This module provides a roadmap to understanding the concept of urbanization.

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Resource List

These resources provide a base knowledge and a start for some of some of the key concepts and sectors of urbanization, but as the international environment continues to evolve, new data will become available.


  • United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs – Population Division: According to the website, the Population Division plays an active role in the intergovernmental dialogue on population and development, producing updated demographic estimates and projects for all countries. More information can be found at http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/population/
  • United Nations Human Settlements Program: According to the website, the program is working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements and the achievement of adequate shelter for all. More information can be found at https://unhabitat.org/
  • Environmental Protection Agency: The United States Environmental Protection Agency’s mission is to protect human health and the environment. More information can be found at https://www.epa.gov/
  • The World Bank: According to the World Bank’s website, the organization has set two main goals for the world to achieve by 2030. The first goal is to end extreme poverty by decreasing the percentage of people living on less than $1.90 a day to no more than 3%. The second goal is to promote shared prosperity by fostering the income growth of the bottom 40% for every country. More information can be found at http://www.worldbank.org/

Recent Publications and Journal Articles:

  • Story of cities #future: what will our growing megacities look like?: This article discusses different characteristics that cities of the future could adopt in order to adapt to changing environment, increasing waste, and evolving technology. It highlights that the most likely outcome is that cities could continue as they are without major changes or become deserted.
  • The risks of rapid urbanization in developing countries: This article highlights four primary challenges when dealing with rapid urbanization: infrastructure, health, climate change, and social instability. It notes that infrastructure is key to quality of life, and governments may not be able to keep up with growing urbanization. It highlights that, whereas in the 20th century urban dwellers were healthier and had better living conditions than rural residents had, this may no longer be the case, particularly in developing countries. Rising sea levels likely will affect cities, which may or may not have the necessary infrastructure to handle that and more frequent extreme weather events. Finally, it notes that rapid urbanization can prevent people from getting out of poverty and can increase the likelihood of violence and social unrest due to inequalities.
  • The megacity state: The world’s biggest cities shaping our future: This report lays out the future of megacities (cities with populations more than 10 million people) and discusses the opportunities and risks associated with expanding metropolitan areas, including China’s efforts to connect multiple cities into even larger gigacities (over 50 million residents). It also notes the difference in rate of growth within African and Asian cities versus cities in the developed world.
  • Global Trends: Paradox of Progress: This report from the National Intelligence Council lays out the drivers of global trends over the next twenty years. It breaks down the information by subject matter and by region. It highlights the fact that an increasing percentage of the world’s population live in cities and addresses all of the demographic, social, political, economic, and environmental issues that increasing urbanization will cause.
  • Future Coastal Population Growth and Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding – A Global Assessment: The authors in this article discuss the global patterns of urbanization and development near coastal regions. The group then uses a series of modelling tools to forecast the outcome and effects that future coastal flooding may have on these regions.
    • Citation: Neumann, B., Nicholls, R.J., Vafeidis, A.T., & Zimmermann, J. “Future Coastal Population Growth and Exposure to Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Flooding – A Global Assessment.” PLoS One (2015 March 11). Web. March 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4367969/
  • Rising Seas: Tim Folger initially describes tales from Hurricane Sandy, but then switches his focus to global sea rise, the way certain countries are mitigating for sea rise, and what can potentially be done in the United States to combat the same issue.
  • Difference Between Industrial Smog & Photochemical Smog: Samantha K. Harvey, a Senior Science Writer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory explains the differences and effects of industrial versus photochemical smog.
  • Urbanization and Air Pollution: Then and Now: David D. Parrish, of the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado-Boulder, discusses the impact that urbanization had on air pollution of cities. After analyzing decades of air pollution and air quality index changes, he confirms that the air quality mitigation can be done, however it needs to improve greatly.
  • Energy Saving Potentials and Air Quality Benefits of Urban Heat Island Mitigation: Hashem Akbari discusses the air quality and temperature surrounding urban heat islands and then dives into the potential benefits and saving potentials of urban heat island mitigation.
  • Developing Countries Need to Harness Urbanization to Achieve the MDGs: IMF-World Bank Report: In a press release, the World Bank discusses the need to control urbanization and the benefits of controlling urbanization towards countries ultimately meeting their Millennium Development Goals.
  • Impacts of Urbanization on Urban Structures and Energy Demand: What Can We Learn for Urban Energy Planning and Urbanization Management?: Authors Reinhard Madlener and Yasin Sunak discuss urbanization and the impact it has on urban structures and energy demand. In the article, they dive into the specifics of locations in developed and non-developed countries, urban growth rates, and energy consumption.
    • Citation: Madlener, R. & Sunak, Y. “Impacts of Urbanization on Urban Structures and Energy Demand: What Can We Learn for Urban Energy Planning and Urbanization Management?” Sustainable Cities and Society, Volume 1, Issue 1, pages 45-53 (2011 February). Web. March 2017. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210670710000077
  • Urbanization: A Major Driver of Infrastructure Spending: David Aldred, of CitiBank, discusses the impact of infrastructure spending and its relation to urbanization.
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