DENSITY
Indeed, it seems that we are living in some pretty crowded times: 7 billion is a large number. However, the perception of such volume and sizeability is relative. Apparently, according to National Geographic research, standing shoulder-to-shoulder all 7 billion of us would fill the city of Los Angeles. That’s all! Even throwing a ‘come-one-come-all’ party with room to dance requires a tiny speck of land – 1500 square miles, the total size of Rhode Island. How intimate.
The buzz word of the 90s, globalization, is a concept that is still ambiguous in terms of what impact it has had on our civilization, as its accelerated force and sweeping power can be perceived both positively and negatively. It enabled us to travel and experience so much more and in the farthest reaches of the planet. This movement of people, for business or leisure has become pivotal in the overall state of communities (in particular, in underdeveloped societies).
Until now, the growth in population and the growth in capitalism have gone hand in hand. Population growth meant more consumers and greater market demand, for the purposes of turning profit. The spread of global markets and the speed and reach of trade propelled growth and changes in all the corners of the world.
There is an immense environmental and economic toll from accumulating mass-produced goods – in the extent of production and consumption, as well as a heavy cost to us – measured by the time and effort spent investing into these things and using/consuming them.
We must radically reduce the scale of consumption and restore life more to a human sense of proportion and perspective to help the planet balance out between its capacity and our needs.
We need to – individually and collectively – align our desires with necessities, consciously produce less waste, reuse and share existing things and resources, re-sell and donate, eat less, eat unprocessed foods (vegan mostly), be more in touch with nature, and aspire to pursue practices that contribute to its conservation.
I S S U E S
In fact, as advances accelerate, so do the problems, unfortunately. We are, simply, living beyond our means. For a number of reasons: our natural resource use is inefficient and, as our supplies plummet, so does their quality.
Transportation and mobility
A car singlehandedly changed not only the cities we live in, but also the way we live. Our behaviour, our communities, our mentality and our needs – all changed as a result. We live in bigger cities, commute longer hours, and have became much more reliant on personal cars.
Traffic gridlocks are a huge waste of time and resources, and they are very polluting.
Transportation connections affect everything in the city: productivity, connectivity, amenities, diversification, culture, safety, sprawl, density, pollution, property development, values, and land-use variability.
But, the problem is not only in the number of cars on the road in any one city, it’s also about international travel and the transportation of goods and resources.
Just as the total population increases, so does the percentage of people on the move: going after better opportunities and improvements in the quality of life, for business, leisure, tourism, etc.
We want to move, we need to move.
The future of mobility must be made sustainable: Functional and efficient; available, well-connected, wide-reaching, easy to use, and affordable. The solution is not in more smart cars, more roads or shiny rail systems, it’s in the efficiency and inter-connectivity of a network of these solutions (source: TED).
Rural to urban shift, where a higher percentage of us are living in cities, happened around 2008. The number of megacities (cities of 10million+) has boomed in the past few decades. Cities grew. It has gotten denser and cozier. Urban population is projected to grow further, while rural population is expected to decrease.
Intense urbanization and rapid urban growth affect basic infrastructure, services, social circumstances, and environmental conditions. Small, more compact cities should, by logic, be more efficient. However, they also tend to lack planning and implementation capabilities, while experiencing the most growth.
As such, not all growth has been positive or well-executed. The greater the competition, the more compromised the availability and quality of opportunities. Infrastructure is suffering, the gap between affluent and impoverished communities is growing. Demands of the rich (for things, services and energy) is contributing to that rupture. The poorest 3 billion people, just short of half the total global population, account for about 7% of carbon emissions, while the richest 7% of people produce about half of all emissions and use up a majority of natural resources (source: Guardian).
City planning and policies unable to offer basic, low-end, affordable and adequate accommodation and conditions, such as social housing, and access to proper water, electricity, sewage, and waste disposal leave the poor to fend for themselves.
The welfare of the poor communities is as crucial for urban appearance, condition and development as that of the medium or upper class. One fades at the expense of the other.
Global Citizens: You. Me. Us. Them.
The developed and the developing world are tackling dramatically different issues.
Funding and support from richer nations can assist underdeveloped countries on their path to sustained stability and progress, thus contributing to the overall health of the world.
With the responsibility of the international community and our commitment to the improvements for the larger benefit of the future of humanity, we can have a realistic prospect of a healthy and thriving global village.
After all, we live in the same world. Cooperation, not competition; creation of opportunities, not their impediment; and sustainable solutions make a world of difference.
Written for and published by Travel Culture Magazine.