ABSTRACT

In 2006 The Guardian newspaper’s then Asia environment correspondent, Jonathan Watts (2006), made the bold assertion that the theories of Charles Darwin were soon to be proven wrong. The basis for his argument was the fact that by 2008 humanity would have collectively reached a geographical tipping point. This tipping point would occur when a new urban migrant, or the birth of a new metropolitan baby, would result in more people living in urban than rural areas. Indeed, by 2008 not only were some 3.2 billion people living in cities and urban areas, but the rate of expansion associated with the global urban population was accelerating. The United Nations estimates that approximately 50 million people (that is a similar number of people to those who currently live in South Korea) are added to the population of the planet’s cities and suburbs every year (Flavin, 2007: xxiii). This growth is being increasingly concentrated in Asian cities. Following its 2011 census, for example, China announced that 51.3 per cent of its 1.3 billion population lived in urban areas. Figures also revealed that 21 million people moved to Chinese cities in 2011, and that there had been a 14 per cent increase in the number of people living in Chinese cities in the decade between 2001 and 2011 (BBC, 2012a). Jonathan Watts’s point was that while Darwin suggested that the species that thrived most successfully were those who were able to adapt to their environment, the expansion of the human species had been based on the creation (in the form of cities) of environments that had been adapted to suit their own needs (for more on Darwinian thinking see Chapter 8).