environmental Effects of Urbanization
Urban populations interact with their environment. Urban people change their environment through their consumption of food, energy, water, and land. And in turn, the polluted urban environment affects the health and quality of life of the urban population.
People who live in urban areas have very different consumption patterns than residents in rural areas. For example, urban populations consume much more food, energy, and durable goods than rural populations. In China during the 1970s, the urban populations consumed more than twice as much pork as the rural populations who were raising the pigs. With economic development, the difference in consumption declined as the rural populations ate better diets. But even a decade later, urban populations had 60 percent more pork in their diets than rural populations. The increasing consumption of meat is a sign of growing affluence in Beijing; in India where many urban residents are vegetarians, greater prosperity is seen in higher consumption of milk.
Urban populations not only consume more food, but they also consume more durable goods. In the early 1990s, Chinese households in urban areas were two times more likely to have a TV, eight times more likely to have a washing machine, and 25 times more likely to have a refrigerator than rural households. This increased consumption is a function of urban labor markets, wages, and household structure.
Energy consumption for electricity, transportation, cooking, and heating is much higher in urban areas than in rural villages. For example, urban populations have many more cars than rural populations per capita. Almost all of the cars in the world in the 1930s were in the United States. Today we have a car for every two people in the United States. If that became the norm, in 2050 there would be 5.3 billion cars in the world, all using energy.