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Urbanizing migration

Edinburgh

Urbanizing migration

Believe it or not, I thought that I was not an urban person even if I was born and raised at the metropolitan area of Barcelona. I realized not long ago of my urban understanding about the world; including not only cities but also rural areas or even wildness. I always saw rural life as an idyllic reality where humans and nature live in peace. However, idyllic is used most of the times for unreal situations, and so were my thoughts. In addition, I always thought cities as artificial places where people should run away from. Cities were part of the environmental problem called climate change. Today, I evolved my thoughts and here I don’t want to talk about cities as part of the problem but the solution.

Years ago, living in the metropolitan area of Barcelona, I practiced a daily run-away from the city after work heading “home”. Funny enough, my “home” was el Masnou, a 21,000 inhabitants municipality legally considered in Catalonia a city. Let me give some hits about my hometown. El Masnou is seen by Masnovians as an actual town despite is attached to Barcelona and has more than 20,000 souls living there. To be fair, I should say that the spirit is definitely different; much more relaxed. In California, it is something like Long Beach and LA. I go back to the point because at that time I dreamed of escaping from the metropolitan area and moving to a real town in the Pyrenees giving up all comforts like Christopher McCandless did. But in my subconscious, despite giving up all the comforts I always kept the water system, heating, internet, electricity, medical services and all basic services. I could not imagine rural life without pharmacies, doctors, gas stations… I was so urban that my subconscious could not avoid including the basic services. As a matter of fact, I fantasized about rural life that was indeed urban. Now, I see Europe, the US, Japan and Australia as examples of fully urbanized regions.

Imagine now a rural area outside these regions. For example, imagine a rural region in China. Imagine a poor region, with limited access to clean water, electricity, heating, internet, or any basic services, including food. Imagine that the life expectation is 50 years old or less. The rural life I just described is so far away (not just geographically) to the one I imagined so many times. With only a little of empathy, anyone can understand why starving people from countryside communities in the Chinese, Africa, India, Latin America moving to the dangerous slums of cities. If they want to have a chance of hope, they need to migrate to the cheapest parts of the cities. The emigrating families aspire only to a very precarious urban reality hoping that this is temporarily. Something similar happen in the twentieth century in Europe.

Newcomers have aspirations and determination. They dream of a better life. And when most people in a community dream of a better life, they will likely get it. Not everyone has the same luck. It is a very dramatic evolution and some of the migrants will fail. But this is not the only solution. Some of the newcomers will move to another and wealthier district of the city. But the majority will stay while transforming the slums in a decent neighborhood with all services and opportunities. This process of urbanization is both local (happens in cities) and global (cities of the all the world). The process is much broader and not just cities. Newcomers are strongly committed to support their family members at their hometowns. They migrated with a strong commitment to regularly send money and resources. Newcomers send  to their relatives more money than all NGOs together. The new resources will be used to improve the quality of life (basic services) and consequently to urbanize the rural communities.

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