Global patterns and perspectives
The recent millennium was a major watershed in the evolution of human settlement, for it marked the period when the location of the world’s people became more urban than rural. It is likely that the figure of 50 per cent urban was achieved at some point between 1996 and 2001 but it is not possible to be exact because of variations among countries in the quality of their census data and in the ways in which urban areas are defined. Despite its geographical significance, this historical transition went largely unrecognised and unreported, so its profound symbolic importance was overlooked. More of the six billion inhabitants of the globe now live in towns and cities than in villages and hamlets. No longer are towns and cities exceptional settlement forms in predominantly rural societies. The world is an urban place.