A few days ago I was talking to my friends about how many villages and small towns in Serbia were being abandoned because of their population migrating to nearby cities. Since they travel to one of such towns from time to time, they tend to see this as a very worrying trend. Their opinion is that, at the end, as things are progressing, people will completely abandon small towns and migrate entirely into those nearby cities with developed or developing infrastructure and better work opportunities.

My opinion in this differs a bit as I do not necessarily find this as troubling as most people seem to, just like my friends here-mentioned. I will not deny that my opinion is probably biased because I live in a city. Of course, I love going to our mountain vacation house where I can enjoy fresh air, beautiful nature and unspoiled wilderness. I also understand that in cities we cannot grow food or cattle in sufficient quantities and quality to sustain a large population, but the people who are migrating, for the most part, aren’t those who have crop or livestock farming businesses. They remain and do quite well without the need large communities.

But, my view can be summed up with the following question. Humans used to live in polies, so why is it strange to think that they are going back to that practice? Living in a polis is practical. If the infrastructure and the availability of all necessities is well distributed and planned, a polis can be a good place to live. Work is plentiful, help and support is always nearby, entertainment is more diverse and socializing is much easier. Greeks used to live in polies. However, they had problems such as health care unavailability and inexperience with disease control, which ultimately resulted in the failure of this way of living.

Humans than chose to spread out as much as possible, but I believe that this had actually hurt people more than it help them. In order to make space, humans needed to cut forests. In order to make roads, humans had to cut forests. In order to make space for cattle, humans had to cut forests. By spreading out far and wide, people actually destroyed their environment. Every village or small town needed at least ten times its area around it cleared to provide safety from dangerous wildlife and to allow for early warning. Less forest means less food, less oxygen generating plant life and generally allows for pollution to persist longer.

If people were to migrate to a smaller number of larger cities equally distributed over the whole territory of Serbia I do not think that it would necessarily be bad. We have fast highways connecting large cities. We also have railroads and we can build even more railroads, river-ways and highways between cities. In Serbia, it takes from one to three hours to get from one large city to another, depending which ones, so the travel time is actually not the problem. Most cities have bypass beltways around them also.

If and when people were to migrate to larger cities and abandon villages and small towns, nature would quickly reclaim those territories. Forests would reclaim what man had destroyed. Rivers would eventually filter out purify. Of course, farming land would and could be cleared and built in a planned manner. This planned farming land would be used to provide food for a nearby city or cities that could jointly manage it. This would reduce the need to clear many smaller patches of forest and cut off ecosystems. Instead, we could sacrifice a portion of the land while the rest recovers and regenerates.

This does not mean that we do not have to visit the land that was reclaimed. We can always use it for recreational tourism, nature retreat, health tourism, hunting etc. I do not believe that humans should dismiss the claim on nature. We have proven that we are capable of taking whatever we need and exploiting nature when we need, but we do not have to do in without control. Planning is the key.

I believe that a world where humans lives in larger cities, much like the ancient polies, which cover a wider area, partially covered with green regions, small forests and parks, while all around them nature is allowed to reclaim and reforest the land previously occupied by people, is a good vision of the future. We can still be connected by means of very fast transportation between polies. We could and should continue to use natural resources as we see fit. But, instead of making the whole planet a concrete jungle, we should allow the real jungle and forest reclaim most of it, while we take only what we need to sustain our population and as much as we need to make comfortable lives in low built wide area cities, unlike Tokyo, New York and similar cities dotted with skyscrapers, but more like Belgrade, Budapest, Prague etc.