Global Livable and Sustainable.
The textbook describes the features of global livable and sustainable. What are these features and how would your own New York City neighborhood have to be changed to create a quality, living, future environment for you and your family?
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The Search for Sustainable Futures
Sustainability is the power to thrive and to endure. It is taking care of this generation and generations to come. Hunting-and-gathering societies survived for tens of thousands of years. Human hunters may have helped to drive some of the great massive mammals of the ice age over the brink of extinction, but for the most part, they endured by practicing a way of life that was indefinitely sustainable. Horticultural, pastoral, and agrarian societies also survived for thousands of years. Some agrarian empires may have exhausted their soil with intensive farming and hastened their own collapse, but on the whole, this way of life proved sustainable century after century. Industrial society is only 250 years old and has dominated the globe for less than a century. Advanced industrial, or postindustrial, information-based society, the electronic age, is less than 50 years old. As the people of the electronic age, are we already placing more strain on the planet than all other prior societies combined? Can our current way of life be sustained? Can it be globalized and shared by all the world’s billions? Lester Brown (2003), of Earthwatch, estimates that it would take at least six Earths to provide all the world’s people with the standard of consumption common in the United States. The demands of our ecology and the demands of our economy seem to be seriously at odds. Ecology and economy both come from the same Greek word for “house.” Keeping our global house in order will require careful attention to both. Environmental destruction is closely related to both poverty and violence. This realization has come slowly. For decades, poor countries claimed that it was their turn to pollute—that they needed to exploit resources just as the rich countries had. Wilder- ness was dismissed as “the rich man’s playground.” The poor needed jobs, resources, and economic production. Yet the poor also need livable communities. Much of the world’s dumping has been inflicted directly on poor communities (Bullard 1990, 1993). The environmental justice movement has noted that it is the poor (and often, poor minority communities) that live among the untreated sewage, the piles of industrial and consumer waste, and the stagnant, toxic urban air. The wealthy can at least try to retreat to higher ground and a more secluded environment. They can move from one air-conditioned shell to another, dine on food gleaned from dozens of distant locations, and travel in search of an unspoiled locale. The poor must live, eat, and drink close to their earth and water, in whatever condition they may be. It may be true that many rich nations became rich by exploiting the planet. But they exploited the resources of poor lands and then exported their worst environmental problems.
Once again, the world’s poorest nations find themselves last in line. There is no one else, nowhere else, left for them to exploit but their own land and people. Unlike rich and powerful colonizers, they have to sit in their own waste. For this reason, environmental concerns are of prime importance to poor nations and to poor people. Environmental degradation is often directly related to inequality. The newly rich over- consume as they compete with one another in contests of conspicuous consumption. At the same time, the poorest citizens and refugees are often driven from the best lands to encroach on the last forests and the most fragile environments. Wealthy corporations carry off old- growth timber for greater profits, while poor woodsmen poach the last valuable trees and animals for a few dollars to survive. Wealthy mining companies move whole mountains to get to more profitable deposits, while poor independent miners destroy stream banks and fragile mountainsides in pursuit of a few ounces of salable material. Environmental degradation is also closely related to violence. In his lectures, Arun Gandhi describes how his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, called environmental disregard “violence against the earth.” Violence against one another also often claims the natural environment as so-called collateral damage. In ancient times, the Spartans burned and trampled crops to try to drive Athens to surrender, while Roman soldiers poured salt into the ground of Carthage to make it infertile. During the Indian Wars of the late 1800s, U.S. frontier forces slaughtered bison to starve the Plains tribes. Modern arsenals are all weapons of mass destruction with regard to the environment. The United States sprayed the defoliant Agent Orange to destroy the rain forest of Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, with lingering effects for both people and wildlife. Land mines turn former farmland useless. Refugees from war zones are often driven into remote borderlands, where they strip the land of trees and wildlife in an effort to survive. The first Gulf War released streams of oil into the Persian Gulf, and raging fires poured pollutants into the air from burning oil wells. Bombs and mortars destroy indiscriminately and chemicals linger. Nuclear fallout would be the most devastating of all. We have thus come full circle. The only sustainable world is one in which people have regard for equity and for peace.
