The Tragic Realities of the Big Cities

Reader Contribution by Ruth Tandaan Sto Domingo
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Among the most notable events of the early industrial revolution in Britain during the middle eighteen hundreds, was a mass exodus from the farms and countryside into the inner cities. This mass migration was driven by the economic hardships of living on, what was largely at the time, merely subsistence farming. That is to say that the vast majority of those people living outside of the cities had little more than the means to grow (and hunt) that which was necessary for their own, basic needs of survival. The progression allowed by the industrial revolution created a host of more readily available jobs in the inner cities that paid a cash wage, even if not altogether survivable in any real comfortable fashion.

While the industrial revolution in the United States also began in the middle eighteen hundreds, it did not reach its peak until the early twentieth century. It was during this peak of the industrial revolution in the early nineteen hundreds, that people in the US began moving en masse into the cities to look for work. In fact, the nineteen hundreds saw for the first time, more people in the US living in the cities than did on farms and in more rural and isolated areas. This began a trend that continues to this day, much to the chagrin of many of the more environmentally concerned members of the human race.

It is perhaps fair to presume that most of the readers of Mother Earth News do not appreciate the more uncomfortable aspects of city life. While there are certainly benefits in terms of access to goods and services, most of the readers here are likely to be willing to compromise on such matters for their own personal health and welfare, cleaner air and the other benefits of country living. Again, this fact seems to hold particularly true of that portion of society which is primarily … or even majorly concerned about the environment and the overall benefit and well being of the planet.

It has been the experience of the author that some experts believe that large cities should be eradicated completely in order to ensure the welfare of the planet itself. Though it is difficult to believe that such an occurrence would actually be a benefit either to the survival of the human species or even overly beneficial for the planet … at least in the relative short term … from a planetary standing. The tragic reality of the big cities is that they are an absolute necessity for the ongoing existence of the human species and for the overall concern of human growth and development … at least for the meantime. In a very simplistic world view, global interaction or international affairs take place in only two realms. There is either international trade or international war over resources and land masses that provide those resources. Now the author, given these two realistic options, would have to vote on the side of international trade rather than seeing the world return to a more tribal and isolated setting. If there is no international trade, the end result can only be international wars. Simplistic perhaps, but still very accurate in practice. This is one of the reasons why many wars are preceded by economic and trade sanctions. These sanctions are in fact, the opening salvo in a war and the commencement for the beating of the war drums.

While this is a very simplistic view, it does serve to encompass the greater portion of interaction by and between the nations of this world. As such, it is very easy to agree that war is not going to be good for the people or for the planet. As such, it is fairly safe to presume that war is not a viable alternative except for those who stand to enrich their own fortunes from the misfortunes of the masses in war … or in the rebuilding of all of the infrastructure and the economic systems in the aftermath of these wars. The fact remains that international trade is decidedly more preferable than international war, and as such, global ports and large cities and their industry are in large part, great aids in the global peace process.

Industrial Production centers continue to require large work forces and to provide a means to congregate people in such a fashion so that the modern farmer need only transport goods to more limited markets. In some aspects, this is even more preferable as large shipments can be shipped from one central location to another, without a hundred small farmers being forced to ship a hundred different products to thousands of different markets individually. While it is perhaps not an ideal solution, it must be said that these large, urban population centers do serve a great many purposes in regards to global sustainability.

Furthermore, anyone who has had the (mis?)fortune to encounter an urban city dweller in an agricultural or country environment, probably has a pretty good indication that these people would not be comfortable or content in the same, simpler life that many of the readers here have chosen. The author has had people question the viability of eating a freshly laid egg … how can it be safe if you did not buy it at the store? The need for killing an animal in order to have meat on the table when all their meat comes from the store, and there is no need to kill anything that way. Granted, these are extreme examples, but many of the readers here will be personally or at least closely familiar with such conversations as have taken place.

Still, given the current socioeconomic and sociopolitical situation of the world and the global markets, international port cities and industrial centers are presently every bit as necessary as the large, rural farms and ranches. The key here however, is “presently”. What is going to happen as the current Technological Automation Revolution reaches its peak? What is going to happen when workers are no longer in demand as machines and computers and computer programs begin becoming more capable and competent at performing the tasks of the workers?

That day when the worker is no longer needed is fast approaching, and not only in the interest of sustainability, but the continued human growth and development of the species as a whole, this matter needs to be addressed now. Continued support of outdated programs and methods will only worsen the blows when that day does arrive. Not only should humanity accept the inevitability of the Technological Automation Revolution, but it needs to jump into the game with both feet already running full speed. There are answers and there are solutions but they will require change, and change can sometimes be painful. The alternatives however, are much worse.

As always, please leave any of your thoughts, comments, questions and suggestions in the comment section below so that they can be addressed individually, and perhaps even used for consideration in future articles. None of this work would be possible without you, the reader, and as such, your thoughts and considerations are the most important aspect of any articles published herein.

Photo Credit:top, bottom.

Ruth Tandaan Sto Domingo, Whole-System Sustainable Development Expert. Ruth has worked with numerous NGOs, governments and Indigenous communities in Guinea, Cameroon, Nigeria, Panama, Costa Rica, Brazil, Australia, the Philippines and Vanuatu to implement sustainable solutions. She is the co-author ofWhole System Sustainable Development. Ruth enjoys “hyper-realistic” cross stitch and is working with her husband to build a largely off-grid and self-sufficient home where she will raise livestock and garden both flowers and food. Connect with Ruth onFacebook.


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