Urbanization, by definition, is the increase in population over time. Urbanization has profound effects on economy, ecology, and lifestyles of the area’s inhabitants. Terms such as urban sprawl, urban sociology, and new urbanism are all terms that come as a result of such urbanization. But, urbanization isn’t new; rather an old concept that has recently catalyzed into something increasingly more common- a new way of life.
Urbanization doesn’t necessarily require a trip to the city to see, it can be readily viewed just 15 minutes from my hometown, in a town called Mexico. Although urbanization would be easier to see in populous areas, urbanization itself, I think, would be much stronger grasped as a concept if done on a developing community, and projecting its future. This town of Mexico has a population of about 10,000. It is a fair sized town, having many things such as a court, numerous restaurants, and a few shopping centers. The recent spur of growth in Mexico is also readily apparent, and fortunately so that I may analyze such growth.
First, I have read and agreed that the most industrialized part of an urban area is most usually in or around the center of the town or city. In Mexico, there is a common square that showcases different businesses and services from food, to insurance, to pet supplies, and many other things. This small, dense, area is both a large factor in employment and a common shopping district for customers. This, of course, would mean that residential areas would have to be near, if one was to obtain a job or shop at these areas. Not even two blocks away, the residents of Mexico have housing and apartments all around the square. Ranging from old, two-story houses, to smaller, off-color houses, and apartment complexes that were more often than not shabby and worn.
But, if the common folk of Mexico are lining the business districts, where do the more rich and powerful reside? As I was coming into Mexico, I couldn’t help but picture myself traveling through a giant jawbreaker. On the outskirts of town, you might think that you are entering another small village. The wide open areas are home to only a small airport, a burned down bar, and a small restaurant. As you traverse this jawbreaker, you change from quiet farm houses and lack of population, to a slightly more populated area. This area is hard to find. Prior to my urbanization investigations, I didn’t even know existed. Take a well-hidden road and you come upon one of the most flashy and chauvinistic districts in Mexico- the area surrounding the country club. Driving around, I couldn’t help but notice that basketball goals, nicely cut lawns, and well groomed houses lined the streets. This neighborhood was very quiet, with few children about. No doubt, this was the rich area of town and it showed.
On the next layer of the jawbreaker, I start to feel civilization coming on. Still, you see burned down grocery stores, and closed restaurants. You start to wonder whether this town just has bad luck, or you have stumbled onto a ghost town. However, keep traveling, and you come to the urban area of Mexico. This is where you have the most access to everything; gas stations are everywhere, fast food restaurants, banks, and the general area of the deprived live here. And by deprived, I mean those who live in the incredibly claustrophobic one level apartment complexes with little to no yard. A tattered clothes line is the only object in the small yard, and it was in use. It would seem that the people living here are in need of saving energy costs, which comes to no surprise to me. Basketball goals, lawn decorations, slick paved roads, and serenity were in great deficiency. Quite the opposite, in fact, it would seem that so far, this is a very drastic change in jawbreaker color.
And then of course, we would have the business district. I expected to observe the same layers of urbanization I saw coming into Mexico, and for the most part was right. Leaving the business district, and the shabby neighborhood surrounding it, you come to a median in the rich-poor gap. The middle class shines through, next to a large park. In fact, the middle class can boast access to three parks in the general area, which is more than the rich or poor can account for. (And surprisingly, the deprived have a private park, beating the wealthier people, which may suggest that the wealthy have a shortage of offspring, or an excess of better ways to entertain such offspring. not to say that they don’t visit these parks, but I that I will discuss further later on) Going further, I came into a large residential area. The endless rows of similar middle class houses on winding, twisting streets lead me to wonder if anyone feels part of a real community among all the lack of individuality. The houses themselves were clean cut, nice, and very favorable when deciding for a house to buy. This middle class neighborhood is enormous, and leads me to conclude that the average person is somewhat well off in life, with the majority of wealth concentrated by the few, and the deprived in life, follow suit with the wealthy.
Traveling out from the center of the town, we are reaching the edge of it again. However, things are changing, and are different from when I came in on the other side. Past the middle class residents, comes the second burst of commercial districts. Cinemas, car washes, sit down restaurants, and gas stations line a strip of road. This would lead me to guess that this town wasn’t part of a planned urbanization. The second commercial district dies off along a long road, only to once again revive, with a newly developed shopping district. Since the development of Super Wal-Mart along the highway, other businesses have opened up shop. Cell phones, movie rentals, insurance, computer stores, hotels, bars, and hotels decorate the strip. And, although I have been referring to the town as a jawbreaker of different flavors, I would now reconsider and instead, staying with the subject of confections, a colorful M n’ M cookie. Whereas the M n’ M’s would be the different districts of the town; with most of the different districts closer to the middle, but yet apparently rather random. Had Mexico been a planned urbanization, it would no doubt much more resemble something less random, such as the jawbreaker design.
Looking back at it all, I can’t help but try and classify everything I took in. The rich, it would seem, have enough money to avoid public parks. The middle class is dominant, and the other two are the minority. The central business districts steal all the attention from the businesses on the outskirts of town, and with the recent fires, render the outskirts a near ghost-land. The Super Wal-Mart itself shows a change in Mexico’s economics. Darby’s grocery was bought out as a result, and a local clothing store is seeing a loss in sales. Grouping is a popular idea these days. Classes don’t mingle; businesses are concentrated in one place, as well as residential and farming areas. I also observed how we view space. If we view space as a desirable commodity, then why not expand the claustrophobic residential areas outward, and liven up the outskirts of town? Efficiency and planning for the future’s “let’s pack as many people as we can into one area” plan is organized, but is it practical? I’m sure it is a good contribution to alienation, and a sense of detachment from the community.