Seeking Livable Cities Cities That Work Where are the cities that are thriving, livable, and working? Many examples could be touted. One commonly cited is Copenhagen, Denmark: Copenhagen is wonderful—a bustling, cosmopolitan city of 1.5 million full of scenic canals, tidy parks, lively squares, relaxed taverns and coffeehouses, well-preserved old buildings, safe streets, cheerful people, and the enchanting 150-year old Tivoli Gardens amusement park. Yet it is no fairy-tale land: Copenhagen faces many of the same problems that bedevil North American cities. Its richness and vitality stem not from any happily-ever-after magic but from creative responses to difficult urban situations. (Wall jasper 1994, p. 158 ) Solutions to the problems in Copenhagen have included tax sharing between the city and suburban and rural areas; a view of low-income areas of the city as incubators for people on their way up rather than dead ends; a ban on cars in a network of downtown streets that goes back to 1962; and a view of urban renewal that relies on refurbishing older neighbor- hoods to maintain their community fabric and architectural integrity, rather than relying on bulldozing the old. While Europe has had a head start in reclaiming cities as livable, exciting, yet pleasant spaces, the ideas are taking hold around the world. This focus has been dubbed the new urbanism, and it has several basic features. Somehow, traffic must be tamed to allow pleas- ant walking spaces. As much as people love their cars, few want to live in a drive-by city. Rather, pedestrians can meet and mingle, and they can stop and shop. New Urbanism New urbanists welcome urban diversity; the eclectic mix of people is one of the attractions of urban life (Duany et al. 2001). Enough order must be maintained so that all people, including young families and the elderly, feel safe. Once, basic order and safety have been ensured the more variety the better. (Everyone likes to people watch.) Urban spaces must allow places to pause, rest and enjoy the scenery, whether in a park or a sidewalk cafe. This can be achieved in the narrowest spaces, a single table on a medieval street, as long as lingering is welcomed. The urban space may shimmer in tinted glass, polished metal, and glistening lights, or it may brood in stone and stucco and half-timbered lodges. Either way, it must be attractive. People do not want to linger and mingle in a sterile, machinelike setting. New urbanist ideas have taken hold in many cities that are eager to reclaim old industrial districts, renew neglected waterfronts, and bring back a mix of people (and their money) to urban districts. Some of the most dramatic renovations have been in old industrial and shipping sectors: London’s dockyards, San Francisco’s embarcadero, Baltimore’s inner harbor, Montreal’s Old Quarter, Cleveland’s lakefront, and so forth. In many places, these developments represent a long-awaited rebirth of the city. Critics contend that the new urbanists are too concerned with appearances and have not dealt with the deeper political economy of the city (Marshall 2001). For instance, the poor and working-class neighborhoods may be displaced to create new playgrounds for the middle classes. Jobs in heavy industry may be lost and, if replaced at all, only by low-wage service jobs that maintain, clean, and service the new urban spaces. The challenge remains to create cities that work and that work for all sectors. New urbanist designs have restored vitality to old and decayed urban cores. They now need to reclaim vital neighborhoods throughout the city, not posh but pleasant places for people of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. As we look to the developing world, can we even begin to talk about bringing the finer aspects of culture, social events, higher education, and cross-cultural experiences to the poor, transient, and displaced? Jane Addams’s century-old experience at Hull House suggests that this is exactly where to begin—with people who ap- preciate the finer parts of urban life but have not yet been fully included in the life of the city. Sustainable Cities By the very nature of concentrating so many people in a small space, cities place great strains on their surrounding environment. Yet city dwellers, who live in compact cities and use public transportation, may actually use fewer of the world’s limited resources than someone “living large” out in suburban or open rural places. Cities around the world are trying to become more livable, likable spaces and to do so in ways that are sustainable and that will allow them to thrive in a future of possibly scarce energy and water resources. Many Euro- pean cities have benefitted from compact designs that new urbanists favor to also save energy on heating and cooling and transportation. In the United States, Portland, Oregon, has com- bined a greenbelt around the city to contain sprawl with a light-rail system to move people efficiently to a revitalized, walkable downtown. Now large U.S. cities, even those not always associated with ecofriendly practices, are following suit. Even the “hog-butcher for the world” has gone green. Chicago continues to develop its rail and bus system as an integrated transportation system that covers the city. Bikers can store their bicycles at Millennium Park undercover and even take a shower before walking to their downtown high-rise office. The city is even experimenting with “green roofs” that grow native plants and keep their buildings cool while trapping rainwater to avoid runoff and helping to freshen the urban air. Urbanist Ebenezer Howard wanted “garden cities”; the new push is “green cities.” The Sierra Club has launched a nationwide effort across the United States for cities themselves to sign on to ways to reduce their carbon emissions without waiting for federal government action. Many cities across Europe are already well ahead in this effort. And cities in developing countries are realizing they too must find new models as alternatives to car-driven and petroleum-fueled development. There is no shortage of auto showrooms in Shanghai but the city also has been developing fast light-rail while trying to maintain broad bicycle lanes. Unable to afford rail, Curitiba, Brazil, become a leader in “rapid bus transit” using conventional buses in special lanes with prepaid low-cost tickets that move commuters with little expense. Innovations to make cities more livable for all residents may also be a great first step in making them more sustainable for future generations.
