Robert Neuwirth

Author, Shadow Cities

21 minutes, 9.6mb, recorded 2005-10-22
Robert Neuwirth

This talk from the Habitats session at Pop!Tech 2005 features Robert Neuwirth, a journalist who looks at the habitats where we live. In thinking about what worldwide urban spaces will look like in the future, Neuwirth provides us with a surprising picture. He shows us the squatter communities of Nairobi, Mumbai, Istanbul, and Rio de Janeiro, and argues for rights that will support and sustain healthy squatter cities. These habitations, he claims, are the beginnings of the cities of the future.

Cities are growing due to rural and urban migration. 200,000 people a day are journeying from the rural areas to the cities--if you do the math that's 1.4 million people a week, 70 million people per year or 130 people each minute! Today, one in six people on the planet are squatters. Our governments and NGO's can't keep up with housing so these dwellers have become more efficient in keeping up with creating living spaces.

Plastic tarps, degradation, and horrible sodden communities co-exist amongst a tremendous amount of commerce. Scavenged materials help create better living conditions, so as squatters gradually build more permanent living spaces, cityscapes begin to be established, and we attain a new suburban ideal. The community rises in a free-spirited way and we must yield to people organizing their own capacity to transform their own future.

The other speaker in this session is artist Ingo Günther. A question and answer session from this presentation follows his talk.

Robert Neuwirth lived in shantytowns across the developing world for almost two years to write Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, a New Urban World (Routledge, 2005), his controversial new book that argues that squatting is an ancient and legitimate form of urban development. Neuwirth has written for many publications, including The Nation, Fortune, Metropolis, The New York Times, The Washington Post, New York, The Village Voice, Mother Jones and Wired, and has worked as a business reporter, a political reporter and an investigative reporter on the staff of a variety of newspapers, news magazines, and television stations. His work on squatters was supported in part by a research and writing grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.


This free podcast is from our Pop!Tech series.

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