Thursday, February 24, 2011

Humanity's greatest accomplishment? the city!?!

A new book, "Triumph of the City" by urban economist Edward Glaeser, proclaims just that. The book is just out from Penguin Press, and here's how the publisher is promoting it:

America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: they’re dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly… Or are they?

As Edward Glaeser proves in this myth-shattering book, cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of America’s income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.

Glaeser also calls the city our "best hope for the future."

I'm looking forward to reading Glaeser's book. Meanwhile, I can't help wonder how much better rural dwellers would fare vis a vis their urban counterparts if governments actually invested in rural livelihoods--with services and infrastructure--in a more equitable fashion.


Chez Marta said...
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Chez Marta said...

Thanks Lisa, I will definitely read the book. But we shall not forget what we are comparing here: the book seems to make the argument that sounds like compared to suburban dwellers urban dwellers fare way better.  Actually, high density urban development is healthier for the planet than suburban sprawl, but we all knew that for about 40 years now.  Sustainable design is all the buzzword these days in architectural and city-planning circles.  I read a few books about cohousing and other sustainable developments, and also about the dangers of suburban sprawl, not only on our environment but also on our psyche.  Humans evolved in close connection with one another, not fenced off, driving into your garage and hiding in front of the TV.  But this tells us nothing about the sustainability of growing of our cities to the detriment of rural livelihoods.

Jon di Cristina said...

It does beg the question, though: What would it look like to invest in rural livelihoods such that they acquired the advantages Glaeser describes in urban environs? For example, given the sheer distances to rural communities and among residents within those communities, could rural areas ever achieve the energy efficiency of cities? Or am I missing something about "efficiency"?