Review: “The City Solution”

cityThere is an neat article in the December 2011 issue of National Geographic—“The City Solution” by Robert Kunzig—that advocates that cities (meaning big, densely populated cities) are the best solution for handling the world’s rapidly growing population.

Kunzig lays out arguments by scholars on why cities are good for a country’s economy and the environment (he makes the interesting point that densely populated cities generally emit less co2 per person than the average for the country in which they are located). He then tells the story of Seoul, South Korea, which has rapidly urbanized in just the past 50 years. He attributes Seoul’s success to careful planning and recommends that city planners could learn from that success by not fearing urbanization (and by being forward-thinking in creating cities).

But there is one point I think Kunzig gives short shrift—the effect of advances in information technology on Seoul’s success. As he explains, striving to make products that foreigners would buy led Seoul’s forefathers to promote and fund tech companies, including Samsung. I don’t think it’s a coincident that a city now seen as a global success story put an emphasis on promoting technology. I think there is something to be said about how advances in technology to collect and categorize information can help a city grow in an organized and effective way.

Oh, and the article is full of beautiful pictures and infographics, so check it out.

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