Netherlands: Building Liveable Cities
Building Liveable Cities
On a strip of land approximately 300 miles long and 150 miles wide, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf, sits the land once known as “Mesopotamia.”
It was here, about 10,000 years ago, that the history of the way human populations settled was changed forever. The city was born.
How did this region come to see the world’s first city?
From our earliest record of human history to about 12,000 years ago, we know that our ancestors led very harsh lives. Most were cave dwellers that foraged and hunted, following food sources to survive. Then, about 10,000 years ago, evidence of agriculture begins to appear. People began cultivating and harvesting crops, and domesticating animals. This provided a more secure food source and allowed families and small groups to settle in one place. Division of labour became commonplace as different trades became necessary. Small farms and villages were established. Not cities yet, but the beginnings of them.
The first cities appear in Mesopotamia between 4000 and 3000 BCE. People there depended on one another to sustain their settled lifestyle. More food needed to be produced and central marketplaces evolved to cater to large populations of craftsmen, traders, priests, soldiers, and officials. Mesopotamia was the perfect place for this evolution to occur. It is sometimes referred to as “The Cradle of Civilization,” but it’s more widely known as the Fertile Crescent. And fertile it was. The flowing Tigris and Euphrates rivers created rich agricultural opportunities for those early inhabitants.
It’s only over the last several centuries however, that humans have moved into cities en masse. Today, there are about 500 metropolitan areas around the world with a population of one million people or more! More than half the world’s population resides in cities. As the global population increases, urban populations are growing even faster — we can expect 2.5 billion MORE city dwellers by 2050, according to the United Nations. This impending urbanization can mean more jobs, but expanding cities also mean major challenges in terms of transport, energy, housing, and waste management.
Amsterdam is working to address some of the biggest challenges faced by city dwellers today, and it’s bikeability in particular makes it a world leader in the area of sustainable transport.
How would you make your city more sustainable?