‘The Rural’ is regularly interpreted in order to provide a parallel archetype opposed to the urban question. One of the classics Aesop’s Fables is entitled The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse, which tells the differences in attitudes and morals between an urban dweller and a rural dweller (in the form of two mice cousins); this fable might have been created 2,500 years ago in an ancient Greek-Mediterranean tradition, but the archetypes rural-urban are intact. Still today, both are loose concepts that are spontaneously used to denote the dynamics of human agglomerations. One is the conceptual counterpart of the other when explaining the variances of their ecological footprints and energy consumptions, their cultural attitudes and demographic patterns, their political orders and legislations; both terrains function as the inverted mirror of the other.
Interestingly, these two concepts are reaching an altered stability in recent years, partly because the status of one archetype is being exposed as the conqueror of the other. Pieter Versteegh believes that ‘research on the urban is as necessary as abundant. Yet tremendous rural territories still exist, inhabited by 20-50% of the world populations (figures depending on the statistics, definitions, areas, etc.)’. He also indicates that Rurality survives more or less, even today, in the occidental world’s overdeveloped societies, of a minority and vegetative existence.
The celebration of ‘the urban’ as the route to follow in human settlements has been a common pattern when studying contemporary agglomerations around the world. This euphoria has been documented by plenty institutions, books and publications, among them, recent titles such as The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (Glaeser, E; 2012) and Whole Earth Discipline: why dense cities, nuclear power, genetically modified crops, radical science and geo-engineering are essential (Brand, S; 2009).
In 2011, the international magazine National Geographic (NG) launched two issues concerning the state of human agglomerations. The first issue was entitled ‘Population 7 Billion. How your world will change’ (January, 2011) which contained the article The City Solution by Robert Kunzig; the second issue was from the NG edition for Hispanic countries with the tile ‘The Urban Century’ (December, 2011), an issue convinced that Big Cities are the best option for the planet. Both issues express a clear logic behind the advantages of the transition from ‘the rural’ to ‘the metropolitan’ in the modern world and the intrinsic challenges of this conversion. In terms of global institutions, The United Nations (UN) has been publishing year by year a document entitled World Urbanization Prospects where plenty of statistics and numbers shape an important database of the urban dynamics in the planet. The contemporary zeitgeist appears to be dominated by the urban-lifestyle sphere.
Even if the idea of ‘the triumph of the city’ is fully accepted and acknowledged, the awaited switch from contemporary ‘Ruralism’ to contemporary ‘Metropolitanism’ (and vice versa in the form of shrinking cities) has to be studied by understanding the dynamics of the membrane that links both agglomerations: the Emerging Landscapes.