L46 The Menace of Urban Explosion from The Listener
After millennia of growth so slow that each generation hardly noticed it, the cities are suddenly racing off in every direction. The world population goes up by two per cent a year, city population goes up by four per cent a year, but in big cities the rate may be as much as five and six per cent a year. To give only one example of almost visible acceleration, Athens today grows by three dwellings And 100 square metres of road every hour. There is no reason to believe that this pace will slacken. As technology gradually swallows up all forms of work, industrial and agricultural, the rural areas are going to shrink, just as they have shrunk in Britain, and the vast majority of their people will move into the city. In fact, in Britain now only about four or five per cent of people live in rural areas and depend upon them; all through the developing world the vanguard of the rural exodus has reached the urban fringes already, and there they huddle, migrants in the favellas and barrios of Latin America, in shanty towns in Africa, in those horrifying encampments one sees on the outskirts of Calcutta and Bombay. We are heading towards an urban world.
This enormous increase will go ahead whatever we do, and we have to remember that the new cities devour space. People now acquire far more goods and things. There is a greater density of household goods; they demand more services such as sewage and drainage. Above all the car changes everything: rising incomes and rising populations can make urban car density increase by something like four and five per cent in a decade; traffic flows rise to fill whatever scale of highways are provided for them. The car also has a curious ambivalence: it creates and then it destroys mobility. The car tempts people further out and then gives them the appalling problem of getting back. It makes them believe they can spend Sunday in Brighton, but makes it impossible for them to return before, say, two in the morning. People go further and further away to reach open air and countryside which continuously recedes from them, and just as their working weeks decline and they begin to have more time for leisure, they find they cannot get to the open spaces or the recreation or the beaches which they now have the time to enjoy.
Recently some studies were made in the behavior of mice when exposed to more than a certain degree of density, frustration, and noise, and the mice just became deranged. I think some sociologists wonder whether it might not be the same for men. This combination of very high density of population, goods and services, and machines, all increasing with almost bruta1 speed, does account for some really antisocial tendencies in modern urban growth