Megacities Provide New Benefits to Humanity – and Pose Unique Challenges

As the world’s biggest cities get bigger, logistics and transportation networks in them aren’t keeping pace.

Christopher Kennedy, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto, has one suggestion for how the world can start to solve the problem of climate change: transform the world’s megacities.

Megacities are teeming metropolises that have populations of at least 10 million people.

They include Indian cities like Mumbai and Delhi, where transportation infrastructure is subpar.

“Same with Cairo,” says Kennedy, calling the Egyptian capital “the kind of place where you’ll see a four-lane road with five lanes of traffic on it.”

In 1950 there were just two megacities in the world – New York and Tokyo.

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Global urban culture is shifting east.

By 2010 there were 27, and researchers expect the number to rise to 32 by 2020.

We will likely see a great jump by 2050, with a projected 2.5 billion more people living in urban areas by then.

And the stakes are high, Laurence Smith writes in The World in 2050, a book that looks decades into the future to describe the impact of the population boom on the planet.

Source, The Guardian: 03/30/2016.

Source, The Guardian: 03/24/2016.

Smith, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), envisions population clusters in dense urban settings creating “mighty new poles of resource consumption” in China, India and Brazil.

Elsewhere around the globe, water is scarce. Mild winters encourage many humans northward.

Smith and other experts also note that global urban culture is shifting east.

The largest population increases are occurring in developing nations in Asia and Africa.

The trajectory of this big, big-city boom has the potential to change the world’s spheres of influence in profound ways.

[Also on Longitudes: 4 Ways Smart Cities Will Make Our Lives Better]

Good and Bad News

There are advantages to such cities – most notably, the efficiencies that come with scale.

For example, Kennedy points out that cities require less base infrastructure per person as they get bigger.

Richard Holt, head of global cities research for Oxford Economics, adds that megacities are net positives for the world because of their density.

“It’s much more efficient than spreading things out more broadly,” he says.

The rise of megacities creates major challenges, though.

While it’s easier for affluent and more advanced metropolitan areas such as London and Tokyo to handle an influx of crowds, those at the lower end of the wealth scale like Lagos, Nigeria and the Pakistani city Karachi have their work cut out for them.

Their logistics systems and transportation infrastructures aren’t always suitable for growth.

Source: The Guardian, 03/24/2016

Source: The Guardian, 03/24/2016

More People, More Problems

Andy Meek is a writer for The Guardian.

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