Urbanization News: July 15

That snazzy promo video is for this week’s featured urban happening, “The Just City: A Ford Forum on Metropolitan Opportunity” held in New York yesterday. Sponsored by the Ford Foundation, it brought together “Civic leaders and policymakers, urban designers and entrepreneurs [to] explore how fairness, opportunity and equity can serve as the defining features of this new era of urbanization.” NYU-Wagner adjunct planning prof Solomon Greene, also a fellow at the Open Society Foundations, offers some remarks on Bruce Katz‘s talk in this video. The lineup was an impressive one of thinkers and practitioners doing visionary work in their metropolitan area.

And our picks of the week’s news on cities and urbanization:

This Week in Waste: A pair of articles discusses innovative strategies for what to do with waste as cities grow. This article from PRI features a hydroponic farm in a Chinese lake that gets fertilizer for its leafy greens from sewage dumped in the water from the city of Kunming (photo below, courtesy of PRI). This dispatch from India via Live Mint critiques Delhi’s privatization of waste hauling, especially where Pune offers an example of a rapidly urbanizing city implementing a zero-waste strategy that’s working both for people who sustain their livelihoods from the waste stream and for the environment too.

My city’s modal split is better than yours: The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy opened up nominations for the 2012 Sustainable Transport Award – hurry up and nominate the city where you love to commute! Right now you’re up against Seville, Minneapolis, Cape Town and a few others – Guangzhou won last year, so you won’t have to compete with their awesome BRT and bike share.

“They put a bullet through the train”: In last week’s news we reported that donors had pledged big bucks for inter-city transportation infrastructure in Brazil in anticipation of the 2014 World Cup. Long a transport investment darling of the donor community, Brazil might not be quite as sexy as previously thought – Reuters reports that an auction that opened up this week for bids to build a bullet train between Rio and Sao Paulo (this one a major project for the 2016 Olympics) failed to attract a single bid.

The “Forgotten Front”: This Big City reports on the desperate situation of water in Afghanistan – being in turmoil for decades, infrastructure and institutions needed for a reliable and safe water supply have suffered greatly. “Around 73 percent of the population relies on improvised and inadequate facilities to supply water, while water sources are becoming increasingly polluted and overexploited in places like Kabul.” Find out more in this report from the Centre for Policy and Human Development at Kabul University (photo of the Kabul River below courtesy of IRIN, see a slideshow here). And just in case you were scratching your head too, the U.S. alone has spent about $19 billion just in development aid in Afghanistan since the war effort started.

Everyone should count: Cities Alliance released a new report this week, “The Urbanisation of Displaced People.” It examines how conflicts and wars lead to a unique form of rapid urbanization as people flee their homes and seek refuge in cities – because many refugees and displaced people end up as permanent residents, the report makes a  case for planners and development practitioners to account for these populations in plans and programs.

A critique of Ed Glaeser?!?: James Howard Kunstler, in his witty weekly “KunstlerCast” podcast, critiques Ed Glaeser’s ideas on urbanism. He sees Glaeser’s vision  in his lauded book Triumph of the City as backward-looking and too sweet on skyscrapers.

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