a curious Yankee in Europe's court

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Reflecting on the world’s move to the city

Posted on the December 12th, 2007

Earlier this year, a report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) announced that in 2008, for the first time in history, more people will be living in cities than in rural areas. The number of city dwellers will be 3.3 billion, the report stated, and within less than two-and-a-half decades that urban population will mushroom to almost five billion (State of World Population 2007).

This week, New York Times writer Stephen J. Dubner asked five prominent American scholars for their thinking about what we should be thinking about this increase in urbanization (“How Should We Be Thinking About Urbanization?“, by Stephen J. Dubner, A Freakonomics Quorum, New York Times, Dec 11, 2007). The thinkers Dubner consulted were James Howard Kunstler, Edward Glaeser, Robert Bruegmann, Dolores Hayden, and Alan Berube.

The five responses were varied, complex and thought-provoking. Among other things, there is some discussion of how the UN chooses to define “city”, the ways in which cities are expanding, and also an update on who lives in suburbs today as opposed to when “the burbs” first came into being.

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