The Golden Age of Athens lasted less than 50 years in the middle of the fifth century bce between two devastating wars, but for several centuries, the city was the home of great art, science, and philosophy. Aristotle, one of the most famous of the hometown philosophers and scholars, claimed in the Politics that one comes to the city to live, and stays to live well. Living well may have been more difficult for the Athenian women cloistered in their homes, for the slaves laboring long hours to support a leisure class, and for lesser cities forced to pay tribute to Athens at the height of its power. Regardless, this one city produced incred- ible insights into everything from democracy to astronomy to natural history to health care. In terms of learning, the only rival to Athens was Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, on the Egyptian coast. A vast library held books (in scroll form) in many lan- guages from around the world. Moreover, scholars from many places and ethnicities who worked in the library and museum measured the circumference of the earth (Eratosthenes, 276–194 bce ), conducted advanced mathematics (Hypatia, ca. 370–415 ce ), and collected and advanced learning from around the Mediterranean and across the Middle East. While the European cities fell into decline, cities such as Baghdad flourished with the wealth of empire and carried on the studies of astronomy, mathematics, and philosophy that had begun in the Greek-speaking cities. The European Renaissance was also centered in great (though by our standards, small) cities. Renaissance Florence may have had no more than 70,000 people, but among them were Michelangelo, da Vinci, Giberti, and scores of artists, writers, and scholars. One of the most striking features of medieval cities was their compact size. Houses were crowded along tangled, narrow streets. If an original wall still stands, it often encloses a city not much larger than a modest modern neighborhood. For centuries, the only city of any significant size in Europe was Constantinople, the capital of the Eastern Roman and Byzantine Empires, on Europe’s eastern edge. Gradually, beginning in the 1500s, growing empires brought growing cities: Seville in Spain, Lisbon in Portugal, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, and eventually London in England. As the British Empire grew, so did the importance and size of London. The matriarch of a global empire, London, stood as perhaps the first truly global world city. Industrialization changed the face of the cities. The first factories were clustered along scattered sites of waterpower, but eventually, cities built on coal power clustered around rail and shipyards. In the eighteenth century, London, as well as Liverpool and Manches- ter, became a city of industrial might and also of soot and ever-present smoke billowing from “dark Satanic mills.” In the United States, cities of mills such as Brooklyn, Yonkers, Hoboken, and Newark grew up around the port of Manhattan. Other major cities also took root around industrial might: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Chicago. It was the incredible influx of people from Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, however— many of them displaced farmers whose own countries could not supply enough jobs—that eventually made New York the world’s largest city. In the late years of the twentieth century, New York was overtaken by another great industrial city—Tokyo, Japan— and soon by many others. The rush to the cities had begun. Great world cities of over 5 million people now dot every continent, some having doubled in the course of a decade.
