Sandy at night; 3:35 am EDT, October 30, 2012. Cities west of the storm twinkle in the dark.
Top of cloud layer is illuminated by the full moon. NASA Earth Observatory photo.
Even the public library way out west in Laramie, Wyoming, felt the effects of Superstorm Sandy.
Sandy hit the day after I finished the Scientific American special issue on cities (September 2011). By 2008, over half the world’s population was urban (82% of the 2009 US population), and this is expected to climb to two-thirds by 2050. Does this mean more poverty, pollution, disease and crime? Not necessarily. Cities are becoming increasingly profitable, healthy and safe places to live. For example, urban residents are more likely to find work (especially women), and are less likely to die in car crashes. They require less investment in infrastructure per capita than those in suburban and rural areas, have smaller carbon footprints, and use fewer resources in general. As countries become more developed, their cities become increasingly efficient and cost-effective. But did the authors factor in the extreme vulnerability of densely-populated areas to natural disasters? Did they consider the huge costs of recovery?
“In the case of cities, their concentrated populations and reliance on the state can result in heavy losses especially when essential services such as water supply and sanitation fail. This is an increasingly important lesson for the future given that half the world’s population now lives in cities.” Clive Oppenheimer on volcanic disasters, in Explosions that Shook the World (Cambridge University Press 2011)
“We have seen a brighter future, and it is urban.” Scientific American, September 2011.
Photo of a not-so-bright New York City from The Baltimore Sun.
About Wonder of the Week ... this is the first in a series of short posts featuring just a few photos and thoughts. The title is based on the dual-purpose nature of “wonder” (from Oxford American Dictionaries):
noun -- “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable”
verb -- “... be curious to know something”
Even when things are not so wonderful, I can rely on Nature to provide both types of wonder -- awe and curiosity, among the finest of human emotions.