Franz Nahrada / CORPSession2010 /
Lost Rural Potential
|An average report on population issues today starts like this: "Studies predict mankind will agglomerate even more in cities. According to the projections by the UN Population Division, the world’s urban population continues to grow faster than its total population and over 3 billion people representing 48 per cent of the mankind live in urban settlements. This is expected to rise to 4 billion by 2017 and 5 billion by 2030. The change will take place mostly in developing countries since in the more developed economies, 75 per cent of the population already live in urban areas." (Which is a gross average, the fine numbers are here: )
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urbanization: Urbanization occurs naturally from individual and corporate efforts to reduce time and expense in commuting and transportation while improving opportunities for jobs, education, housing, and transportation. Living in cities permits individuals and families to take advantage of the opportunities of proximity , diversity, and marketplace competition.
Attention is almost exclusively given to the city, cf. Habitat 2006. or just now: "The theme of the Exposition 2010 Shanghai is "Better City, Better Life". The topic has its origin in the thousands of years of human civilization. In the meantime, the selection of the theme is the continuity of the 154-year tradition of the World Expo, whose theme always reflects a common concern or interest of man kind at a particular historical stage."
Urban areas cover less than 2% of the land mass of our planet. Roughly the same area as the rainforests.
Whilst for hundreds or even thousands of years the urban - rural distribution of human population has been relatively stable, there seems to be a self - reenforcing trend of rural flight that repeats itself like a pattern in various forms.
There is an invisible threat to the functions of cultural landscape. The cooperation of man and nature which results from permanent cohabitatiion is essential for many functions that are essential for the cities themselves.
Christopher Alexander writes bluntly in his second pattern "Distribution of Towns". "If the population of a region is weighted too far toward small villages, modern civilisation can never emerge; but if the population is weighted too far toward big cities, the earth will go to ruin because the population isn't where it needs to be, to take care of it." 
What are the functions of rural areas? We often refer to them as "lungs", since the rural ares clean and regenerate air and humidify it, but there is much more to it: