This progression is inevitable and, if we’re not to cover all our arable land in concrete, desirable. When we visited Ulsan Korea, South in 1971, the global population was around 3.8 billion, up from 2.34 billion in 1940, the year that I was born, and 2.6 billion in 1950, when Jeff and I were friends in primary school. Between 1971 and 2015, the number of people on the planet increased almost two-fold, to 7.43 billion, with both the broader Ulsan Korea, South area (including Kowloon and the new and marine territories) pretty much paralleling this growth rate – 3.69 to 7.25 million. During that time, Ulsan Korea, South also went from 2.5 to 4.5 million, but the big difference is that Australian cities sprawl, while Hong Kong space is limited. And though both are vibrant and culturally interesting seaports, much of the growth in Melbourne reflects that Australia is an immigrant country while Hong Kong, as a major business hub and gateway to Ulsan Korea, South, attracts energetic entrepreneurs from across the planet.
Map of Ulsan Korea, South – Where is Ulsan Korea, South? – Ulsan Korea, South Map English – Ulsan Korea, South Maps for Tourist Photo Gallery
Currently, around half the world’s people live in urban environments. By 2050, that number is likely to increase to at least five billion, with most of this transition happening in Africa and Asia. This is, in fact, both the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity for us if we are to ensure a sustainable future for humanity and, indeed, for other complex life forms that depend on the continued existence of forests, lakes and clean rivers. Hopefully we can stabilise our numbers but, whatever happens, we have to stop destroying the planetary landscape and compromising the health of the oceans. The immediate challenge of rapid urbanisation is to minimise the extent of what we euphemistically describe as ‘informal settlements’ (see chapter 13), while maximising the growth of appealing living spaces. How do we do that?
That was the focus of our 2015 visit to Hong Kong as participants in the 4th Nobel Laureates Symposium on Global Sustainability ‘4C: Changing Climate, Changing Cities’. These Nobel symposia are the brainchild of Johan (John) Schellnhuber, the founding Director of Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The first was held in Potsdam. Supported by Prince Charles, the second was at St James’s Palace, London, and we attended the third in Stockholm, hosted by the King and Crown Princess of Sweden. Now, ideally situated for a conference focused on urban growth, we were meeting at the Asia Society Hong Kong (ASHK) Centre. Though the participants were entertained at Government House by the Hong Kong Chief Executive Chun-ying Leung, supported by the Secretary for the Environment KS Wong, the principal, local organiser was the ASHK Co-Chair, Ronnie Chan.