On 31 October 2011, Danica May Camacho was born in a hospital in the Philippines, surrounded by photographers. Danica was a symbolic baby, chosen by the United Nations to mark the day when the earth's population hit seven billion. It took 123 years to grow from one billion people to two, but only 12 years to grow from five billion to six, and 13 years to grow from six billion to seven. And still it keeps growing, to 8bn some time before 2030 and 9bn by 2050.
The Exploding City
By Andrew Curry
Another landmark was reached in 2007, when for the first time half the world's population lived in cities. By 2030, that figure could have climbed to 60%. Put together, those two data points tell much of the story of the planet over the next decade: more people, living in more cities.
This is reshaping the map of the world, as new types of cities are emerging driven by a combination of population pressures and economics. Megacities are becoming mega-regions: the 'mega-city' which includes Hong Kong, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou now comprises 120 million people, while the mega-city that links Rio de Janeiro to São Paulo has reached 43 million.
And then there are the city-regions, where a growing city pushes beyond its traditional city boundaries, and sometimes across national boundaries, to connect with its surrounding towns, creating new labour markets and new economic opportunities.
Cities are fundamentally associated with economic energy, innovation, and growth. They take up a tiny proportion of the planet's surface, but they represent 66% of economic activity and 85% of technical and scientific innovation. The link is a close one. "The prosperity of nations", says the UNHabitat report from 2010 "is intimately linked to the prosperity of their cities."
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