Living in an Urban Planet (Gen Ed 1103)



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Bruno Carvalho and Diane Davis

It has become a cliché to say that more than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. The speed and scale of urbanization over the past century has been stunning, and we tend to underestimate the extent to which built environments and natural landscapes have become entangled. If we consider, for example, the flow of resources (and refuse), energy systems, and the circulation of culture, where do our cities actually end? In contrast to established urban/suburban/rural distinctions, we explore the possibility that the urban today represents a worldwide condition in which nearly all political-economic and socio-environmental relations are enmeshed.

We will focus on multiple aspects of urbanization processes, including historical, ethical, theoretical and aesthetic questions. We will address interplays between modernity, colonization, planning and architecture. We will discuss how our cities became so divided, and explore relationships between migration and racism, diversity and segregation. We will reflect on metropolitan and regional asymmetries, as well as ideas of global cities or megacities. We will consider the ecological dimensions of urbanization, including research on denser cities as more sustainable than sprawl, and debates on environmental justice and the anthropocene. As both lived and imagined spaces, cities will continue to shape life in our planet. Our aim is to engage a wide range of perspectives on the contemporary global-urban condition and on how we got here, with the hope of opening up alternative possibilities for the future of our planet.