What is Urbanization? Urbanization is an increasing trend of individuals moving into cities or suburban regions as compared to those who are still staying in the rural areas.
Urbanization refers to the shift from rural to urban places, the resulting reduction in the percentage of inhabitants living in rural regions, and how such communities adapt to the impact of this change in their surroundings. Urbanization has taken place throughout most parts of the world; however, certain countries and areas are more urbanized than others.
One of the clearest indications of urbanization is the reduced natural land cover. Urbanization means that less natural land cover exists in an urban area than in a rural area. This is usually accompanied by increased urban population, greater population densities, and increased use of agricultural land. Reduced natural land cover may lead to habitat loss or increased pressure on ecosystems.
Another indicator of urbanization is the increasing population density in cities. As human populations increase, so does the importance of land for human activities and land requirements. Urbanization has led to a growing need for commercial spaces such as retail stores, offices, hospitals, public facilities, etc. As a result of these demands, the development of urban centers and cosmopolitan cities brings with it new businesses, greater land speculators, increased population density, and new industries.
Urbanization can be traced back to the emergence of cities in particular developing countries. However, some parts of the world, such as Latin America, have not yet developed fully as cities. Urban centers tend to focus on business, marketing, education, healthcare, government, and social welfare. In contrast, most rural areas are characterized by tight land-use controls, limited access to capital, informal economies, low levels of investment, high rates of population mobility, and ethnic diversification.
Urbanization has also brought about major changes to society and culture. As cities have developed, they have become more integrated into the overall society. This integration has caused social and ethnic differences to dissipate, with different groups forming de facto identity and establishing their own social spaces. Some urban populations have also begun to develop parallel political systems, with elected city representatives exercising control over the major institutions of the city. The emergence of formal political and legal frameworks has also helped change the character of urban life.
Urbanization has also had a significant effect on the environment. Changes in population growth patterns, environmental degradation, and population growth patterns have resulted in an increased level of environmental pollution. Urbanization has resulted in major changes in the nature of land use and land usage. Urbanization has encouraged the growth of private capital, creating a “buy-to-let” economy that has exacerbated the environmental consequences of population growth. Urbanization and development have also led to an increase in landfills and increased the rate of land degradation.
In addition to these important changes in the nature of cities and rural areas, there are some direct effects of urbanization that are not easily measured, such as the reduction of personal freedom and influence. As people are forced to leave their homes and disperse into overcrowded apartments, they are likely to choose those with similar lifestyles and characteristics, reducing social diversity and increasing homogenous population size. Also, as people have to travel long distances to reach places of work, they become less likely to socialize and develop meaningful relationships, leading to less social capital and a lower level of trust and cohesion. The dissolution of local organizations and the creation of atomized communities have also meant that interactions between people become less frequent and random, leading to an erosion of social capital.
Land use has also been radically altered by the introduction of cities and sprawling suburbs, with little thought to sustainability or environmental impacts. Major changes in land use practices, especially in metropolitan areas with dense, built-up populations have resulted in dramatically increased automobile emissions, harmful waste disposal, and adverse impacts on water and air quality. The increased vehicle speeds and driving habits have meant increased freight loads, less vehicle mobility and increased pollution and air pollution. Simultaneously, increased land use and vehicle pressure resulting from poor land management, and altered land use practices and conditions, have led to a dramatic increase in timberline in both developed and developing countries. Timberline is an indicator of land use and environment degradation; changing patterns of this indicator may indicate a shift away from or towards sustainable land use. Urbanization, although perhaps slow to a large extent, has profound implications for the spatial dynamics of human populations and ecosystems and can thus be considered a socio-ecological issue.