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Urbanisation and its importance in human affairs.

Urbanisation and its importance in human affairs.
This topic is called “Contemporary urban environments”; urban environments are those built up areas where people live in density.  However, there is HUGE variety in the types and styles of urban areas and how “built up” they are.  Some urban areas are highly urbanised, such as Dubai (2%), Istanbul (2.2%), Mumbai (2.5%), Shanghai (2.8%), Taipei (3.6%), but others have large areas of greenery such as Moscow (54%), Singapore (47%), Sydney (46%), Vienna (45.5%), Shenzhen (45%). 1

Urbanisation represents the demographic transition or change from rural areas to urban areas.  Urbanisation is defined as “the increasing PROPORTION of people that live in towns and cities” and can be viewed at regional, national, continental and International scales.
• Urban growth is the increase in the TOTAL POPULATION of a town or city
• Urban expansion is the increase in SIZE or geographical footprint of a city

The word contemporary also appears in the title.  This word means modern or current.  When studying this unit, you need to consider the processes occurring currently in relation to the world’s towns and cities.
In 2010 a key date was passed, the World’s urban population passed 50% for the first time in history.  The World Health Organisation of the UN estimate that “By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people.”  This poses fundamental questions and issues for the global population and its leaders, and this unit is designed to explore some of those issues. 

So why is urbanisation important in human affairs?
1. The GDPs of some cities is bigger than countries!  This means that their ECONOMIC pull and influence is massive.
2. If more people live in towns and cities than rural areas, then they are DEPENDENT upon rural areas for their services – the provision of food and important resources for energy and construction
3. Urban areas are also dependent on rural areas to absorb the waste they produce, rural areas absorb urban air pollution, accept and deal with municipal waste and are affected by local changes to climate and hydrological systems
4. Urban areas serve as global “nodes” – centre points in the world economic system.  There are huge manufacturing cities that produce goods for worldwide consumption such as Shenzhen and others that provide services such as London.  Either way they help promote the global movement of goods and services and hence promote globalisation
5. Many people in urban areas live in substandard accommodation, particularly in LICs (Low Income Countries).  These areas are known as Squatter settlements, Bustees (in India), Favelas (In Brazil) and shanty houses.  Whatever the name these areas serve to get people into city areas for economic opportunity but also mean people live mired in poverty in appalling conditions.
6. Immigration occurs at a large scale in many cities, this makes cities large melting pots of culture and values.
7. There are many issues facing cities across the globe that people must put up with – air pollution, congestion, lack of job opportunities, environmental pollution etc. all impact people in various ways.
8. Urban sprawl has occurred, where cities have spread over huge distances making them less efficient at delivering their aim, the production of goods and services to improve the quality of life of the people who live in them.
9. The exchange of ideas and creative industries often occurs in urban areas, at universities and in research parks
10. Urban areas have POLITICAL influence, and often have seats of national or local government in them.
All these areas are explored in detail throughout this unit

Guangzhou by chensiyuan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (]

Guangzhou, China in 2011 by chensiyuan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (] 2

1 – Dave Lawler, 2018, “The global cities with the most and least green space” Axios. Accessed 11th March 2019 from
2 - Guangzhou, China in 2011 by chensiyuan [CC BY-SA 4.0 (] accessed at March 11 2019


Written by Rob Gamesby August 2018



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