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Why the Crisis in Cities threatens Rural Areas

Congestion, pollution, decay, crime and violence.
These have become the common lot of big cities around the world.
Now even remote rural areas can no longer escape the costly impact of urban problems.
Is there a solution to the mounting crisis?


ALL OF A SUDDEN — what's happened? It was never like this before!

It's unsafe to walk on the streets — in city or in town! Your house may be broken into if you're away! Crime is rampant, even in high-class residential areas!

Pollution of air and water bewilders scientists and engineers attempting to combat it. New pollutants are added to the environment faster than the old ones can be dealt with.

As one sociologist observed:

"The growth of cities is perhaps the biggest single problem facing man in the second half of the Twentieth Century."

One international conference after another, attempts to get at the root of urban ills.


A Call for Immediate Action

One such conference convened recently in Paris. More than 250 scientists and delegates from 62 countries and 38 international organizations gathered for the United Nations-sponsored conference on "The Rational Use of the Biosphere."

These experts — in their concluding summary, September 13 — called for a world drive to meet the "terrible threat" modern urban civilization poses to its own survival.

Conference vice president Professor Carlos Chagas of Brazil surprised newsmen at the end of the nine-day conference. He quoted a statement by Professor Rene Dubos of the Rockefeller Center that some cities are becoming so polluted that "human life may become impossible in a decade or so."

Dubos has also warned that action must be taken soon or "we may find that half the populations in these cities will be sick and the other half will be engaged in giving them medical treatment."

These are men who know! They fear the direction in which large urban complexes are headed. They are demanding a dramatic reversal of events.


Soon — World 75% Urban!

Other international conferences are critically examining the full scope of the urban crisis.

At the 1968 Delos Symposium in Greece, a group of internationally renowned city planners, scientists and scholars met for one week. In a declaration issued at the end of their conference, these experts concluded:

"Within 30 years, the population of the earth will have more than doubled to reach 7 billion. Half of these people will be under 25. If present trends continue, the present half of the world's population who now live in the cities will have risen to three-quarters."

The impact of this coming crush of humanity, most of it focused on existing and developing cities, is already beginning to have devastating effects. As the Delos declaration stressed:

"Unless far-reaching and immediate steps are taken, the cities of the world — large and small, ancient and modern — will be grievously unprepared to receive them," it said.

"We will have to build approximately twice as many new habitations as man has built from the beginning of history. Even if immediate and successful action is taken to halt the population explosion and to moderate migration into the cities, the tasks we face are enormous."


Rural Areas Affected

For the United States, the population explosion into the cities is already following the same relentless course. By the turn of the next century, say the experts, 4 out of every 5 Americans will be crammed into metropolitan areas.

Existing cities are foreseen by city planners as fusing together into giant megalopolises with the countryside in between being absorbed. The exodus from the small towns to big cities continues unabated, contributing to the cities' woes. And it aggravates the problems of rural America.

Within each urban complex, the "secondary migration" of middle Bass residents to the suburbs will certainly not abate in the near future. Not with heightened racial tensions within the "Inner City."

Worst of all, the entire panorama of dilemmas within our cities today — much of it caused by present already overcrowded conditions — can only intensify!

The crisis in the cities is not limited to urban society. Increasingly, rural America, rural Britain, rural Canada, Australia, South Africa and rural other countries, feel the impact of the woes of the big city.

The tax burden to support big city needs is destined to increase for all citizens — urban, suburban, and rural — as federal government programs are developed to attempt cures for urban ills.

Some planners have estimated that it would take the expenditure of perhaps TWO TRILLION DOLLARS in order to rehabilitate America's cities and to plan ahead for future urban growth, and the plight of British and European cities is almost as bad. It is a worldwide problem.

Countless billions have already been spent. With seemingly little to show for it, except for clogged expressways and crowded high-rise buildings. The quality of life in the big cities is eroding faster than ever.

But more money will be spent nevertheless. And it will come from the pocket of the farmer, the suburbanite and the factory worker.

Other budding crises are destined to leave their mark on the "man on the farm." Big city social sicknesses are spilling over rapidly into rural districts. One example: Crime.