My investigation is complete, and my conclusion is theorized. I decided to investigate first, and read more specifics of urbanization in relation to sociology later, so I wasn’t looking for anything in particular. (This might make me miss things I wouldn’t notice otherwise.)
Firstly, cities, or in my case a developing one, are divided into sectors. From central city, suburban areas, office parks, airports, to residential neighborhoods, they all follow a pattern. At first, I thought I was viewing the layers of the city much like a jawbreaker, or a “concentric zone”. However, I came to the conclusion that I really was witnessing a “multiple nuclei” model instead, which is most likely, a result of lack of planning. The most organized model is the peripheral model, which large cities such as Columbia follow.
Secondly, let’s further classify Mexico residents. There are cosmopolites, singles, and ethnic villagers who experience a sense of community. The deprived and trapped, however, feel alienated. Without a doubt, we can point out the neighborhood around the first business district as deprived, and the residents further into this neighborhood as trapped. They experience violence and criminal activity, and hold little chance to better their life. Yet, barely a mile away, live the first three. Cosmopolites are the intellects, singles are the young job holders looking to marry, and the ethnic neighborhoods (which I did not observe, sadly) are groups of same-race living in the same area. There is a very fine line between wealthy and the deprived and that is Main Street.
Urban sociology comes to light when thinking about the city’s residents. To cope with the need for intimacy, the massive amount of people will create this sense of intimacy by personalizing their lives. Shopping at the same stores to get to know people, going to sporting events, all provide a sense of community. And when you have a sense of community, alienation looks fairly unattractive, even if it is a false sense of community.
Let’s look at suburbs. Even Mexico has suburbs. Interestingly enough, the wealthy live closer to the inner city than the new suburb of Mexico- defying the norm of city structure. This leads me to come to the term urban renewal, or the tearing down of parts of the city with intentions to rebuild. The seemingly unplanned design of Mexico will eventually submit to efficiency, and zones will be destructed and rebuilt. However, I feel that this will be a great deal of time into the future.
New urbanism is another idea to take into consideration. With the expansion of Mexico, we wouldn’t want to destroy the environment in the process. (Or at least minimize damages.) For instance, the new suburb area in Mexico was built on an open, prairie type land. Although I doubt this had an impact on the environment, new urbanism would make sure that the surrounding area remained unaffected. New urbanism, I feel, is also a long way off for Mexico.
And lastly, how did we get here? What started all of this? Not long ago in history, rural areas were dominant. (At least in my country, other civilizations such as the Mayan or African cultures have been proven to have even metropolises, long ago) Cities started developing when plows and other devices were invented, making farming much more efficient. With less time used to farm, as well as less people, some started providing services and other goods, and not raising their own food. Eventually, this mass of people grew along trade routes and other key areas, and it grew from there. Today, there are terms such as metropolises, megalopolises, and even a mega city. These large concentrations of people have no boundaries, and can even extend over country lines. (Such as the California-Mexico territory) As cities grow, so does the need for rural areas to provide the food. In between, there are the suburbanites looking for a little relaxation. Currently, this is how we know it. In the future, I’m sure this will change as land and food become scarcer.
In conclusion, there are many things that power the city, define the city, and enable it to continue. Even looking at a developing city instead of a larger one, you can see the projected effects of urbanization. Given time, Mexico will bloom into the size of Columbia, and given more time, will overlap Columbia and form a metropolis. And still yet more time, we will eventually see a mega city. Even more interesting is where these large cities are located. The least industrialized nations hold the largest cities. The reason for this is that being the least industrialized, makes it harder to live. Having more offspring to take care of you will increase your chances of having well-off older years. However, as population increases, food production should increase as well. A rather alarming figure is that as population grows geometrically, food supply increases only arithmetically. Which means food will be increasingly hard to find over the years. Another figure that should be taken into consideration is that more people are born each day than die. So as every day passes, more people must be fed. On the bright side, there is an opposition to this theory. Some critics would say that population growth is slowing.
Quite opposite of the food problem, lies the population shrinkage problem. Many countries in Europe show that they no longer produce enough children to maintain their population. In time, they feel we will have much less people on earth. With such extreme views on population and food, it is hard to find your own opinion. Personally, I believe it will balance out. Much like the business cycle does, through its many ups and downs. What is constant for 100 years, such as a decline in population, may only be the very tip of the recession, and the beginning of a population boom. If most things in life follow this ‘business cycle’, what would make food and population different? That would be Extinction of human kind, of course. Either way, I think these problems are a great deal of time into the future. And while it is good to plan it out and find solutions early, I think the world’s population is soundly in check, and proportionate to the amount of food produced. (It may sound cruel, but the starving will die, keeping food and population in check) And by the time that most of the world is civilized, there would most likely be rules and laws in place regarding having offspring and other population controlling measures.
It is important to study such things, so we can plan for the future. When the land is all occupied, where do the wealthy go to escape it all? We know they will think of something. But what about the rest of the residents, where will they go? The food situation needs attention as well. Technology will most likely pull through for us, as it usually does when we need it to. All we really need is time- Such as Time for planning new urban areas, suburbs, rural areas, business districts, and even the more farfetched things like space stations or underwater facilities. Without the theory of urbanization, I fear this problem would become scary all too soon. Such time, I think, is on our side.