There is no use denying the fact that nowadays the majority of people live in giant cities which cover great areas and shelter millions of their inhabitants. Blistering industrialization led to the development of cities as there was a great need in the workforce. People left rural areas in order to earn money and guarantee a good future for their children. That is why urbanization could be called one of the main peculiarities of the 20th and 21st centuries.
However, it should be said that this significant process has its advantages and disadvantages. Satisfying the need of huge corporations in the workforce, big cities at the same time create a great number of problems such as environmental pollution, the development of criminality and a great number of other phenomena which could be taken as a great drawback of the blistering development of cities. With this in mind, resting on these facts, it is possible to say that nowadays there is a tendency to reconsider the nature of cities and outline the main problems which influence their functioning, society and the state of the whole world.
Under these conditions, the environmental problem should be taken as one of the most important ones as nowadays humanity lives in the world, which is polluted and the necessity of some actions to stop this process becomes obvious. That is why the main aim of the suggested research paper will be to investigate the impact of great cities on ecology and their environmental health as these factors influence the life of people in cities greatly.
First of all, it should be said that the importance of the suggested urban problem is proved by the fact that hundreds of scientists all over the world investigate the given issue and come to the conclusion that the state of the environment in giant cities is close to catastrophic. Being one of the main energy consumers, they also become the main pollutants, producing a negative impact on the atmosphere, water, soil, and the health of people. Moreover, due to the fact that big cities constantly grow, consuming new lands and demanding more and more energy, it is possible to suggest that the chosen urban problem can become the most topical for the following decade.
It should also be said that like all urban problems, the problem of environmental pollution in cities is complicated by the fact that it results from the interaction of millions of people who had to communicate every day under various conditions. It is obvious that such a great flock could not but influence the state of the environment negatively. With this in mind, it is possible to suggest the usage of certain sociological theories in order to analyze the way in which people interact with each other and how this process promotes its influence on the state of the chosen urban problem.
Resting on these facts, having analyzed the main peculiarities of the process of urbanization and the main urban problems which appear due to the influence of this very process, it is possible to make a certain conclusion. It should be said that in terms of the modern state of the world, environmental pollution and the impact of cities on ecology and the health of people could be called the main urban problem, which should be analyzed in order to find the most efficient solution.
Urban Problems: Environmental Pollution
Nowadays, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. The global urbanization stimulated by the economic and technological development gathers momentum, and according to the recent estimations, the number of the urban population will be increased sixfold by 2030 (Elmqvist et al., 2013). The large urban community is diverse in many aspects: culture, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, education, etc. The population diversity creates difficulties in social communication and interrelations. The issues of social inequality, crime, and discrimination are up-to-date in industrial cities.
However, besides the social issues, the expansion of towns and cities inevitably impacts the environmental state and climate. Urbanization jeopardizes the sustainability of ecosystems at both local and global scales. Moreover, the environmental instability and pollution caused by urban area expansion threats the psychological and mental health of the urban inhabitants. Despite the fact that urbanization provokes technological and economic progress, the environmental and social problems caused by the urban development indicate the inefficiency of the urban planning and lack of the environmental protection by policies controlling the industrial waste disposal.
The current issues prove that the changes in the government regulations regarding the environmental state are needed. And the rise of public awareness, along with the strengthening of the environment-friendly culture within the local and global society, would play vital roles in the improvement of the situation in the urbanization era.
Urbanization and Environment
Urbanization is regarded as “the accelerated development” that goes along with the “money, resources, and population transfer” (Li et al., 2012, p. 127). The continuous migration and resource consumption put a lot of pressure on the environmental state. The large cities become the centers of commercial activities, trade, and business; they provide more opportunities for economic development and labor. Thus, people around the globe are attracted to live in urban areas. The inhabitants of the rural regions often migrate to the big industrial cities in search of a better job and economic prosperity.
The urban population grows fast. The rapid growth creates new challenges because “it is difficult to maintain a high living standard in a densely populated area with a high rate of population increase” (Mallick, Ghani, & Sultan, 2005, p. 599). When the increase in population rates is rapid, technological development fails to keep up to its progression. This misbalance between population density and new technologies adaptation provokes the “continuous degradation of the natural environment” (Mallick et al., 2005, p. 599).
The density of the population is the reason for the higher level of technological development and the better living conditions in the cities. In comparison to the rural areas, the demand for goods and services is much higher there. Therefore, the increase in food supply and natural resources consumption follows. The increased demand provokes the expansion of markets that, in its turn, induces economic growth.
However, some negative aspects included in technological progress and industrial development. One of the most significant and negative effects is the increase in natural resources consumption. The inefficient market policies and lack of a sufficient number of advanced technologies impact “the degradation of both land and other natural resources” (Mallick et al., 2005, p. 600). The inefficiency of markets causes not only economic instability but also provokes regression in the living conditions standards. And the poor conditions are strengthened by the deterioration of the environmental state. Since natural resource consumption is the side effect of industrial development, it is evident that the urban areas’ environment is exposed to the negative impacts to a greater extent.