Crime is now a serious threat everywhere in the United States. The latest FBI crime report reveals a startling 21% increase in nationwide crime the first half of this year over the same period in 1967.

Broken down, the rate zoomed up 24% in cities with more than 250,000 population. Big city suburbs registered a 21% upswing. But notice the leap in crime in smaller cities and rural districts! The crime rate in cities and towns less than 10,000 population shot up 17%. Rural areas registered a 14% rise.

Worldwide, all the ills of the city are gradually infused throughout the entire countryside. The city is the nucleus of any society. When the city degenerates, the whole society is certain to follow!


Britain's Crowded Cities

Many recent newspaper and news magazine articles have highlighted the worsening state of America's cities. Little attention has been devoted to Britain's part in the deepening worldwide urban crisis outside of her own press media.

Britain was the leader of the Industrial Revolution. As industrialization progressed rapidly, most English, Welsh and Scottish towns were simply unprepared to cope with its resultant by-products — overcrowding, poor housing, traffic congestion, air and water pollution.

What has already happened to industrial Britain has gradually occurred to nearly all the Western world. Now the same ills threaten to be the fate of many overcrowded underdeveloped nations as they rush heedlessly into a virtually unplanned industrial society! The lessons of what has befallen Britain and the United States are going unlearned.

"The growth of cities is perhaps the biggest single problem facing man in the second half of the twentieth century," says Dr. J.K. Brierley in the book, Biology and the Social Crisis.

In Britain this is a problem of considerable magnitude.

Town planners are troubled at the state of British cities. "In little more than a century, the quality of our urban life has tragically deteriorated. The deterioration is now gathering momentum, and will, we believe, disintegrate our cities unless immediate action is taken." This is the startling conclusion of the first report of SPUR, the Society for Planning and Urban Renewal. SPUR is a body of architects, planners and sociologists formed to wake up and inform the public of the urgency of the problems of urban renewal.

Urbanization presents special, crucial problems in Britain. NINE OUT OF EVERY TEN persons in Britain live in towns. And HALF of all Britons live in the seven great conurbations of London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool and Newcastle. (Central Office of Information booklet — Town and Country Planning in Britain, p. 25)

London is the major area of population concentration. In a tiny area comprising only a sixtieth of the land mass live a sixteenth of the British people. (The Future of London, Edward Carter, p. 90) Britain has 50% more people per square mile than teeming, populous, but rural, India. (Figures from Pears Cyclopaedia) How did the country reach this condition?

The last century has witnessed an amazing surge of people from the land to the cities. In the early 1800's the British population was largely rural — 65 to 70 percent. (Life Threatened, by A.T. Westlake, p. 4) Fifty years after the first census in 1801, the population had doubled to twenty million people. Half were now living in towns. (The Wastes of Civilization by J.C. Wylie, p. 37) This was a condition that had never before occurred in any country in the history of the world, says John C. Wylie in his book, The Wastes of Civilization. Today only 2% of the British labor force is employed in Agriculture. (Annual Abstract of Statistics, 1967)

How did it all come about? What was the magnetic force of the towns?

By the early nineteenth century Britain was already firmly launched on the Industrial Revolution. New machines put Britain in the forefront of the textile trade. And with her natural supplies of coal Britain rapidly achieved a powerful iron and steel industry. These spawned a mass movement luring people away from the country to work in the factories and offices. Cities sprang up seemingly overnight. Workers were forced to live huddled up and crowded together in row upon row, street upon street of monotonous, squalid terrace houses.

Others were not as fortunate. The crudest and worst jerry building could not produce housing fast enough. The labor demands of industry were insatiable. People were crowded in unventilated cellars and draughty attics. Ten families plus lodgers often lived in a ten-roomed house.

Men, women and children worked into the night. Women pulled trucks in the mines through knee-deep mud. Children slaved ten-hour days in factories. (The Wastes of Civilization, by J.C. Wylie, p. 37)

The nation moved into a new age — an industrial society. Britain had almost entirely given up her predominantly agricultural economy.