Hong Kong photo by Sprengben (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

The world’s wealth, science and tech are increasingly concentrated in so-called ‘mega-regions’ – the merging of large cities into industrialized and urbanized areas of over 100 million inhabitants. According to a UN-Habitat report, mega-regions already exist in Japan, Brazil and China – the largest being the Hong Kong-Shenhzen-Guangzhou region – and are forming in Africa and India.

From an article in the Guardian:

The UN said that urbanisation is now “unstoppable”. Anna Tibaijuka, outgoing director of UN-Habitat, said: “Just over half the world now lives in cities but by 2050, over 70% of the world will be urban dwellers. By then, only 14% of people in rich countries will live outside cities, and 33% in poor countries.”

Urban sprawl is also increasing – a phenomenon that counteracts the efficiency of urban living as exemplified in densely packed cities like New York. But there are some theories of preserving green spaces while planning or maintaining areas of dense population within mega-regions, as one very pro-mega-region article from the San Diego Union Tribune explains:

Housing creates a question for the megaregion. If it’s too expensive and distant, what business or worker will want to move here? But if the bullet train and bus rapid transit networks tie cheap housing to high-paying jobs, then leapfrog development actually becomes a good thing, Cox said, because it preserves open spaces and natural habitats while linking high-density nodes around transit stations up and down the megaregional corridor.

A megaregion envisioned on the American West Coast includes Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego and Northern Baja California. The inclusion of part of Mexico makes this mega-region transcend national as well as state boundaries, as does the ‘pentagon’, a European mega-region that is comprised of parts of the UK, France, Germany and Italy. These North American and European mega-regions are not mentioned in the Guardian article; perhaps do to the use of differing criteria for what a mega-region actually is.

Another challenge of hyper urbanization is the level of inequality that exists in a given city, a factor that contributes to social and political unrest, according to the UN report. South African cities were found to be the most unequal, but US cities like New York, Chicago and Washington also faired poorly: ‘The richest 1% of households now earns more than 72 times the average income of the poorest 20% of the population.’

About The Author: Graham Land

Greenfudge editor and London-based writer Graham Land grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where he was part of the local hardcore punk scene, playing in several bands. Through this musical movement he became involved in grass roots interests such as anti-racist activism, animal rights and Ecology. In 2000 he relocated to Europe, eventually earning an MA from Malmö University in Sweden. He has also lived in Japan, Ireland, Portugal and Greece.


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