People are moving from farm to city, but…

Current Affairs / World Mission

Salon.com Books | A swiftly crumbling planet:

“For the first time in human history, the world’s urban population now equals its rural population, and the balance tilts further toward the cities with each passing year. The overwhelming majority of this growth is occurring in shantytowns and tenements stretching from Karachi, Pakistan, to Lima, Peru, where people live crowded together in densities that sometime dwarf those of such notorious 19th century human anthills as New York’s Mulberry Bend. As of 2005, a billion people were living in slums, and the number is rising by 25 million per year.”

I’ve been hearing about the re-urbanization movement for a couple of years now. This is the first time I’ve seen an article on the downside. People are moving from rural regions because it’s not possible to find a job or make a living. They’re moving to the cities, but they’re still not able to find jobs that pay a decent living wage.

From what I can tell, this is happening in the developing world as well as here in the States. (I saw numerous shanty towns along the roadsides in Swaziland while I was there last year – people were leaving the farms because they simply couldn’t make any money on the small family farms.) The money seems to be in large truck farms owned by corporations and farmed by day-laborers. Globalization allows the food to moved easily from grower to consumer even though the consumer is on the other side of the world.

It occurs to me that if energy costs increase, and the cost of transport becomes non-trivial, then this burgeoning economic model is not going to be sustainable. We may see people returning to small local farmsteads. It’s already beginning here in Pennsylvania. The old small family farms are finding a market providing fresh and organic produce to the city centers here on the East Coast.

I suppose it’s really an issue of how the economic model of globalization gets modified with increase energy cost – or with decreased energy availability. I’ve not come across any studies yet that discuss this. Maybe I’ll try to sit down with some of the economists in the parish and see if they can point me to some.

(Via Salon.)

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Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...