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Future Cities Could Be Beacons of Innovation and Hope

Futurist imaginings of what sort of world awaits humanity often embrace extreme scenarios, ranging from George Jetson’s utopia to George Orwell’s nightmare. They also tend to be wildly inaccurate. But cities throughout history, at least in hindsight, can be seen as the logical expressions of the culture, resources, and technology available to the people at each time and place. With that in mind, and with a resolve not to stray too far into the territory of unrealistic optimism or pessimism, it is possible to speculate on what urbanization may look like in the second half of this century.

To begin with, starting around 2050, urban development will enter a phase of refinement rather than expansion. By that time, human population is projected to have leveled off at around 10 billion, and also by that time, migration to cities may peak at around 80 percent of the population. Between now and 2050, urban areas will grow from housing 4.5 billion people to housing roughly 8 billion people. Navigating that expansion is one of the fundamental challenges of our time.

The news is mostly good, however, because it isn’t immutable resource constraints that can derail the expansion and improvement of cities over the next thirty years, only the political choices we make. Understanding that the availability of resources and the demands of civilization may line up favorably may make wise political choices more likely. Chief among them are how adequate land, water, energy and raw materials will be ensured. […] Read More