5 signs that a city needs to urgently change in order to stay alive
My list

Author | MARCOS MARTÍNEZ

As living organisms that they are, cities have a life cycle that begins with the first homes and ends with the last family abandoning the place. If cities die, is it possible to identify and urgently change the factors that lead to that extinction? Sometimes governments observe the problem from a distance and take action.

Infographic signs alive

Why is there an urgent need for cities to change?

1. Degradation of quality of life: Lack of quality of life is an important factor in cities. When this is diminished, the rich are the first to abandon the area, shutting down economic activity and further reducing the quality of life by limiting the working capital. A vicious circle that is hard to break.

2. Exploitation of non-renewable resources: The depletion of local resources was for many years, the reason behind new cities moving away. The search for gold that ended, felling everything that grew or depleting the soil which, years later led to the dust bowl of 1930, are just some North American examples. These ‘responses’ from nature, which include climate change, are a relevant factor that lead to the decline of cities. 80% of Spain is at risk of becoming a desert, the city of Jakarta is sinking into the swamp and Yakutsk is destabilizing on the permafrost.

PIC 1

3. Pandemics and a bad response to these: Pandemics, such as COVID-19, have also had a significant impact. For administrative convenience, during the 19th century, France and England established a property tax based on the number of windows in a house, which led to bricked-up windows and serious urban health problems. Many towns were abandoned.

4. Unsustainable urban planning: The group needs to include deficient urban development and planning policies, as illustrated by the trend at the end of the 20th century of adapting cities to cars. In some city centers, highways obstruct mobility and put a stop to any possibility of improved quality of life.

5. War, the destroyer of everything: War has, by far, been the main reason for the decimation of cities. It is exceptionally hard when the neighboring city or state pays you a visit, kills half the population, enslaves the other half and then sets fire to everything on its way out.

Cities that changed direction in order to stay alive

PIC 2

Every city has an ending due to one of the reasons listed above. However, many manage to avoid it for a time. Sometimes, cities rise from the ashes and go on for many more centuries. In others, only the people survive, and they are forced to abandon the city or move it kilometers away.

The latter is a phenomenon that has been seen in all cities, which have gradually moved in a direction in search of resources as they abandoned part of themselves to rust and the passing of time with the hope of better times to rebuild. Sometimes, in the midst of a crisis, a city changes so much that it is unrecognizable, postponing its ending for another day.

  • The displacement of the Khmer empire

Around 900 AD, the Khmer Empire dominated the territory of modern-day Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and part of Vietnam. The only part of Angkor, its first capital, that remains is the temple of Angkor Wat. Probably due to the anthropogenic erosion of the soil, this empire moved its entire capital to Yasodharapura. Unfortunately, by the 15th century, they had both disappeared, but this maneuver is thought to have helped the Khmer empire to survive various centuries.

  • Mesa Verde, taking refuge in the rock

PIC 3

Mesa Verde also found a way to adapt, this time to local conflicts. In around the 6th century, the Anasazi Indians in this area lived on the plateau, not below it. However, they found the way to ‘migrate’ to the subsoil. The Cliff Palace is a jewel designated a World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1978. It was centuries later, in around the 12th century when this culture came to an end.

  • Manaus: there is more to life than rubber

The city of Manaus experienced the rubber boom at the end of the 19th century. Global demand for this product made it grow beyond its own capacities and invest in a form of industrialization that had ceased to exist by the mid-20th century almost immediately, plunging the city into poverty. In 1967, the Manaus Free Trade Zone was created to attract new industry, and it was a resounding success which, also stands out for its environmental protection.

  • Jakarta and Babylon: the city with its inhabitants

Babylon was the capital of various empires. However, c. 312 BC, Seleucus I Nicator moved the capital of the Seleucid Empire to Seleucia, and the Babylonians had the chance to move 30 miles to find a new home in Seleucia. A similar thing is happening in Jakarta, which is about to sink into its swamp. The government is negotiating with Borneo to acquire land.

