So much has been said and written recently about the problem of urbanization, that it seems to be a problem, which requires urgent solutions. However solutions are being found, but applying them is a bit different thing. Applying the solutions found appears to be a complex thing. It is very important to get to understand what urbanization is, what factors it is caused by and what consequences it, in turn, causes. Why it is so dangerous and what steps need to be taken and why they have not been taken yet. These are the questions, we are going to discuss within this paper.
Another concept, which is closely related to the problem of urbanization and is believed to refer to the movement, or, rather to say, the way of development, which may the human kind cope with the problems, erased by urbanization. This concept is sustainable development. And in this paper we will try to provide the analysis of this concept, try to get to understand, how and why it appeared and whether or not urbanization problems can be resolved by means of applying the policy of sustainable development. If they can, we need to understand, to what extend, and whether sustainable development really is a problem solver, or is it just another beautiful set of words, which hide emptiness and lack of any meaning behind them, trying to fool naive inhabitants of our planet, who are ready to buy anything for a way of saving, so frightened they are with the problems of urbanization, overpopulation and other Actions, which can scare anyone to death.
But in order to start, we need to define one of the central concepts of our paper, such being urbanization. We need to agree on what exactly we mean when we say this breathtaking word. The process of urbanization is the process of growth of urban areas, which happens due to migration of people from rural areas. According to the International Herald Tribune (ND) in the beginning of the year of 2008 the UN foresaw the urbanization to come to a point, where half of the Earth population would be urban. They expected it to happen by the end of 2008. The figure does sound impressive, to say the least. However "The Economist" (ND) provides even more shocking forecast, which promises us, that by the year of 2050 64.1 of the population of the countries, belonging to the developing world and 85.9 per cent of people in the developed world are going to be urban. Impressive.
However, if we think about it, urbanization is not such a straight-forward process, as it appears to us at the first glance. And, as cited by Bloomberg (ND), the prime minister of China Li Keqiang expressed this thought in a very bright and reasonable way. He remarked, that "Urbanization is not about simply increasing the number of urban residents or expanding the area of cities. More importantly, it’s about a complete change from rural to urban style in terms of industry structure, employment, living environment and social security.". This is very true: many people travel to the urban areas, living their homes in the villages, in the hope to find better living conditions, achieve a higher social status, get a highly-paid job, to be within a reach of public transport, community services and other things, which make life more comfortable.
However, despite all the obvious advantages of urban life, there are certain drawbacks of living in large metropolitan areas. The majority of people, who live in large cities, suffer from a number of diseases, which are unknown to the people, living in rural areas. These are caused by everyday stresses, extremely fast speed of contemporary city life, and high cost of urban life, compared to the life in the country-side. Therefore, though at first people have got no doubts as for the advantages of living an urban life, at the second glance they may see it in a different light, in a way, which is very well expressed by Chris Rea in his "Road to hell". The picture of urbanization, drawn by him, appears to be truly horrifying:
"Well I'm standing by the river
But the water doesn't flow
It boils with every poison you can think of
And I'm underneath the streetlight
But the light of joy I know
Scared beyond belief way down in the shadows
And the perverted fear of violence
Chokes the smile on every face
And common sense is ringing out the bell
This ain't no technological breakdown
Oh no, this is the road to hell".
But apart from literary images and metaphors, let us get back to researching positive and negative impacts of urbanization. Aparently, the problem of urbanization is not as straight-forward as to have only two sides to the problem. There is one more point of view: all the effects of urbanization, which first seem to be very harmful, at the second glance may appear to be actually useful for the environment. OOne of the people, who believe it to be rather a positive process, is Steward Brand, who in his book "Whole Earth Discipline" trys to prove, that in general the influence of urban areas on the environmental situation in general is positive. Here are just a few reasons why. Brand claims, that once moved to the urban areas, begin having less children. This is very good for demographic situation. Another reason is that people, who travel away from the lands, where they used to farm, give rest to those soils and do not exost them any more. Brand also provides a number of other reasons, but let us stop here. There are some other aspects to be taken into consideration. For instance, according to Vinci (ND) of BBC "rapid rise in urbanisation brings with it tremendous challenges – people need housing, infrastructure, water, food and jobs, as well as rising pollution and social inequality issues." Vinci also tells us about a new trend in the world's urban culture: "China, like several other countries, is exploring the creation of sustainable urban areas, or “ecocities” as they are known. Around the world, ecocities are beginning to emerge from the drawing board, from Masdar City in Abu Dhabi to PlanIT Valley in Portugal.". Hopefully, we really can call it a "trend". Hopefully, it is a tendency. This is where we get really close to the problem of sustainable development. Yes, these cities, described by Vinci, are indeed examples of sustanable development. But before we go on discussing sustainable development and providing reasons for or against it being a tendency in modern life, we need to define this concept in order to avoid possible misunderstandings. So we believe sustainable development to be a type of human development, which presupposes using resources in a way, which would satisfy needs of the people living on Earth at present time, while providing and guarranteeing the sustainability of existing natural resources and systems for the future generations. It was Brundtland Commission, that gave the following definition of sustainable development, which has become widely recognized: "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.".
