Urban Networks In Numbers

For almost all of human civilization urban populations have been less than 10%. This started changing around 1900, by 1950 global urbanization had reached 30 percent, by 2010 it hit 50 percent. Today the world is going through an intense process of urbanization. Every week 1.4 million people are moving into urban areas around the globe. As urban populations increase from 4 billion to nearly 7 billion over the next 30 years. The world will need to almost double its urban capacity by 2050. “We will build more cities, more infrastructure, more housing, more basic services than has been built since the beginning of humanity” – Nicholas You

Since the rise of globalization and information technology in the 1990s cities have become the operators of our global supply chain network and are being transformed into the urban networks that run our global economy producing up to 80% of global GDP. The most complex of these are global cities, which are leaders in global connectivity enabling a multiplicity of networks. Tokyo is the largest urban center with over 30 million people and a GDP of $1.7 Trillion in 2013, making it the 10th largest economy in the world ahead of Russia, Spain, and Canada.

These major urban centers are at the epicenter of the challenge for sustainability in the 21st century. “The battle for a sustainable future will be won or it will be lost in cities” – Eugenie Birch. Global cities are part of massive metabolic processes that stretch around the planet in providing them with materials and energy. Urban centers occupy only 3% of global land areas, but urban centers consume 75% of natural resources, are responsible for 50% of global waste, produce around 70% of its carbon emissions. In recent years China used more concrete in 3 years than the U.S. used in the entire 20th century.

These urban networks create a new geography of connectivity with a logic of inclusion and exclusion that creates new socioeconomic opportunities and divisions. 90% of the increase in urban dwellers will live in Africa and Asia. Recent urbanization in China help bring over 600 million people out of poverty and connected into the global economy. But these networks also exclude. In 1990 650 million people lived in slums, by 2000 that rose to 760 million, in 2017 nearly 1 billion people live in slums, 2000 million people could be living in slums by 2030 if unchecked. Globalization + IT + urbanization creates a new form of geography based on connectivity – urban networks.