“Livin’ on the edge” in remote cities

Remote City - Source: shirt.woot.com

You might recall the awesome rockin’ song by Aerosmith entitled “Livin’ on the Edge” (see NSFW video below). Across the planet, there are significant urban centers situated in isolated, sometimes even precarious locations – I prefer to call these “Remote Cities.” Much like St. Louis in the early parts of the 19th century, these cities can be located at the edge (or the gateway) to a vast unpopulated wilderness  – serving as supply depot, crossroads, and/or a jumping off point to a rain forest; a barren desert; a dry, arid basin; a polar/arctic snowscape; or to a mountainous region.  Others may develop far within the interior, but are physically isolated do to the terrain, climate, environment, or just plain newness.

Connections and communications to the outside world prior to the modern jet and digital ages often were slow, dangerous, and tedious. With technological advancement, more sophisticated and permanent lifelines have been established. Even then, by their very nature remote cities have a much greater likelihood of being cut off from the outside world during times of conflict or natural disaster. For urban planners, this makes it imperative for the remote city to be as self-sufficient as possible, so that the population and city services can be sustained during a crisis. For some remote cities, sustainability is not just the latest environmental catchphrase it is a fact of life and often a matter of survival.

Among the variety of factors that precipitated the founding of remote cities include serving pioneers who were opening new areas for agriculture; providing access to valuable mineral discoveries such as gold, silver, tin, uranium, etc. or valuable animal products like pelts, ivory, or blubber;  serving as a strategic location (military or economic); and serving as connection to critical trade routes. Unfortunately, a number of these factors are detrimental to the surrounding environment and deadly to the local flora and fauna. Those of us in the planning profession should always strive to limit the ecological footprint and impact of our plans and actions, particularly when dealing with a vulnerable ecosystem.

Until the remote city becomes fairly large, it often takes special people to choose to migrate and reside in such a distant and secluded locale. Early residents must be self-reliant, while also being cooperative and patient to adapt the variable conditions. The isolated location, along with other factors like severe climate or rugged terrain can make daily life significantly more challenging than temperate sites. But, I would be willing to bet that the same rugged scenery that makes the new-found place a challenge is also one of the charming attributes that drew and kept people there.

I am not saying the remote cities listed below are a bunch of lowly, scorched earth or frozen backwaters. Many of them are as modern of a metropolis as can be found anywhere else on the globe. However, even at the dawn of the 21st century, some remote urban areas do remain off the proverbial radar screen, subjectively speaking. And yes, a few would probably still qualify as backwater locations in many minds.  All I know is the remoteness of these cities is very appealing to me both as an urban planner and a globe-trekker wannabee. Thus far, I can only say I have visited one of them on the list, but I am hoping that fact will change in the not-too-distant future.

Below is a partial list of what I consider to be some of the most remote urban areas on the planet and their current estimated metropolitan populations as provided on en.wikipedia.org:

  • Belem, Brazil – 2.14 million – Situated at the mouth of the Amazon.
  • Darwin, Australia – 128,000 – Gateway to Australia’s Northern Territories – also the regular starting point of the World Solar Car Challenge.
  • Honolulu, Hawaii – 905,000 –Island city distant from any other major land mass.
  • Iquitos, Peru– 406,000 – Situated on the Amazon River in the Peruvian rain forest

    Iquitos, Peru - Source: expatify.com

  • Lhasa, Tibet (China) – 1.10 million – High (over 11,000 feet) in the Tibetan Plateau.
  • Manaus, Brazil – 2.00 million – River city and gateway to the vast Amazon region.
  • Murmansk, Russia – 308,000  – Largest city north of the Arctic Circle and Russian military base.
  • Nyala, Sudan – 566,000 – Saharan Desert city of South Darfur.
  • Perth, Australia – 1.70 million – Remote metropolis on the Indian Ocean.
  • Porto Velho, Brazil – 427,000 –  Located in the upper Amazon River basin
  • Punta Arenas, Chile– 117,000 – Gateway to Patagonia and Antarctic

    Punta Arenas, Chile - Source: pictureninja.com.

  • Reykjavik, Iceland – 120,000 – Capital of Iceland in remote North Atlantic.
  • Santarem, Brazil – 189,000 – Located in the lower Amazon River basin.
  • Timbuktu, Mali– 55,000 – Saharan Desert city. The oft-used namesake to signify remote cities or places

    Timbuktu, Mali - Source: phenomenica.com


This entry was posted in cities, culture, economic development, environment, history, land use, planning, transportation and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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