So, sustainable development presupposes that the human kind should only consume thenatural resources at the speed, not higher than the speed, with which they are being renewed. Which urban population does not. The problem is that urban population, used to comfortable and nice life, consumes much more, than the nature can reproduce. But it is not the end of it. Urban population also polutes the nature at a speed, which is much higher, than the speed with which the nature is capable of coping with such polution. Let us take one little example: oil. People heavily use oil and oil products, especially intensively it happens in large urban areas. People use them for the cars, for other energetic needs. The resources of oil are very limited, and it is known to everybody. However, few measures are taken. Too sad, but true. But here are just a few totally shocking figures. According to Putatunda (ND), up to one hundred million barrels of precious oil, so called black gold, is being used for the production of plastic bags. In the US alone more than one hundred billion plastic bags - big and small, black and white and of all possible types and designs - are produced. All those bags are one time things, and after being used once, they are typically being thrown away by people. meanwhile the harm, caused by such bags is unbelievable. The process of recicling plastic bags is very expensive. Therefore only three per cent of bags, which are being thrown away worldwide, end up being recicled. The rest end up in tehe environment. Where it takes them hundred of years to decompose into smaller fractions. The bags end up in the water of the rivers and the seas, where animals readily swallow them, mistaking them for food. To cut the long story short, there is a lot of harm, caused by the products of oil and moreover - nowadays our energy systems are built in a way, which makes us totally dependant on oil and guess, the resources, which we heavily use and which can soon be used up. Meanwhile, we know about alternative mechanisms, about sustainable development policy. Sustainable development would, no doubt, help us survive, would, definitely, help us preserve our plannet for the coming generations, but for the people, who have got their deep interest in making money on energy resources, in producing plastic bags and so on. For sustainable development concept to work effectively, it is, probably, necessary to make all people believe in this concept. Every person, not only the authorities, need to remember and care for coming generations, for their access to natural resources. However, the majority of us live, as if there was no tomorrow, we use up every little bit, however we do not totally understand, how much it costs us, and how much it costs to the people, who are only to come, and, hence, to our children and grand children. It is very important to understand, in which particular way the situation can be changed. There should be ways to make the idea of sustainable development more popular among people all over the world, and this is what we need to start with. And popularization of sometihhing is the most effective when it is being done not through speeches and beautiful slogans, but rather through providing one's own example. If you believe it to be right, be the first to do it. If you believe, that plastic bags are eveil and one should not use them, be the first to refuse using such whatever it may cost you. Only each one of us needs to strongly believe in the idea and follow it. No policies and no slogans can change the situation, while each one of those, who speaks out loud against air polution smokes cigarettes and drives personal cars. Each one needs to strictly follow the policies, before trying to make other people believe in their effectiveness. However, as we have remarked above, there are people, who have got their financial interests in oil production industry and many other sorts of industries, and it appears to be hardly imaginable, that they would refuse receiving their income only because of some idea. Actually, it is obvious, that they do not do it. There is a number of workouts, such as electric engines, hydrogene engines and so on. However, their use is being hampered by the people, for whom, to say the least, are very much interested in leaving thigs as they are.
However, there is a large field for research in this field. It is critically imporant to research the influence of sustainable development programs upon the problems and difficulties, which have got to do with urbanization. This is why it is important to provide serious research work in the field and this work, or, rather to say, the results of such work, may give us the understanding of certain mechanisms and may show us possible way of influencing and changing the situation. This sort of research may give our coming generations a chance to live in the world, where there are enough resources for satisfying their needs.