Crowded Earth: Where is everyone going to live?

The amount of people living in the countryside has steadily and rapidly decreased. In 2008, for the first time ever, the amount of people living in urban areas in the world was greater than the number of people living in rural areas. With the mass migration of people into urban areas, cities are faced with the challenge of coping and creating the capacity to accommodate all these people. Cities are becoming increasingly more crowded and infrastructure needs to be developed at a rapid rate.

To try and cope with the large amount of urban dwellers and the decrease of the amount of land areas available for the development of settlements, there are only really two options, building up or out into the sea. Some of the places that have been applying the “building up” model are China, Tokyo and Hong Kong. This means higher population densities in smaller areas and creates an environment of small living spaces, such as 2m by 2m apartments, and higher living costs within the inner city. This has also meant that there is an increase in truly massive buildings, reaching heights up to 900m tall.The other option of building out into the sea has most famously been employed by Dubai with their Earth Islands Project. Tokyo has also begun developing floating, artificial islands that will be floating around the equator, in the sea and self-sufficient . The downside to these is the massive costs of development.

The trend of a rapidly increasing urban sprawl has created a phenomenon known as the rise of mega regions. This is when cities sprawl out and become so large that they eventually merge into one another. There is also the challenge of high ecological demand that cannot be met by the supply of available resources. If one looks at our ecological footprint on a global scale, we currently need one and a half earths to meet our needs and keep our system going. So then the key issues to address are not only how to make our cities bigger in order to accommodate everyone, but also how to make these cities have a smaller impact on the earth. This is going to be a large engineering challenge. Weigh in with some insights and solutions to this global problem.

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