Urban Quotes (12 quotes)
Because we are urban dwellers we are obsessed with human problems. … We are so alienated from the world of nature that few of us can name the wild flowers and insects of our locality or notice the rapidity of their extinction.
Darwin recognized that thus far the civilization of mankind has passed through four successive stages of evolution, namely, those based on the use of fire, the development of agriculture, the development of urban life and the use of basic science for technological advancement.
Essentially all civilizations that rose to the level of possessing an urban culture had need for two forms of science-related technology, namely, mathematics for land measurements and commerce and astronomy for time-keeping in agriculture and aspects of religious rituals.
I think every child born on this planet up to the age of about four or five is fascinated by the natural world. If they aren’t it’s because we deprive them of the opportunity. Over half the world’s population is urbanised and the thought that some children may grow up not looking at a pond or knowing how plants grow is a terrible thing. If you lose that delight and joy and intoxication, you’ve lost something hugely precious.
In the past, you wouldn’t have had any problem in getting a countryman to explain the difference between a blackbird and a song thrush, but you might have that difficulty with a kid now. Equally, if you asked a chap about gorillas in the 19th-century, he wouldn’t have heard of the creatures, but today an urban boy knows all about them.
It’s a numbers game—in a dense urban area there are so many of us that even unintentional pollution would cause all the crap we see in the water.
Now, it may be stretching an analogy to compare epidemics of cholera—caused by a known agent—with that epidemic of violent crime which is destroying our cities. It is unlikely that our social problems can be traced to a single, clearly defined cause in the sense that a bacterial disease is ‘caused’ by a microbe. But, I daresay, social science is about as advanced in the late twentieth century as bacteriological science was in the mid nineteenth century. Our forerunners knew something about cholera; they sensed that its spread was associated with misdirected sewage, filth, and the influx of alien poor into crowded, urban tenements. And we know something about street crime; nowhere has it been reported that a member of the New York Stock Exchange has robbed ... at the point of a gun. Indeed, I am naively confident that an enlightened social scientist of the next century will be able to point out that we had available to us at least some of the clues to the cause of urban crime.
Only rarely do we see beyond the needs of humanity. … Now that we are over six billion hungry and greedy individuals, all aspiring to a first-world lifestyle, our urban way of life encroaches upon the domain of the living Earth. We are taking so much that it is no longer able to sustain the familiar and comfortable world we have taken for granted. Now it is changing, according to its own internal rules, to a state where we are no longer welcome.
The technologies which have had the most profound effects on human life are usually simple. A good example of a simple technology with profound historical consequences is hay. Nobody knows who invented hay, the idea of cutting grass in the autumn and storing it in large enough quantities to keep horses and cows alive through the winter. All we know is that the technology of hay was unknown to the Roman Empire but was known to every village of medieval Europe. Like many other crucially important technologies, hay emerged anonymously during the so-called Dark Ages. According to the Hay Theory of History, the invention of hay was the decisive event which moved the center of gravity of urban civilization from the Mediterranean basin to Northern and Western Europe. The Roman Empire did not need hay because in a Mediterranean climate the grass grows well enough in winter for animals to graze. North of the Alps, great cities dependent on horses and oxen for motive power could not exist without hay. So it was hay that allowed populations to grow and civilizations to flourish among the forests of Northern Europe. Hay moved the greatness of Rome to Paris and London, and later to Berlin and Moscow and New York. ... Great inventions like hay and printing, whatever their immediate social costs may be, result in a permanent expansion of our horizons, a lasting acquisition of new territory for human bodies and minds to cultivate.
The thoughts of Plato and Machiavelli... don't seem quite enough armor for a world beset with splitting the atoms, urban guerrillas, nineteen varieties of psychotherapists, amplified guitars, napalm, computers, astronauts, and an atmosphere polluted simultaneously with auto exhaust and TV commercials.
There is a huge disconnect. Those living in the most urbanised areas don’t see a wild thing from one day to the next—unless it’s a pigeon or a rat. If you lose the connection with nature, you lose a source of great pleasure.
We should look upon agriculture not just as a food-producing machine for the urban population, but as the major source of skilled and remunerative employment and a hub for global outsourcing.