longterm population movements (shift) from rural to urban areas

Urbanization (or urbanization) is a term from geography. The base of the word is the Latin urbs, which means city. The term urbanization refers to the process of a rural area turning into an urban area. This can happen in two different ways:

  1. Through the growth of cities; called physical urbanization
  2. Through the change of behavior of people living in rural areas; called functional urbanization
Percentage of population which is urbanized, by country, in year 2015.[1]
Percentage of World Population: Urban vs. Rural.[2]

Physical urbanization has been observed for centuries. In developing countries this is the main form of urbanization. In developed countries, functional urbanization is the main form of urbanization. With functional urbanization, people living in the city center move to the countryside, next to the city; this is known as suburbanization.

Environmental effects


Environmental scientists are studying the urban heat island. The urban heat island is made when industrial and urban areas are developed and heat becomes plentiful. Environmental impacts also include reducing soil moisture and more carbon dioxide emissions.[3]

Stewart Brand's book Whole Earth Discipline argues that urbanization helps the environment overall. First, the birth rate of new urban dwellers falls and keeps falling. This can prevent overpopulation in the future. Secondly, it puts a stop to destructive subsistence farming methods, like slash and burn agriculture. Finally, it reduces land use by humans, leaving more for nature.[4]


  1. "United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division (2014). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision, CD-ROM Edition". Retrieved 25 September 2015.
  2. "United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs". Archived from the original on 2010-07-26. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
  3. "Heating Up: Study Shows Rapid Urbanization in China Warming the Regional Climate Faster than Other Urban Areas".
  4. Brand, Stewart. "Whole Earth Discipline - annotated extract". Retrieved 2009-11-29.