Scientists these days are speaking more and more comfortably about the rise of a new geologic age known as the “anthropocene” — that is, the age of humans.
Our world is increasingly shaped by our activities, from the way we spread our houses, to the pollution that pours from our cars and factories, to the massive reach of agriculture and commercial timber.
A second, parallel trend is also emerging at shockingly fast speed: the rise of Homo urbanicus.
In 2007, for the first time in human history, more of our species lived in cities than in rural, agricultural communities. And the emergence of this new city-focused culture is accelerating.
In today’s New York Times, Lydia Polgreen writes the following:
After decades of being primarily a nation of farmers, India’s countryside is emptying out, as millions leave their stagnant villages and flock to the cities.
How fast is this massive migration? By 2030, more than 570 million Indians will live in cities — that’s nearly twice the entire population of the United Staets.
A recent report by the McKinsey Global Institute estimated that by 2030, 70 percent of India’s jobs would be created in cities, and about 590 million Indians would live in them. To provide enough housing and commercial space, it said, India must build the equivalent of the city of Chicago every year.
The truth is that we don’t yet know what this transition means.
The United States has been a predominately urban society for a handful of decades and the social and economic fault lines of the shift are still being felt.
In the developing world, urbanization is likely to be far rockier. This photographic tour of the world’s most polluted cities, produced by Forbes, reveals a new kind of urban hell that is emerging, especially in Africa.
But the simple truth is that in the decades to come experts agree that most economic growth, innovation, and improvements in the standard of living will be taking place in cities.
Bill McKibben and others have pointed out that our world is changing dramatically.
Thanks to climate change and other human impacts, this isn’t any longer the planet where our ancient ancestors evolved and developed our civilization.
But we are changing, too. The fast majority of us — or, if not us, then our children — are leaving behind ways of life, customs, small towns and landscapes that defined us for tens of thousands of years.