Arrival City, the new book by award-winning Globe and Mail journalist Doug Saunders, takes an all-encompassing look at how the global movement of populations from rural to urban areas is reshaping our world. It also makes the point that the way governments manage these transitions determines whether these people prosper and become upwardly mobile or remain mired in poverty and social problems. He also wrote an exclusive essay for the Globe and Mail's Focus section on this subject.
Doug Saunders is with The Globe and Mail's European bureau. He also writes regular news reports, columns and features on European issues and international social and political trends. He has won four National Newspaper Awards.
Doug joined us Monday for an online discussion.
The Globe and Mail Doug Saunders will begin answering questions shortly.
Sandy It's a very interesting article ... but as a new immigrant to Canada and with a Master's degree, I see the biggest challenge for Canada is leveraging the skills of highly educated immigrants ... and I believe this is tied to Canada's slipping rankings on the productivity front ... what's your opinion on this challenge? I see a lot of awareness about this issue but not much concrete action
Doug Saunders Hi everyone. Sandy, I don't think Canada will have problems in the near future attracting highly skilled immigrants, but the fact is that we both are going to have a larger number of low-skilled, low-education immigrants, and our economy is going to need them. We shouldn't pretend that the people coming to Canada are going to be technicians and professionals, or that our economy isn't going to need other people - - so we should be prepared to have these sorts of transitional neighbourhoods througout the future.
By the way, if you'd like to see more resources on ARRIVAL CITY, visit my information site at http://arrivalcity.net
Guest It would be nice if the billions of rural poor became prosperous and urban, but realistically, the Earth does not have the natural resources to support this. How do you respond?
Doug Saunders Hello Guest. Actually, the opposite is true: Having a high population in rural areas is devastating, because a) it reduces food production (Canada has 2 per cent of its population in agriculture and produces more food than developing countries with hundreds of millions of people), and b) it's ecologically damaging (because dispersed urban populations use a lot more resources than concentrated urban populations) and c) most importantly, human population growth is a rural problem - - when populations urbanize, famiy sizes everywhere drop below the population-growth level. I'd say that uncontrollable population growth is the biggest resource problem, and urbanization will end that, stabilizing and dropping the world's population during this century.
Paulo With increasing frustration and distrust of immigration to Canada (Europe/U.S.as well), what is the future of Canada's extremely high immigration policies? In Europe, there is a rising right-wing political party system forming in countries such as Switzerland, Netherlands, France and Britain. The U.S. and Australia are also beginning the process of shutting their doors to rampant immigration abuses. With the landing of the Tamil boat in B.C. last month and the visceral reaction by the general Canadian public, what is the future of immigration to Canada and how will we deal with the relative social upheaval it may bring?
a What is your take on why these people are choosing or having to immigrate to other countries? How do you feel about Canada's record on immigrants and refugees?
Doug Saunders Paulo, I think there will be anti-immigration parties and policies from time to time, especially during economically difficult periods. That's perfectly normal and understandable. But they won't do much to stop immigration, or even have much effect on its nature. That's controlled mainly by the economic demands of the host country and the political constituencies of existing migrant descendents (and in Canada, that incorporates most of the population). When there have been radical anti-immigration parties in power in the United States, Germany and France, they have not only failed to limit immigration but have generally seen it increase under their watch. And a - - people come to Canada because they've made a calculated decision and investment based on concrete employment and entrepreneurial opportunities; Canada has so far had quite a good track record, fantastic in fact, in bringing people into the economy and society, but we have to be more careful in the future as it won't be as easy. We have to be careful to distinguish immigrants from refugees, which are a tiny group and are completely removed from the larger immigration picture.