But according to a new report from the United Nations Population Fund, one-sixth of the world, or 1 billion people, live in slums that feature all the worst aspects of urban life, and none of the best. And it won’t be the largest megacities that will increase in size (they are actually shrinking), but smaller cities that are beginning to sprawl into the countryside. Many of these places are less than ideal human habitats — water systems are polluted, erosion and global warming threaten the physical infrastructure, and crime and poverty are a way of life.
Possible upsides? Increased access to jobs, multiculturalism, and education. But with day-to-day life for slum dwellers so difficult, it’s hard to see this as a sign of civilization on the march.
Photograph of Gaborone, Botswana, population about 200,000.