Flying over a country at night, the pattern of lights on the ground below reveals the structure of the built environment. Large areas are dark or illuminated only by faint points of light from individual farmhouses and small patches of light from villages with a few hundred or a few thousand inhabitants. These are rural areas and nearly empty land such as deserts and uninhabitable mountain areas. In other areas, particularly emanating from major transportation corridors, the lights may form a nearly continuous blur. These are peri-urban areas transitioning from rural to urban or the areas that geographer Terry McGee terms desakotas where the once-rural population is nearly as dense as – perhaps denser than – some urban areas and industry is mixed with agriculture (McGee, 1991, 2008).Here and there within the points of light and blur of peri-urban areas and desakotas there will be larger patches of light: towns or small cities – many now with populations of as many as several hundred thousand people as rural urbanization proceeds. Flying into Jakarta, Sao Paolo, Lagos, or Guangzhou, airline passengers see a large patch of brighter light – the city proper.
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