The links between urban expansion and environment deterioration are proved by many researchers. They notice the particular impact of urbanization on air pollution, clean water shortage, and the terrestrial ecosystem instabilities (Zhang et al., 2012, p. 89). The pollution and waste disposal caused by industrial progress and trade relations create misbalance in both local and global flora and fauna. The industrial waste is the most evident cause of the vegetation and animal species reduction and loss in the urban areas. These alterations in the ecosystem balance by the nature of things threaten the well-being of the human population.
Impacts of Urban Expansion on Human Health
The rapid urban growth creates a variety of difficulties for people. The inhabitants and the cities’ officials challenge the poverty, the incapacity of the services provided, the housing issues, etc. every day. The issues of the socioeconomic character are commonly regarded as of primary importance. However, the environmental degradation associated with the urbanization puts a lot of pressure on the human health and negatively influences “the commercial and personal activity within the limits of the city” (Moore, Gould, & Keary, 2002, p. 270).
The environmental state is mutually influenced by many aspects of urban life. The factors associated with an urban expansion that negatively affect the environmental conditions include “increasing levels of air pollution, water pollution and over usage, inadequate sanitation services, inadequate solid waste collection, and motor vehicle traffic” (Moore et al., 2002, p. 272). At the economic and commercial level, environmental instability causes declines and slows down the progress. Industries consume the natural resources for the operability maintenance and production of goods.
However, when the resource consumption is uncontrolled and exceeded, it has the opposite effect on industrial efficiency. For instance, the overuse of water resources by industries is considered to be one of the reasons for the water shortage. The resource shortage leads to stagnation and inevitably creates new social challenges. On a personal level, air and water pollution is extremely hazardous for the psychological and physical health of the city population. The issues of air pollution and water contamination and scarcity are especially prominent in the countries of the developing world, where they are the primary reasons for disease development and mortality. “Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lead, and beryllium poisoning are associated with increasing air pollution” (Moore et al., 2002, p. 272).
The over-usage of water by industries and the constant waste discharge challenge the sufficient water supply in the overpopulated urban areas. The people who live in poor urban neighborhoods often do not have direct access to water in their houses. The absence of the water source interferes with appropriate personal hygiene: bathing, laundry, food cleaning, etc. Water in poor areas also lacks adequate sanitation. These reasons altogether increase the risk of the parasitic, gastrointestinal, and diarrheal diseases emergence.
Noise and air pollution may cause a psychological disturbance. The heavy urban vehicle traffic is interconnected both with social and environmental issues. Possessing a car means to be respectable and significant and demonstrates a person’s economic achievements. The traffic has drastically increased in a short time because of the automobiles’ appealing status symbolism that was promoted since the 20th century. The motor vehicles create significant air pollution, and, moreover, “vehicular motor accidents are now among the leading causes of death worldwide” (Moore et al., 2002, p. 274). In addition to it, the noise pollution caused by engine sounds and honking can become the reason for stress.
It is worth mentioning that even if considering only the social and economic issues of urbanization, the health of those living in the big cities is always exposed to hazards and risks. Comparing to rural areas, life in the cities is more disturbing because of the constant social insecurity, struggling, and chase after prosperity. The problems of unemployment, poverty, and housing issues are familiar to the vast number of people. Almost every person who lives in the city is stressed due to different reasons. Strengthened by the lamentable environmental conditions, the stress often transforms from the merely psychological disturbance into diseases.
Influence of Urbanization on the Ecological Systems
The big industrial cities are usually founded in the areas that are productive in regard to natural resources: water, woods, soil, etc. The expansion of the urban areas and the growth of population induce the overconsumption of these resources and, therefore, threaten the natural sustainability. The expansion of the urban landscape provokes changes in the ecosystems within the cities and in the neighboring areas. The main transformations take place in the chemical composition of the soil, air, and water.
According to the recent research, the Carbon density in the U.S. developed urban areas such as Texas, Florida, and Kentucky is the reason for the regional climate change (Zhang et al., 2012, p. 96). Although the urban vegetation sequesters a large part of the Carbon storage, the continuous deforestation of the nearest areas due to agriculture or urban development puts climatic stability at risk. Taking into account the fact that urbanization gathers momentum all around the globe, the damages caused to nature inevitably affect the global environment.
Urbanization harmfully impacts the water state by contamination and inducing shortages. The issue of water shortage is especially significant in developing countries with a high level of overpopulation. It is a well-known fact that water is an essential element and is necessary for life support. The lack of water thus is hazardous as well as the consumption of the infected or the contaminated liquid. The threats caused by the water shortage to human health are evident. But at the same time, the water resources scarcity creates threats to economic and technological progress because water serves as a production and industrial maintenance support.
“In general terms, water shortage is defined as the lack of sufficient available water resources to meet the demands of water usage within a region” (Majumder, 2015, p. 2). Urbanization is one of the main reasons for provoking water shortages. The development of industries and the population excess determine the water insufficiency. The water resources are constantly polluted by toxic waste discharges. Usually, the forests provide the “infiltration capacity” that is naturally supposed to retain water in the region (Majumder, 2015, p. 3). However, industrial development requires deforestation for building new constructions and enterprises. Therefore, water resources grow shallow.