World Cities The pace of global urbanization is staggering. In 1950, the world had one city with over 10 million people: New York. In 1995, it had 14 million. By 2015, at current rates, there will be over twenty-one cities with over 10 million people (see Figure 9.1 ). Almost all of this boom will take place in the developing world. In 1950, New York’s competition was largely limited to the great capitals of Europe: London, Paris, Moscow, and the industrial heartland of Germany. By the turn of the twenty- first century, none of the five largest cities in the world were European: Tokyo, Mexico City, São Paulo, New York, and Mumbai (Bombay). The projected list of the “big five” world cities for 2015 would challenge the geography skills of many North Americans and Europeans: Tokyo (Japan), Dhaka (Bangladesh), Mumbai (India), São Paulo (Brazil), and Delhi (India). How many people do you know who could even identify these growing giants, let alone point to each one on a map? The cities in Europe and North America continue to grow by international immigra- tion. A few U.S. cities are now growing explosively due to internal migration, such as the Phoenix area and Las Vegas, Nevada, which grew 83 percent in the 1990s, springing from the desert thanks to the “circuses” of the gaming and entertainment industry and air condi- tioning. The real growth, however, will be in the “sun belt” of the developing world—the Global South (see Table 9.1 ). Europe, North America, and Latin America are all already at least two-thirds urban, with many countries, including places such as Chile and Argentina, having urbanization levels above 75 percent. Africa and Asia are still two-thirds rural but will be half urban within a decade or so. Who is urban and who is rural hinges on debatable criteria, such as the number of com- munities over 20,000. Many rural people are already dependent on neighboring cities, and in India and China, villages can run together in great agglomerations of population. But a city is distinct from a mere agglomeration of people. It has a complexity and interconnect- edness of its own. The exact size of a city depends on who gets counted and who does not (such as people who are displaced or homeless or illegal “squatters”). It also depends on how one figures the extent of a metropolitan region. For example, based on the incorporated city itself, Houston is by far the largest city in Texas, but Dallas–Fort Worth is the largest combined metropolitan area. The next generation of world cities will be a dizzying array of newborn giants. What do you know about Chongqing and Wuhan? Unless you are from China or you study or do business in East Asia, these could be kinds of soup, for all you know. They are, in fact, Chinese cities of growing industrial might, each with over 7 million people. They are each the size of greater London or Chicago.
NEW YORK. For several decades the world’s largest city, New York, is the only U.S. city likely to remain among the world’s “big ten.” It is really a vast urban agglomeration that spans several states. Where the New York metropolitan area ends is hard to say, but the core has always been the island of Manhattan. The city grew as a port, with rail lines from Hoboken, New Jersey, and before that the Erie Canal upstate, carrying people and goods inland. The city awed the world from the 1880s on with ever-taller buildings, new and amazing bridges, and growing financial might. Between 1880 and 1920, 20 million people came through New York’s gate of entry at Ellis Island, past the Statue of Liberty (a gift from France in 1884) with its promises to the poor of the world, and into a city of incredible diversity, boasting hundreds of languages. Some went on, but many stayed. Two-fifths of the U.S. population has ancestors who came through this one portal. Industry spilled over to the manufacturing and shipbuilding of Brooklyn, one of several cities later incorporated into New York, while chemicals and railways went to neighboring New Jersey. Manhattan itself flourished in finance, commerce, and culture, from the theater dominance of Broadway to the Harlem Renaissance of African Americans in the 1920s. Manhattan’s financial power became concentrated on Wall Street and began at the same time as did urban decay in Harlem. The skyscrapers still soar on Manhattan’s south end and in Midtown, where high property values and solid bedrock allow them. The spaces in between still fill with newcomers in Chinatown and in Harlem, which is experiencing something of a re- newed renaissance. Vitality has returned to Times Square, shoppers still crowd Fifth Avenue, and art and culture still flourish on Broadway and throughout Greenwich Village and Soho. Many newcomers, however, now prefer to bypass this crowded core and find their dreams somewhere farther out in the metropolitan sprawl. The Flushing area of Queens, home to the 1965 World’s Fair, is still a world’s fair of newcomers and people from dozens of nationalities and ethnicities. Indian temples crowd near Ethiopian cafes and Chinese markets. New York remains a slice of the world. It is also a city that intimidates and frightens. The city of dreams is also known as a city of crime and despair, of endless hurry, and of a certain harsh, even ruthless character. As far back as 1916, an anonymous poem, “While the City Sleeps,” captured these images: Stand in your window and scan the sights, On Broadway with its bright white lights. Its dashing cabs and cabarets, Its painted women and fast cafes. That’s when you really see New York. Vulgar of manner, overfed, Overdressed and underbred. Heartless and Godless, Hell’s delight, Rude by day and lewd by night. Of course, this image may have attracted the curious even as it repelled the cautious. Yet even today, Pico Iyer (1997), the British Indian globe-trotting writer who lives in Tokyo, wonders about New York: The lighting is harsh, the contrasts are stark, and the effects are as loud as the tabloid headline in your face. When I think of New York, I think of people with an unearthly pallor, dressed all in black; of black jackets and white ties; black limos and white lies. (p. 80 )
In spite of this, New York remains a magnet for capital and for people from around the world who are sure, to paraphrase the words of the song “New York, New York,” that success in New York can translate into success anywhere.
