Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier and Happier by Edward L. GlaeserA pioneering urban economist offers fascinating, even inspiring proof that the city is humanitys greatest invention and our best hope for the future.
America is an urban nation. More than two thirds of us live on the 3 percent of land that contains our cities. Yet cities get a bad rap: theyre dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive, environmentally unfriendly... Or are they?
As Edward Glaeser proves in this myth-shattering book, cities are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest (in cultural and economic terms) places to live. New Yorkers, for instance, live longer than other Americans; heart disease and cancer rates are lower in Gotham than in the nation as a whole. More than half of Americas income is earned in twenty-two metropolitan areas. And city dwellers use, on average, 40 percent less energy than suburbanites.
Glaeser travels through history and around the globe to reveal the hidden workings of cities and how they bring out the best in humankind. Even the worst cities-Kinshasa, Kolkata, Lagos- confer surprising benefits on the people who flock to them, including better health and more jobs than the rural areas that surround them. Glaeser visits Bangalore and Silicon Valley, whose strangely similar histories prove how essential education is to urban success and how new technology actually encourages people to gather together physically. He discovers why Detroit is dying while other old industrial cities-Chicago, Boston, New York-thrive. He investigates why a new house costs 350 percent more in Los Angeles than in Houston, even though building costs are only 25 percent higher in L.A. He pinpoints the single factor that most influences urban growth-January temperatures-and explains how certain chilly cities manage to defy that link. He explains how West Coast environmentalists have harmed the environment, and how struggling cities from Youngstown to New Orleans can shrink to greatness. And he exposes the dangerous anti-urban political bias that is harming both cities and the entire country.
Using intrepid reportage, keen analysis, and eloquent argument, Glaeser makes an impassioned case for the citys import and splendor. He reminds us forcefully why we should nurture our cities or suffer consequences that will hurt us all, no matter where we live.
Edward L. Glaeser: Triumph of the City
Despite the bad rap cities get for being dirty, poor, unhealthy, crime ridden, expensive and environmentally unfriendly, Edward L. Glaeser is keen to prove that they are actually the healthiest, greenest, and richest in cultural and economic terms places to live. New Yorkers, he points out for instance, live longer than other Americans and have lower heart disease and cancer rates than the nation as a whole. Glaeser says even the worst cities like Kinshasa, Kolkata and Lagos bestow benefits on the people who crowd them, including better health and more jobs than the rural areas they left behind. In a recent interview on CNN with Rafeeq Zakaria, Glaeser said urban poverty is actually more of a sign of urban strength than weakness.
Whatever its eventual benefit to Paris, the Haussmann plan was primarily and explicitly motivated by the desire to enable policing, control and potentially military suppression of obstreperous working-class districts. At one point, I was going to lead into my own book with a round-up of technologies that had catalyzed new paradigms in urban form; reading this, for what feels like the eleventieth time, makes me really glad I chose not to. No: the historical record is explicit that it was working-class activism and the regulation that resulted that forced the owners and operators of tall buildings to make them safe — regulation of precisely the sort that Glaeser, last chapter, implied ought to be beyond the scope of local government to apply. These conditions mean that streets can become dominated by troublemakers. I feel the sudden need to take a long, hot shower. Why does it have to be all or nothing — snooty Mrs.
I really wish I had liked this book, which made my read of it all the more disappointing. As somebody who has lived in cities my entire adult life, I felt that this book was going to be a great opportunity to gain some new knowledge and put some facts behind my intuition that cities are a good thing for our bodies, minds, and environment. What I found instead was a lazy, jumbled mass of stories, facts, anecdotes, and opinions bent to attribute all good things that have eve. What I found instead was a lazy, jumbled mass of stories, facts, anecdotes, and opinions bent to attribute all good things that have ever occurred in humanity to the conglomeration of people into urban spaces. The tone right away in the first chapter turned me off to the book as a whole. It is opinion heavy, and the writing left you to assume that Glaser thinks that a he's the first person who ever had the insight that there are inherent traits of cities that have greater value relative to suburban and rural areas, b anybody that doesn't think that cities are the best solution when it comes to organizing people within a society is an idiot, and c anybody who would choose to live outside of a city is an idiot.
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Edward Glaeser, a Harvard professor of economics, has spent several decades investigating the role cities play in fostering human achievement. Glaeser takes us on a world tour of urban economics, collecting passport stamps in Athens, London, Tokyo, Bangalore, Kinshasa, Houston, Boston, Singapore and Vancouver. Along the way, he explains how urban density contributed to the birth of restaurants, why supermarket check-out clerks demonstrate the competitive advantage such density confers and how the birth of Def Jam Records illustrates the way cities spur artistic innovation. Here, his enthusiasm for cities is refreshing. And he chastises city planners in Paris and Mumbai, making a passionate argument for building up — and up and up. Greater density is the goal: more people means more possibility. Even when writing about the developing world, Glaeser is unfazed by threats of overwhelmed sanitation systems, unsafe housing or impossible congestion.