Regarding the April 25 Media Mix column titled “A decentralization opportunity goes begging amid COVID-19 outbreak,” the coronavirus outbreak has prompted a period of rupture.
If we are at the outset of a paradigm shift in urban values, it is now critical to reflect on the type of future we are after, if we are to devise a developmental model that allows the long-term well-being of our species.
Large metropolitan areas will continue to attract residents. However, a renewed interest in second-tier cities, towns and villages is likely to happen.
There is already a relevant share of people who think the advantages of a more peripheral life outweigh its disadvantages.
In much of the developed world, a novel symbiosis between metropolitan areas, towns and villages will have to be modulated, though no longer through the lens of urban growth but through that of urban shrinkage, as the thinning out of urban and suburban populations is a reality in many countries.
The support of new technologies will be decisive: robotics for elder care, more digital health care, driverless electric cars or automated drone delivery, updating our approach to peripheral living. Moreover, a changing job market where people are less tied to their workplace will become more and more common for many professionals, reducing the need to live in the center of large conurbations.
Shifting toward a shrinkage-oriented model entails blocking new developments on virgin land and retrofitting instead, renovating aging infrastructure and buildings, increasing or maintaining the compactness of existing neighborhoods, redirecting investments to medium and small towns and villages, demolishing what we do not need anymore, embracing the concepts of resilience, mitigation and adaptation in natural and urban environments.
We now have to regain control of what is in our hands. We are the boiling frog, and jumping out of the pot is not a given; we have to wake up and quickly turn the stove off.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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