Every city was once an uninhabited patch of land. Billions of years on, a few tribes decided to stick together in the same place. And now, a very short time later, we have massive megacities spanning our relatively tiny planet.
We’ve just crossed a tipping point: More than half of the world’s population is now living in cities, and by 2050 it’s estimated to reach 70%. We’re alive to witness the fractal growth of sky-scraping megacities. As small towns turn to ghosts, cities grow exponentially—each one a unique fingerprint on the surface of Earth. Beware the megalopolis or welcome ecumenopolis?
A MEGALOPOLIS (aka “Supercity”) is group of adjacent cities connected by systems of transportation, economics, and natural landscapes creating a seamless urban area. The line between their administrative borders is so blurred that the cities can be viewed as one large-scale metropolis. My current home of the Twin Cities would be a *small* example: Minneapolis plus Saint Paul nested within three tiers of suburban communities.
Fun Fact: It’s been estimated that the entire global population could fit into one densely-populated city made of super-tall skyscrapers in an area about the size of Connecticut. In theory, the remainder of the planet could return to an untouched ecological biosphere (something I’m not necessarily recommending).
Not one for the great outdoors? Try ECUMENOPOLIS—a hypothetical metropolis so massive that its urban area has covered every square foot of a planet. Imagine an urban sprawl that extends into the oceans using land reclamation and floating infrastructure—something we’re already beginning to see in places like Dubai, Lagos, and Singapore.
In many ways, cities are like organic structures. They grow outward as urban sprawl and upward as infrastructural stalagmites. As they propagate, spewing culture and waste, we are the organisms that make them run. We go about our days, traversing, consuming, and interacting as forces of progress or regress. Somedays, we are prisoners of our own man-made cultural microcosms, and on better days we are prideful projections of a collective consciousness.
Some denizens think we are just cogs trapped in a machine world. But those who know, know: We are spiritual creatures performing the grand symphony that is civilization. Cities have become the modern man’s cultural epicenters—proverbial non-denominational meccas for the rural pilgrim. Skyscrapers appear on the horizon and guide us towards city centers like the church steeples of the past.
Too Utopian? Yes, sometimes cities can bite. To the uninitiated, a skyline can tear into you like a set of jagged teeth. People say cities can “eat you alive”—only to be digested in the bowels of their cemeteries, I suppose. Ah, how great it must be to rot away in the belly of the beast. When I’m gone, take me to Paris and bury me in Père Lachaise next to Jane Avril, Sarah Bernhardt, or Oscar Wilde.
An earlier version of this entry appeared in Issue #15 of Dapper Dan—a men’s fashion and philosophy magazine published in London.
IMAGES: Ecumenopolis by Jakub Grygier, Map US Mega-Regions from Wikipedia, Père Lachaise Cemetery by Neal Peterson. POSTED: February 2023.