We know half the world is urban — but what will our world look like in the year 2100?  We will be compressed even further up and away from each other in skyscrapers?  Or will we begin to winnow out and find room to stretch the horizon?


Janamitra Devan explains:

It took about a million years for the global human population to reach 1 billion in 1800. In the next 200 years, it reached 6 billion, and it will take only about 13 more years to add another billion. By 2100, the United Nations estimates that the global population will level off at about 10 billion, thanks to rising living standards and more widespread population control. By the end of 2008, slightly less than 50 percent of the global population lived in cities. If economic development proceeds at today’s pace, over the next century or so it is highly likely that 8 billion people will live in urban centers, up from today’s roughly 3.3 billion.

Yes, the world will indeed be able to sustain this many people. The major reason is urbanization. By 2100, 80 percent of the world’s population will live in cities. There will be many more new cities, and some of today’s megacities (greater than 10 million people) will become supercities (greater than 20 million). Among the obvious candidates: Beijing, Delhi, Jakarta, Mexico City, Mumbai, São Paulo, and Shanghai. At the same time, recent advances in agriculture, energy, and water technologies suggest that human ingenuity will keep up with population growth.

Devan provides analysis that, by the year 2100, both China and India will have converged into a single, strong, middle class society as prosperity and equality even out. 
Rural areas will return to an agrarian core to feed the growing cities.

Languages, Devan argues, will drop from the current 7,000 across the globe to less than a few hundred.  English will be the primary language of the world.

As we compress people into the urban core, and as we leave behind the rural areas to feed us and provide recreation — will we be bound to a localized hegemony and international sameness?

As the world folds and creases, and as we all become direct imitators of each other in order to survive breathlessness with anticipation — are we, the dying outliers, required to resist the loss of individualized personality, values and moral duty in order to retain ourselves?

Or are we pressed by our common, evolutionary, nature to begin to comprehend our neighbors will be 1,000 people instead of a few — and that we will all be required to think and behave exactly like each other the world over or risk the necessary carving of the abnormal from us and the removal of those that fall outside the mean because the tenuous equilibrium of the world status quo will be threatened with the toppling us from our cathedrals in the heavens?

8 Comments

  1. Wow. I’d like to think that the David Boles (that’s plural) of the future will help prevent that through striking out via thought provoking writing. 🙂

  2. Gordon —
    Would that be the “David Boleses” or something else? SMILE! We’re in for a fascinating, if troubling, future. I’m not sure the progression will be as precise and orderly as expressed in the article. When people move forward together the process is usually ugly and rather sloppy.

  3. This is certainly “Food for Thought” David. I live in rural America. However exciting and adventurous it may be for me to visit the city, I am always glad to return to my peaceful country setting. It would be a travesty to loose the serenity that encompasses me like a warm blanket on a chilly night.

  4. I think the country is great, Heartmelody69, but I do think the open spaces will be taken over by eminent domain in order to feed the welling expanding of us and folks will be required to live together in large buildings in cities in order to save on energy and services delivery costs.

  5. I agree, even if I wish it were not true. Even here, the towns and urban areas are expanding at an alarming rate! The boundary lines from one town to the next are virtually disappearing. I’m just saying that I’d really hate to give up my “little piece of Heaven”. All this brings us to another question … what will our government do about the overwhelming population? Are they working on a plan for controlling it? If so, is it “humane” or “insane”? I know, that’s an entirely different debate, but yet they are linked. They can’t avoid it forever!

  6. Growing up in Nebraska, it was great to have distance between towns. But now, Heartmelody69, with urban sprawl eating us alive, separate townships have now become bedroom communities of the larger urban, core.
    I think you’ll be safe in the woods in your lifetime, but the next generation or two after you will have to accept the notion that living on top of each other is the only way to survive the next thousand years as the earth becomes more cruel and less temperate of our humanistic extremes.
    I think we’ll have a time in the USA when population control becomes mandatory in that you’ll have to be approved to have more than one child. Your income and social standing will be important. You won’t be able to have as many kids as you want just because you can because that attitude injures the rest of us.

  7. I prefer to live in a small town country but my profession doesn’t allow it…
    I hate to imagine myself living in a concrete jungle, but the future is close to it.