I have the good fortune be spending a day or two in Amsterdam next week, so I am using—what else?—The Complete New Yorker to do a little preparatory research. I turned first to Anthony Bailey’s fine two-part Profile on Holland, which appeared in the August 8 and 15, 1970, issues. Bailey includes frequent observations about Holland’s high population density, which he links to elements of the Dutch national character.
On page 37, I come across the following sentence: “In what a Dutch architect I know refers to sardonically as ‘the magical year 2000,’ some six billion people may live on earth, two-thirds of them in cites—an urban explosion for which the Randstad [a Dutch belt of cities that includes Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht] may be a significant prototype.”
On October 12, 1999, the U.N. Population Fund celebrated the birth of the six billionth living person. According to Wikipedia, the world population in 1999 was 5.978 billion. Good guesswork from thirty years out, there, anonymous Dutch architect! (Although as of 2005, only 49% of humans live in cities, though. He may have underestimated suburbanizing trends.)
Was the Randstad a particular harbinger of anything? It seems to me that the eastern seaboard of the United States has become similarly linked together, but I honestly don’t know. Anybody out there have any insight to add? (I’m always hard up for a little insight.) —Martin Schneider
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