It is proved by many scientists that the global ecosystem is subtle, and the natural conditions are interdependent with each other. It is in the state of nature that the changes in one geophysical aspect provoke changes in other aspects. Thus, changes in the air consistency induce climatic changes that, in turn, cause the reduction of the water volumes. The local environmental damages within a particular region necessarily influence the global environment. The lack of the ecological controls and policies, the increasing interference with natural environments and continuous negative effects caused by industries and economic progress make it clear that the global society needs to face the environmental issues as soon as possible to avoid the irreversible consequences. First of all, the industrial, commercial and economic progress must move forward with the implementation of environmental protection policies and eco-friendly attitudes. The rise in public awareness plays a crucial role in the problem solution.
Industrial Development and Ecological Sustainability
Economic relations are intrinsic in the modern social structure. It is even more recognizable in the unstoppable process of globalization. The markets expand, the industries move cross-borders, and the urban development gathers pace globally. The economists and ecologists admit the connections between international economic development and the environmental state. Some of them assume that “international economic integration may create more demand for a cleaner environment in less developed countries by raising the levels of income in those countries” (Vlad, 2005, p. 1). Nevertheless, the facts say against it. International trade plays a significant role in cross-border environmental pollution.
“Pollution is a byproduct of production” (Vlad, 2005, p. 3). Therefore, environmental contamination is part of any industry. In an attempt to obtain more profit, the industries expand, and the goods’ production increases. In many cases, the production doesn’t stick to the environmental regulations. The industrial waste recycling is expensive, and for the sake of the economy, some organizations illegally discharge the waste in the natural environment. The issue of the environmental sustenance by the organizations’ officials and management is rather of the ethical character. The cases of illegal waste dumping are frequent. They demonstrate the outrages irresponsibility and emphasize the vice of greed and the pursuit of lucre at the cost of environmental sustainability and ecological well-being.
However, even acting completely legally, the industries provoke environmental misbalance. The international trade harms the environment not merely at the regional level but transmits pollution abroad by importing the polluting goods (Vlad, 2005, p. 40). Nevertheless, the economy and trade are the creations of law and, therefore, can be changed and transformed for good. The positive effect can be achieved with the application of tougher and stricter production control and environmental regulations. The financial strategies should take into consideration the required pollution regulations and their expenses and costs, and the prices for products and services could be adjusted accordingly.
The consumption, economy, and industrial development are interdependent. The consumption of the polluting and unrecyclable products by the members of the society, the significant extent of the industrial pollution, and their constant increase in search of financial profit demonstrate the lack of social and political awareness of the irrational and overabundant production consequences. It is important to provide information transparency regarding environmental problems. The wide public recognition of the current issues will make the changes desired and hence, possible.
The human interactions are multilateral in nature. Nevertheless, commercial interactions are of greater significance within the urban areas. The establishment and refinement of the economic relationship can be considered as a basis for the urbanization. The economic development induces the emergence of “commercial and retail businesses, entertainment venues, and residential construction” that invoke the cities’ expansion (Abrahamson, 2014, p. 103). The motivation for profit guides people in their actions and relations to a great extent. The pursuit of the profit invokes cross-border migration and international financial transactions that take part in shaping the cultural, economic, and social structures, and in the urban landscape transformation as well.
While relating to each other, people face a lot of difficulties, but the issue of inequality is the most prominent in many large cities of different countries (Abrahamson, 2014, p. 130). Inequality in social and economic status has links to the technological development and environmental conditions inequality as well. It can be observed in the example of the developing countries that slow economic growth and the lack of advanced technologies cannot support environmental protection. It is also proved that the poor countries tend to be overpopulated because the poor families have more chances to function socially and sustain life while consisting of many members (Mallick et al., 2005, p. 598).
As was mentioned above, overpopulation is one of the causes of resource scarcity. Therefore, it is evident that the relations between the members of the society, the political and social conditions, economic policies, and arrangements are responsible for the deterioration of the environmental state.
All the issues that people face with global urbanization and economic growth make it clear that the fundamental and systematic changes are required in society. Different researchers recommend various strategies and theories that are aimed at the provision of sustainability in the society and environment in the age of rapid urbanization progress. At the economic level, it is important to elaborate on the policies and regulations that would be efficient in regard to production, pricing, and environmental control at the same time. The environmental state also can be improved by balancing out the social structure and diminution of social inequality.
It is assumed that equal opportunities in employment, literacy, and education, income and wealth distribution, and more efficient governance and the investments in the social sector can contribute to the sustainability of the population, especially in the countries of the developing world. The scientists and scholars also suggest to apply the economic policies based on technology and to consider environmental issues and their impacts on human health, psychology, and behavior in political decision-making. It is highly recommendable to elaborate on a more thoughtful urban planning design that will be able to provide the potential for the current issues resolving. And one of the most significant contributions to the improvement of the environmental and social instabilities can be made by the promotion of eco-friendly culture and ethical attitudes and addressing the problems of the environmental instability, their reasons, and impacts on the well-being of the society.
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