What is sustainable development? Well according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sustainable means anything relating to a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Development means – in this context at least – a tract of land that has been made available or usable. So when thinking of sustainable development we need to keep three things in mind at once; social progress, economic development, and climate and environment. On the other hand we have urbanization, which is the forming or constitution of towns and cities. More than 50 percent of the world’s population currently live in urban areas, though this does not further define urbanization, it is crucial to understand how far it has come because this number is expected to rise up to 70 percent by the year 2050 (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017). It may not be conspicuous at first that such a process severely threatens sustainable development. Well, Earth’s population is expected to grow by a whopping 33 percent in the next 35 years (Leanna, 2016), so, is urbanization mandatory? One would say. But, does this mean that we should totally disregard the problems that urbanization carries around? Before answering that question, maybe it’s best to specify exactly what some of the existing problems are. A very recent study of problems of urbanization (Reese, 2018) has shown that unemployment, poverty, air pollution, disease, crime, and the diminishing of natural as well as environmental resources are all byproducts of urbanization. So, let’s keep in mind that there are alternatives that we will discuss. But, one question stands: don’t the problems that urbanization brings forth outweigh its benefits? We will answer that question together.
As long as urbanization is pursued in any given government’s agenda, many will pay the price for it. Who and how may be your first questions but have you ever thought about why? Because that is the question that should be asked. Why is it that almost every government pays no mind to the enlargement of urbanization when it is also leading people who reside in the countryside to move to the city? This only makes it more challenging for governments to provide services to their local citizens and nationals (National Geographic, 2018). The increase of the rate at which people are migrating to the cities or towns is much faster than that of which residents can find employment. So, naturally, this leads to unemployment and poverty. Also, employment does not necessarily mean an end to poverty. Many immigrants may just earn their living from minimal wage jobs that do not satisfy their day to day needs and expenses. How can a policy of sustainable development meet these difficult standards of living and come through with a solution? By boosting economic development and job creation (National Geographic, 2018).
Air pollution and disease are somewhat related in this case because the pollution in the air can cause diseases but not the other way around. According to another study (National Geographic, 2018) “Poor air and water quality, insufficient water availability, waste-disposal problems, and high energy consumption are exacerbated by the increasing population density and demands of urban environments.” For example, (National Geographic, 2018) “Automobile exhaust produces elevated lead levels in urban air” and “Concentrated energy use leads to greater air pollution with significant impact on human health.” All of this only instigates multiple health hazards and imposes more threats than the ones already at hand.
Degradation of environmental and natural resources is due to unsustainable practices that do not use these resources efficiently (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2017). Unfortunately, these practices are being adopted along the value chain. Some would argue that science has found ways to replenish natural resources, but these methods too will only introduce new threats. For example, a nuclear power plant produces nuclear energy which is also a type of renewable energy, but at a great cost of uranium. Plus, nuclear power plants also dispose of a lot of radioactive waste which is life threating to any nearby living organism. A suggestion from (Global Greenhouse Warming 2018) is that reducing deforestation can have significant benefits, and can be implemented in a socially and economically sustainable manner. Forestation and bioenergy plantations can lead to restoration of degraded land and retain soil carbon and benefit rural economies, implying that migration to urban areas will no longer be mandatory sustain a satisfactory standard of life.
Rapid urbanization has very strong influences on crime rates. Residents all of a sudden become more and more diverse in terms of what religion they practice, what their beliefs are, their political opinions, and maybe even different cultural rituals so they do not have time to adjust or adapt to different viewpoints, creating little to no room for tolerance, resulting in violence. Reese (2018) reported that “The government’s inability to prevent widespread poverty causes an increase in theft and other crimes. Frustration and alienation linked to a lower status, limited access to education, money and other resources push young people to join organized crime.”
To conclude, urbanization does have its fair share of problems that are definitely recurring, even more so than mentioned in this essay. So yes, I believe that the problems imposed by urbanization do outweigh its benefits. But, the world has not been quiet and some have taken action to force urbanizing to a stop and also meet new policies brought forth by sustainable development. Some of these policies that have been initiated by the United Nations address air pollution and poverty, and can be met my urbanization standards. This serves as an example is exemplary for what is to come in the near future hopefully. More policies stand, and extensive research conducted at the United Nations (2007) found that mitigation efforts should be better implemented into national development planning processes. Indoor air pollution from traditional biomass cooking and heating was a poverty-related issue. This is just one method of coping with urbanization and finding a way for the problems it causes to meet just one policy of sustainable development. I am confident in saying that this generation along with future ones will continue to problem solve the recurring threats of urbanization. Because realistically speaking, urbanization isn’t going anywhere, it’s here to stay and grow as well, but does this mean we should lose hope in managing it? Of course not. As a matter of fact, at this very moment, there are conferences being held worldwide regarding urbanization and social development.