A Slum with a View The Spanish, the Portuguese, and the people in their Latin American colonies believed in the city as a center of power and influence. The central square was the gathering point, and the twin symbols of power—the cathedral and the government palace—often faced one another across this square. The wealthy and powerful lived nearby. Wealthy Latin Americans have therefore been slow to abandon the central city to the poor. The British and the citizens of their American colonies, however, have always ideal- ized the green countryside and been somewhat ambivalent about the city. So while great mansions were built near the city center, where some still stand as museums, restaurants, and bed and breakfasts, there was an earlier movement outward. Many of the greatest man- sions of New York were built far north (at the time) along the Hudson River in the late nineteenth century. In the United States, where the flight from the central city began early, central cit- ies began to become synonymous with poverty, or the inner city. Urban tenement houses filled with poor immigrants from the 1880s to the 1920s. In the decades that followed, as rural African American farmworkers, sharecroppers, and others moved north, they often found places to stay on the edges of the downtowns of major cities: New York’s Harlem, Chicago’s Bronzeville, Detroit’s Near Eastside, South Central Los Angeles, and the hearts of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In the eastern United States, they filled old neighbor- hoods that had been vacated by earlier immigrants, cramming into the tenements and kitchenette apartments divided out of larger houses. As the number of low-income newcomers grew, the question of where to house them also grew. In the late 1950s, Chicago’s Mayor Richard Daley proposed scattering them in public housing throughout the city. Opposition to this was so intense that he chose instead to build upward, creating the Robert Taylor Homes and Cabrini Green between 1958 and 1962. High-rise poverty was born. Initially, the buildings provided an attractive alternative to tenements and kitchenettes. Yet having so many poor people in one place also proved at- tractive to the criminal element, rather than to legitimate employers, and the buildings often fell into decay. With the end of the 1990s, the Robert Taylor Homes started to come down, to be replaced by a planned community of multifamily, multi-income housing. Whether this becomes gentrification (the site commands a valuable view of the lake) or recaptures the original vision of mixing low-income families with diverse institutions and opportunities remains to be seen. Other towers have changed residents as the cycle has continued. The great multicolored towers of Cedar–Riverside in Minneapolis were once filled with low-income residents, many of them African Americans. The towers are again filling, this time with Somali refu- gees who have come from the East African deserts to the northern U.S. plains, often with help of Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services, both active in this traditionally Northern European community. Saturday night finds the towers full of strange new sounds and aromas. Sunday morning finds Somali Christians wrapped in white, lightly woven blankets, which they wear over their Western attire, riding the buses to local churches. Many still hope to return to their troubled country. If earlier patterns hold, many will stay. The question remains, though, what they can make of this “ghetto in the sky” and whether they can find success in this distant city. For decades, the fortunes of African Americans in U.S. cities have been constrained by intense segregation. Cities in the Northeast and Midwest of the United States are often two to three times more racially segregated along black–white lines than their Canadian coun- terparts; some are as segregated as South African cities at the height of apartheid (Massey and Denton 1993). This intense segregation is lessening, not so much due to policies of integration as to new immigrant influxes that continue to restir the U.S. urban “mixing bowl.” Cities from New York to Los Angeles and now even Minneapolis are immigrant metropolises (Nee et al. 1994), with an ever-changing mix of nationalities and ethnicities. Some immigrants find their foothold in enclave economies among their coethnics, but the continued changing patterns of international migration continue to stir the pot. Korean, Chinese, and Lebanese Americans often find their niche as middleman minorities, serving a largely black or Latino clientele. Others move quickly from enclaves into new and diverse neighborhoods. Just west of Cedar–Riverside in Minneapolis, the Phillips neighborhood and Lake Street business district bustle with scores of differing ethnic groups from Asia, Latin America, and Africa in a city that was once more known for blonds and Swedish meatballs. In Chicago, the Near West Side was the traditional home to immigrants. There, pioneering sociologist and social worker Jane Addams operated Hull House from the 1890s into the 1930s, celebrating the many cultures while providing basic health, education, and social services to help newcomers cope with daily life and advance their version of the American dream. Today, this area still bustles with Chicago’s Chinatown, Little Italy, Little Mexico, and more. Meanwhile, Chicago’s northeast draws new immigrants from India, Armenia, Georgia (in the Caucasus), and elsewhere. Manhattan’s Harlem and Chinatown still receive newcomers, but many now find their first homes in the Flushing section of Queens, where dozens of groups intermingle. Each of these has brought new vitality as well as new chal- lenges to their cities. The difference between a ghetto and an enclave is that the first is forced and often long term and the second is chosen and typically short term. The difference between a slum and a first start is hope. Ensuring that hope is well founded makes all the difference.
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