  • Marseille (France): urban rehabilitation

The population curve of Marseille reveals a growing trend from 1800 to 1975. Then came an economic crisis with the collapse of the industrial activity which has reached modern day, accentuating ethnic conflicts along the way. In the middle of the crisis, the city council approved an action plan to rehabilitate the city center with European funds as part of the Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreements, shifting the city towards the services sector.

Situations such as the pandemic can put a stop to these attempts to recover seriously degraded cities, but they do illustrate some of the possible paths that could be followed. Implementing them entails, in any event, radical changes that may be harmful to local economies and the inhabitants themselves, at least in the short term, therefore, it will always be more cost effective to work in the interests of resilience.

Images | iStock/KarSol, Cameron Venti, Gustafa Nordenskiölda, Voicu Horațiu

Related content
Barcelona’s strategy to drive the 2030 Agenda in the city
Barcelona’s strategy to drive the 2030 Agenda in the city
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole: cities become smarter by forming smart regions
Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole: cities become smarter by forming smart regions
Pablo Soto, regional representative of Transparency and Participation in Madrid: “Technology should be used to enhance institutions”
Pablo Soto, regional representative of Transparency and Participation in Madrid: “Technology should be used to enhance institutions”
Metropolitan governance: extending municipal governments as a response to new urban challenges
Metropolitan governance: extending municipal governments as a response to new urban challenges
How to go from being a town to a Smart Town
How to go from being a town to a Smart Town
The G20 creates the Global Smart Cities Alliance to establish universal norms and guidelines for the implementation of technology
The G20 creates the Global Smart Cities Alliance to establish universal norms and guidelines for the implementation of technology
Paul Duan, co-founder and President of Bayes Impact: “We should trust in the power of the multitude”
Paul Duan, co-founder and President of Bayes Impact: “We should trust in the power of the multitude”
Open government and citizen participation: a journey through history - Infographic
Open government and citizen participation: a journey through history - Infographic
Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat:
Pontus Westerberg, UN-Habitat: "People need to be allowed to offer their own solutions to the problems in the places in which they live"
How and why do cities die?
How and why do cities die?
Digital natives, technological illiterates?
Digital natives, technological illiterates?
New COVID-19 outbreaks: this is what the hammer and the dance will be like
New COVID-19 outbreaks: this is what the hammer and the dance will be like
Citizens policing our streets: is it lawful to report the inappropriate use of cities?
Citizens policing our streets: is it lawful to report the inappropriate use of cities?
Smart cities that failed along the way
Smart cities that failed along the way
Can technology foster democracy?
Can technology foster democracy?
Welcome to the Smart City Live!
Welcome to the Smart City Live!
What makes a city attractive to talent?
What makes a city attractive to talent?
Imec: Open digital twin framework
Imec: Open digital twin framework
x-tention: Towards post covid-19 smart tourism
x-tention: Towards post covid-19 smart tourism
Arca: Wave control for better health
Arca: Wave control for better health
Smart Buildings: Enabling reliability and resilience for a better future
Smart Buildings: Enabling reliability and resilience for a better future
DMAP: Unlocking the power of transportation analytics
DMAP: Unlocking the power of transportation analytics
These were the urban utopias that preceded us - Infographic
These were the urban utopias that preceded us - Infographic
Medellín: data and infrastructures in contrast to its troubled past
Medellín: data and infrastructures in contrast to its troubled past
2030 Agenda and Urban Agenda for Catalonia: from Strategy into Practice
2030 Agenda and Urban Agenda for Catalonia: from Strategy into Practice
How smart cities are contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
