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There is significant evidence that global population growth is straining the Earth's natural resources. What role does urbanization play in global environmental degradation on the one hand, and in striving for a more sustainable use of scarce natural resources on the other hand? Discuss with appropriate examples.
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Urbanization is a process in which the towns and cities grow and develop to form larger areas and support the high population. The process of urbanization has resulted in the migration of people from rural to urban areas. From the late 20th century, urbanization has magnificently increased with larger areas coming under this process. In fact, urbanization has resulted in various social changes that have impacted all forms of life. Further, urbanization has also led to a large population influx into the cities and developed areas that have affected the environment in a negative manner. Simply, with development large forests have been wiped out, several regions are far away from the minimum forest areas that need to be present, many animals have been removed from their habitats, the pattern of birds have changed, the problem of pollution has immensely increased and the environment has reached alarming stage. Urbanization has also resulted in several technological changes, humans are experiencing a better and comfortable lifestyle, and there have been many developments in medicine, in fact, several sociologists have pointed out that urbanization has led to the development of a new kind of society, which is called as the technocratic society. Therefore, what we can see here is that on one hand, the process of urbanization has resulted in immense chaos, which has negatively impacted the environment today. On the other hand, it has also led to great advancements and achievements in various fields (Ding, G., 2008).
With such impact of urbanization, the concept of 'sustainability' has taken a new dimension that has become an indispensable need for the world today. In fact, sustainability is the solution for every urban related problem in the present times. With this point, it is important to note that urbanization has taken a dual role and led to the emergence of two major ideas by pessimists and optimists. The pessimists include scientists and ecologists who believe that earth cannot take more burdens and support the demands of the world forever. For them, urbanization has negatively impacted the environment, which will someday result in the end of the world. The optimists, on the other hand, are the economists who are of the view that although urbanization has impacted the environment negatively, it has also supported new technologies. And with the use of these technologies, public policies, market incentives, recycling and substitution of materials the needs of people can be satisfied and the quality of human welfare can improve for future generations (York, R. and Rosa, E., n.d.).
This essay is based on the similar line where the dual nature of the process of urbanization has been identified. Urbanization has a role to play in both environmental degradation and striving for sustainable development.
The two main trends of the 20th century have been a rapid increase of urbanization in the world and impacts on the natural environment. According to recent reports, more than half of the world's population live in urban spaces today. The growth of urban population is increasing every year with around 60% because of natural reasons. In Africa, growth from migration accounts for 25% and 34% in Latin America. However, in the case of Asia, migration is a dominant factor that has led to a population explosion in the urban spaces. Statistics reveal that 64% growths in cities were the result of migration in Asia. Thus, the world has changed from the times when most of the population resided in rural areas. Reports suggest that more than 90% of the population of developing countries will grow in urban areas by the next decade. Cities have become an important part of all the countries because they are considered as the engines of economic development. However, they have failed to manage the growing population rates that have threatened the environment. The change in lifestyle and urban spaces has altered the atmosphere's composition and what we see today is the era of global warming. It would not be wrong to say that the process of urbanization has impacted the natural environment to extreme levels. The composition of carbon- dioxide in the air has reached alarming levels. And according to a very recent survey, many major cities of the developing countries are not fit for breathing (CIPS, 2007). Further, many animals and species have become extinct as the consequence of urbanization and the migratory movements of birds have also been majorly changed. Moreover, the results of urbanization can be experienced by most of the people in daily lives. The problems of global warming have resulted in an unnatural course of seasons whereby the winters, summers, rains have increased remarkably. Earth is showing abnormal weather patterns, which can be experienced in almost all the parts of the world. Pollution is another issue that has increased considerably in the recent years. The megacities have become a hub for pollution, which has also given rise to the slums. In fact, slums can be seen as one of the many problems of cities, especially in developing countries. For instance, one of the largest slums of the world can be found in Mumbai, India was known as Dharavi. The slums are not only increasing nuisance in cities, but they also increase the health risks for people. Dharavi was founded during the British colonial era, which houses approximately 1 million people today. In fact, it is also the most densely populated area of Earth. Several other slums have developed as a consequence of urbanization in the world. The western countries on the other hand experiences ghettos that have similar conditions to slums. Such areas have negatively hampered the environment and have also become a primary concern of sanitation and various health issues. Most of the buildings in such areas are not legally constructed and they pose an immense danger to human lives (Maiti, S. and Agrawal, P.K., 2005). These areas also do not have enough toilet and draining facilities, which have made them as the hub of diseases, insects, dirt, and filth. Further, they also suffer from the challenges of scarcity in drinking water, proper housing facilities, undeveloped roads and no or little residential facilities. In several cases, people use nearby rivers or sea shores to conduct their daily activities. People bath in water bodies, wash clothes, do the utensils and attend to nature's call also. Such living conditions result in the spread of contagious diseases and water pollution. Similarly, in the case of Australia, the northern Australia or regions that have been inhabited by the aboriginal communities pose threat to the natural environment. In such area, the roads are not developed and people face several difficulties in housing and sanitation. It is also surprising to note that although the slums, ghettos, and areas inhabited by aboriginals of Australia have either developed because of urbanization or been impact by urbanization, they do not get the appropriate facilities that have also been developed because of urbanization. Thus, what we see is a total loss and negative consequence of urbanization in these areas (Australian Council of Social Service, 2014).