On the ground, it is not too difficult to see why this is so. More than 40% of residents rely on public transport, but with 45 residents competing for one bus seat, travel within the city is difficult. Water supply is highly irregular, and rationing is widespread. The availability of water ranges from four hours per day to two hours every other day. Many households rely on private vendors who sell water from tankers at high prices. The sewage network has not been well maintained since the 1960s, and all three existing treatment plants are dysfunctional. Industrial waste, which contains hazardous materials and heavy oils, is dumped directly into the sea untreated. Of the 12,000 tons of municipal solid waste generated each day, 60% never reaches a dumpsite; 80% of medical waste is not disposed of properly.
The growth of large metropolitan areas around the world has been very recent and very rapid, particularly when measured against the duration of human beings’ existence as a species. For the first 95% of our time on earth, we built no settlements at all. Cities of a million people arose during only the last 1% of homo sapiens’ time on earth, and there are already 500 such cities in the world today.
If we have spent most of our existence as small wandering bands, does that mean we are ill-equipped to manage urban settlements of this vast size? The key to success in our current urban transformation may in fact be the same as the key to mankind’s earliest origins - our ability to cooperate.
SAO PAULO, June 4, 2011 -- For the cities of the world, there’s rarely if ever been such a momentous single week. Faced with the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change, the C40 organization of world’s large cities met in this Brazilian megacity to announce a set of landmark agreements. All the accords, said New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, current C40 chairman and the prime driver of its new initiatives, will be designed to undergird their struggle against rising seas and disruptive weather patterns -- in a world in which cities are responsible, directly or indirectly, for up to 80 percent of global climate emissions.
“The leaders of C40 Cities - the world’s megacities - hold the future in their hands,” Bloomberg asserted.
As a first step, the three dozen C40 mayors confirmed a full merger with the Clinton Climate Initiative, assuring added funding for a centralized, high-grade professional staff as well as full-bore support from former President Bill Clinton, who flew to São Paulo to seal and celebrate the agreement. Staff operations are global, with current bases in London and New York.
What makes your city great? Are you living there because of great skyscrapers? Connectivity? A love of turmoil? Edwin Heathcote at FT gives us a scan of liveable city indices here, explaining why "liveable cities lists [are] intellectually on par with People magazine’s ‘sexiest people’ lists."