How smart cities are contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals
From Crisis to Opportunity: Transforming European Cities in the COVID Era
From Crisis to Opportunity: Transforming European Cities in the COVID Era
Cities as Testbeds for Innovation
Cities as Testbeds for Innovation
Smart Cities Germany – an emerging market for urban technologies providers
Smart Cities Germany – an emerging market for urban technologies providers
CIOs as linking pins: bridging IT and European digital policy for smart cities
CIOs as linking pins: bridging IT and European digital policy for smart cities
Barcelona Smart Region: innovative projects to improve connectivity and sustainability
Barcelona Smart Region: innovative projects to improve connectivity and sustainability
Barcelona Smart Region: providing smart services for citizens
Barcelona Smart Region: providing smart services for citizens
Bournemouth Christchurch & Poole: The New Smart Place
Bournemouth Christchurch & Poole: The New Smart Place
City-states never disappeared: Hamburg, Hong Kong, Singapore
City-states never disappeared: Hamburg, Hong Kong, Singapore
G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance – Launching the Policy Roadmap
G20 Global Smart Cities Alliance – Launching the Policy Roadmap
Reinventing Cities with Technology after COVID-19 – Unpacking ideas from Japan
Reinventing Cities with Technology after COVID-19 – Unpacking ideas from Japan
AdvanGrid: Staying ahead in the energy transition
AdvanGrid: Staying ahead in the energy transition
Neareo: Powering QR codes
Neareo: Powering QR codes
People-focused Smart Cities: Urban Digital Transformation Working for the Benefit of All
People-focused Smart Cities: Urban Digital Transformation Working for the Benefit of All
Strengthening Metropolitan Governance
Strengthening Metropolitan Governance
Economic and social recovery leaving no one behind
Economic and social recovery leaving no one behind
Adopting Technologies Responsibly: a Global Policy Roadmap for Ethical Smart Cities
Adopting Technologies Responsibly: a Global Policy Roadmap for Ethical Smart Cities
Smart Villages & Territories
Smart Villages & Territories
The Global Voice of Cities
The Global Voice of Cities
Urban Water Management: Making every drop count
Urban Water Management: Making every drop count
Usitoo4cities: Reinventing consumption
Usitoo4cities: Reinventing consumption
Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk: Walking the city more safely
Smart Pedestrian Crosswalk: Walking the city more safely
Smartnodes: Realizing smart cities through smart lighting
Smartnodes: Realizing smart cities through smart lighting
SIARQ: Featuring Environmental Data As A Service
SIARQ: Featuring Environmental Data As A Service
Recommended profiles for you
Ben Sta Hatem
Ben Sta Hatem
University of Tunis at El Manar
Professor
Ana Georgieva
Ana Georgieva
Innovative Sofia, Sofia Municipality
Expert, Digitalisation, Innovation and Investments
GERMAN JARAMILLO
GERMAN JARAMILLO
Municipio Digital
Director
LD
LUIS RENÉ DÍAZ MALÁSQUEZ
UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL FEDERICO VILLARREAL
DOCENTE E INVESTIGADOR DE URBANISMO\\nCONSULTOR ESPECIALISTA DE DESARROLLO URBANO SOSTENIBLE
IY
Iskra Yovkova
InnovativeSofia
Project Manager
Gede Setiawan
Gede Setiawan
Governance Institute of Home Affair
Passionate student
Chris Christensen Chris
Chris Christensen Chris
Honeywell
Cybersecurity America’s
NC
Nuria Conforto
desideDatum
Data Consultant
Marcus Pinto
Marcus Pinto
PRODABEL
Analyst
Luciano de Sousa
Luciano de Sousa
Secretaria de Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação do DF
Undersecretary
Andi Hasbi
Andi Hasbi
South sulawesi province gov.
Expert staf of Governor of south sulawesi Province
OM
Odd Mølster
Embassy of Norway Madrid
Leader
Juan Manuel Villalba
Juan Manuel Villalba
Mendoza BITS
Especialista en Ciudades
Eduardo Firstman
Eduardo Firstman
MASBIO
Director/MASBIO
CM
Christian MAITRE
orange
Smart Territories
BB
Belen Black
Personal
Owner
Juan Carlos Sandín
Juan Carlos Sandín
Intendencia Departamental de Rivera
Director
Mônica Carneiro
Mônica Carneiro
UFSC
posdoc
aaguirreb16 Adrian Aguirre Barrionuevo
aaguirreb16 Adrian Aguirre Barrionuevo
Migrations office
Analyst
CC
Claudia Elsa Cabrera Bautista
Eok Gestión Sustentable
Socio comercial

Only accessible for registered users
This content is available only for registered users
TO: $$toName$$
SUBJECT: Message from $$fromName$$