19.20.21: Studying the Rise of Supercities

Over half of the world's populations now live and work in cities. This trend will continue during the 21st century, creating "supercities" out of places like New York, Los Angeles, London, Moscow, Beijing, Mumbai, Mexico City and more. These supercities will become "vast, intensely urban hubs [that] will radically redefine the world's future macroeconomic and cultural landscape." These assumptions are both the inspiration and basis for a project called 19.20.21, spotted by TreeHugger head honcho Graham at the TED conference.

19.20.21 is a vast, global project that will take 19 of the world's largest cities -- those that will have 20 million people in them during the 21st century -- as case studies to explore the impact of the "supercity" phenomenon. Their hope is that by better understanding population's effect on urban and business planning and its impact on consumers around the globe, they can help the world prepare for a whole new ballgame that will occur as supercities swell and affect change on the global cultural landscape. And there are a ton of things they're going to have to consider.

The growth of these cities -- 19 of those above will be chosen for the study -- has huge implications in a tremendous variety of global environmental considerations; not least of those is the world's most precious resource: water. Not only in industrial systems like shipping and food supply, but in planetary systems like meteorological patterns and (oh, yeah) global warming; almost all of these burgeoning supercities are on the coast, and will be affected by rising sea levels.

But, wait; aren't cities supposed to be more sustainable? "There are those who predict that the model of denser population will provide a better quality of life and will actively result in environmental solutions. Virtually no one is prepared to really comprehend the impact of this surging trend, yet none of us can feel equipped for life in the 21st century without that understanding." So, perhaps there can be too much of a good thing; we'll have to stay tuned.

When all is said and done, 19.20.21 will "provide a roadmap for understanding the world ahead," and seems like a tremendously interesting big-picture project. They'll be disseminating their findings via a variety of media, including the web, TV, print and in seminars and exhibits. Can the planet sustain itself in a supercity culture? Will the world's biggest cities be swallowed by rising seas? Stay tuned. ::19.20.21 seen at ::TED

See also: ::Underwater City Proposed for Amsterdam, ::America's 50 Greenest Cities: Popular Science Ranks 'Em, ::Cities Changing Before Our Eyes and ::Wayback Machine 1932: How Long Will Our Cities Last?

Tags: Cities | Economics