Introduction to Urbanization

What you’ll learn to do: describe the growth of cities, understand  and the process of urbanization

This photo is taken from high above Chicago and shows downtown Chicago and part of Lake Michigan. There are skyscrapers in the lower right of the photo and then a stretch of smaller buildings across the rest of the photo. Everything is very small and grey since these buildings are being photographed at a distance. Lake Michigan is on the upper right of the photo and is blue green.

Figure 1. An aerial view of Chicago, Illinois in the United States. (Photo courtesy of Leslie/Wikimedia Commons)

Cities provide numerous opportunities for their residents and offer significant benefits including access to consumer goods and to a diverse range of job prospects. At the same time, high population areas can lead to tensions between demographic groups over jobs and resources, as well as to environmental strain. While the population of urban dwellers is continuing to rise, sources of social strain are rising along with it. The ultimate challenge for today’s urbanites is finding an equitable way to share the city’s resources while reducing the pollution and energy use that negatively impacts the environment.

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