The state of emergency imposed to combat the spread of the new coronavirus is temporary, but it will have lasting effects. To be more precise, the question is how spatial relations between countries, companies, and people will be rearranged. Spatial arrangement and mobility are also bound to change. As cities are reaching their growth limit, these changes, in turn, have made us ponder whether the current urban-to-rural migration is temporary or marks the beginning of a major trend. There are arguments for and against this issue.
Rapid urbanisation started in Europe about two centuries ago, when the industrial revolution prompted a population shift and movement of jobs from rural areas to cities. Since then, the share of urban population has increased throughout the world, constituting about 80% of the population in developed countries and 70% in Estonia.
However, it is unlikely that the entire rural population would resettle in urban areas. Thus, in time, the likelihood of reaching a turning point will increase, often triggered by a specific event—the final straw that will break the camel’s back. The spread of the new coronavirus and the understanding that densely populated areas are a perfect breeding ground for such a crisis make the argument of the turning point all the more convincing.
Reaching the limits of urban growth has been predicted before—most recently during the 1970s global economic crisis, which triggered a population shift from cities to rural areas. The American human geographer Brian J.L. Berry proposed the term ‘counterurbanisation’, arguing that in the United States the concentration of population in cities, or urbanisation, was replaced by a state of population deconcentration and a move to smaller towns and the countryside. Ann Marksoo has observed a similar trend in Estonia, introducing the term ‘migration turn’ (Est. rändepööre).Continue reading