Ecumenopolis [ek-yoo-meh-nop-oh-lys] (Greek: ‘world city’) is a word invented in 1967 by the Greek city planner Constantinos Doxiadis to represent the idea that in the future urban areas and megalopolises would eventually fuse and there would be a single continuous worldwide city as a progression from the current urbanization and population growth trends.

Before the word was coined, the American religious leader Thomas Lake Harris (1823–1906) mentioned city-planets in his verses, and science fiction author Isaac Asimov uses the city-planet Trantor as the setting of some of his novels.

Doxiadis also created a scenario based on the traditions and trends of urban development of his time, predicting at first a European ‘eperopolis’ (‘continent city’) which would be based on the area between London, Paris, and Amsterdam (also known as the ‘Blue Banana’). While the idea of one continuous global city plays itself out in a number of works of science fiction, Doxiadis’ book was a serious attempt to consider long run landscape changes resulting from large scale urban expansion.

It was never conceived that all land on Earth would be paved over; rather that urban development would extend in ribbons across land masses. A review of the current nighttime lights of the Earth reveals that this type of pattern has emerged in some places. This land development is highly correlated with economic development. The global urbanized area extends across world regions along recognized transportation trunklines.

For example, the Ecumenopolis in North America runs along I-95 from Portland, Maine down to Miami (c.f. the fictional Boston- Atlanta Metropolitan Axis (BAMA) of William Gibson). Similarly, the Northeast megalopolis – Boston to Washington – makes up a large area with a population density 10 times the national average. In Southeast Asia, continuous development runs from Hanoi to Bangkok then down via Phuket to Singapore, then over to Indonesia and the island of Java, ending at Bali. The total global population was modeled ranging from 15-50 billion.

Doxiadis recognized constraints on development, and concluded a 15 billion global population, mostly concentrated along linear strips of urbanized development, was the likely scenario. It should be recognized that in this future growth scenario development would level off and be sustainable and that most of the global land area would remain open space.

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