Independent Research and Policy Advocacy

The Urban Organism – Cities as living beings

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For the first time in the history of the world, more than half of the world’s population live in urban areas. In the next 13 years, a billion people are expected to migrate to cities, twice as fast as the rate just 30 years ago. Yet, as William Solecki argues in a recent article our understanding of the process of urbanization remains fragmented at best. This can partly be attributed to the fact that each academic discipline approaches the study of cities using a narrow analytical lens that precludes a holistic understanding of the process of urbanization and how it interacts with other systems like the environment for instance.

Some recent work has tried to bridge this gap in our understanding by looking at cities as complex adaptive systems. This perspective has been in vogue since the advent of cybernetics, which inspired a study of cities as machines or engineering systems. However, what these studies lacked was a scientific basis as theories of cities. With the increased availability of data on cities, research has now been able to move towards a science of urbanization.

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