Posted in Science & Nature

Urban Paradox

A few years ago, a theoretical physicist studied population growth in cities to find the mechanism of how cities operate. What he found was an astonishing law.
Wherever the city, as the population doubled in size, the average income, number of patents, number of educational and research facilities and other important numbers all increased around 15 percent. Although it is normal for such statistics to increase as a city grows, it is interesting to see that almost all of them increasing at a similar rate, despite being so different sometimes.
More fascinating is the fact that not only do the above “good” statistics increase equally, but so do crime rates, pollution, smog occurrence, stomach flu and AIDS prevalence all increase approximately 15 percent.
Therefore, a city can be seen as a double-edge sword that is both the source of fast growth, wealth and ideas, but also waste, pollution, stress and disease.

Biologically speaking, an organism has a tendency to have slower growth and pace of life as it gets larger. For instance, an elephant’s heart beats slower than a mouse, and its cells do less work on average too. However, a city exhibits a snowball effect where it grows faster as it gets larger. To achieve this extremely high rate of growth, it must consume an immense amount of resources, which ultimately ends up as large quantities of waste and pollution. Also, as people get busier, the overall “quality” of the society falls, leading to increased stress and disease prevalence.

If so, should we abandon our current productivity and live a slow, village life and ignore our potential as a species? Or should we continue our exponential growth at the cost of using up nature’s well-maintained resources like no tomorrow?


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