jueves, 2 de septiembre de 2010

Definitely, it is an urban world

Foreign Policy magazine has released its September-October issue and dedicated to rampant global urbanization process, including a new edition of the Global Cities Index, which tries to measure the position of different metropolis in economic globalization flows. City rankings have become a recent discovery and lots of them appear from time to time, measuring urban issues from different perspectives. This one is just another one, with a particular view about cities and a particular selection of cities around the world. Here you can access the complete list of the 65 cities included in the study.

More interesting is the article by Parag Khanna, author of The Second World: Empires and Influence in the New Global Order, a book that we covered in this blog to raise the hypothesis that Central Asia could become the next Dubai-like phenomenon in the coming years. The Second World is a comprehensive look at the emerging powers of geopolitics and how instability and unprecedented situations are reshaping global powers. One of those unknown characteristics of the current world is the speed of global urbanization process, a fact that the author barely mentioned in the book when talking about the Chinese case, even though is a key to understanding the new world economic order. It seems that the author has found the opportunity to look more in-depth to this issue in the article now published in Foreign Policy (Beyond city limits) and I think he successes in summarizing in a few paragraphs what is happening, the dimension of the process, where are the new areas of urban expansion are and, specially, how it affects the configuration of the new economic flows and the emergence of new areas of opportunity for technological development, suggesting some of the problems that rapid urbanization is generating. Worth reading.
Joel Kotkin also is to demystify the power of urban centers in article Urban Legends, in which he has the chance to insist in one of his last ideas: suburbia are the answer to the problems of urbanization. This article has to be contextualized in the last urban debates in United States, on whether the re-densification of cities is the answer to the economic crisis (shrinking cities like Detroit or massive abandonment of dwellers from suburbia), a debate on which Kotkin stands as a faithful defender of the values of the American suburban way of life. According to Kotkin, the crisis and Obama´s urban-bias have created a state of opinion, close to conspiracy, to open a war against suburbia and to favour urban centres (The War against suburbia) and has emerged as defender of the traditional American city model, along with a colleague, Wendell Cox, author of the book of clarifying title, War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life. With this premises, the articles tries to make understandable how some "legends" might be undermining the suburban way of life. Of course, the other side of the coin in this debate is represented by the ubiquitous Richard Florida, who, with his new book, The Great Reset, is defending the need to return to urban centers to achieve dynamic cities that are capable of becoming fosters for economic recovery. Both Florida and Kotkin, have always had their little private battles.
The journal includes another article, Chicago on the Yangtze, which presents with a provocative headline the city of Chongqing, a city that is growing so fast that the authorities and mapmakers are always out of date, a good example of what is silently happening in China.
Do not Try This at Home is another article worth reading. The (again) screaming headline reviews the roots upon which Silicon Valley rests and how this model of local innovation cluster cannot be repeated in a mimetic way as a planned public effort:
Six years ago, I wrote a book about the origins of Silicon Valley. Ever since, international investors, foreign officials, and urban planners from multiple continents have been asking me for advice on how to re-create the magic at home. I've met with officials from Bangalore, Barcelona, Chennai, Dublin, Fukuoka, Helsinki, Shenzhen, Stockholm, and many American cities as well. They all want to know the same thing: How did the Valley do it? And how can we duplicate its success?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of wrong ways to go about building the next Silicon Valley. High-profile visitors like Russian President Dmitry Medvedev frequently make the rounds of the glass-clad, high-tech headquarters of Google, Apple, and others in suburban Santa Clara Valley, the region south of San Francisco that put the "Valley" in Silicon Valley. They take in the sprawling Northern California aesthetic, exclusive subdivisions, and well-manicured lawns; talk to young engineers working in research parks; and convene earnest round tables with the big brains at Stanford University. They examine the latest iPhones and open Twitter accounts, to great public fanfare. They announce, "OK, we're going to go back and make one of those." If only it were that easy.
The article, in fact, besides arguing the obvious about the impossibility of expecting that circumstances that made Silicon Valley possible may repeat, has more interest as an explanation of the emergence of the Valley as an economic power. Among other things, the author emphasizes that, contrary to the traditional view that the creative force of many garage entrepreneurs arose by spontaneous generation, it is a case of wide public financial investment.

Finally, another notable article is dedicated to present some charts using data from the world's urban expansion.

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