The future of cities

The guys who run the Freakanomics blog at The New York Times gathered five urban thinkers and tossed them an interesting question:

This year marked the first time in human history that more people lived in cities than in rural areas. What problems and opportunities does this present? What effects has it had on our local and global culture? Economy? Health?

They received an interesting range of answers from optimism to cataclysm.

Here’s James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency and The Geography of Nowhere:

Categorically, our colossal metroplexes will not be sustainable in a post-oil future — and despite the wishes and yearnings of many people, the truth is that no combination of alternative fuels will permit us to continue living at this scale. Some of our cities will not make it. Phoenix, Tucson, and other Sunbelt cities will dry up and blow away. In Las Vegas, the excitement will be over. Other mega-cities will have to downscale or face extreme dysfunction.

On the other hand, Edward Glaeser, professor of economics at Harvard and director of the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Kennedy School of Government, had this to say:

Humans are a social species, and our greatest achievements are all collaborative. Cities are machines for making collaboration easier. Thus, I am delighted that our planet has become increasingly urban.

Read all of the interesting responses over at Freakonomics.

photo by scottfw on Flickr

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