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State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future
The Worldwatch Institute
Washington, DC: Worldwatch Institute, 2007
250pp., $18.95, paperback
ISBN: 978-0-393-32923-0

The latest edition in Worldwatch Institute’s State of the World series focuses on urban issues. Why this break from their long tradition? Sometime next year, half of the world’s population will live in urban centers. As a result of this future change, Worldwatch instituted a new urban project to look at some of the issues this new urban reality will have on the world.

Worldwatch’s Project Director Molly O’Meara Sheehan assembled writers and reviewers from around the globe to discuss the implications of this new global reality. State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future, eilicited experts in the fields of clean water and sanitation, farming, transportation, energy, health, economic development, natural disaster prevention, and poverty/environmental injustice to submit chapters in this edition. Many of these experts provided clues to both the problems, and the potential solutions, to the urbanization of our world.

This new urbanization is not limited to so-called industrialized countries. These new urban centers are appearing in China, other Asian countries, and Africa. The effort now is to make sure that these developments are both sustainable, and minimally affect the health of the people and the planet. Some of these new urban centers are discussed as “mini-chapters” in this edition of State of the World. For example, in Timbuktu, Mali, people are greening their spaces (and economies) by planting eucalyptus groves for use in cooking and building. They are also planting a grass called bourgou used to rehabilitate flood pastures. This plant can then be harvested and sold for feed.

Farmers in Freetown, Sierra Leone are developing urban farms as a food/survival mechanism after years of war. They are also attempting to place agriculture at the core of Freetown’s urban planning, to maintain their urban farm plots in case of future disasters.

And in Rizhao, China, you can see solar panels on the roofs of many buildings, which heat water for the inhabitants. Solar panels also power the traffic signals and lighting in their parks. This abundant use of solar is due in part to national government policy that encourages solar power use, forward thinking local government officials, and new local solar industrial plants.

As with anything affecting our planet, urbanization can be a benefit, or an ill, to the society as a whole. But in this era of globalization, the rapid growth of urban centers is something that must be considered when considering the health of the planet. State of the World 2007: Our Urban Future recognizes this reality, and offers suggestions to tackling some of the major ills of society today – poverty and climate change. Worldwatch writers acknowledge that tackling these issues take a change in governmental priorities. However, some cities have already started implementing change through urban planning measures, investing in education, healthcare, and infrastructure projects/requirements. For many interested in learning more about the environmental issues facing our rapidly urbanizing world, this book would be a good introductory resource.

– Annette Aguayo

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Worldwatch Institute
1776 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20036
(877) 539-9946

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"We’re here to talk about what we can do to save the world from nuclear proliferation. Our world, we’ve come to find out, is very small. It’s not as big as we once thought. It is an almost impossible task to save the world from nuclear proliferation, but in my way of life, the Diné way of life, we believe that there are no impossibilities. Although it seems like there are only a handful of us here trying to make a stand against nuclear proliferation, the task is not impossible. It all starts when we come together from all corners of the world, like we are doing here this week. We can start by coming to the realization that we are all on the same side. We are all members of the five-fingered intelligent earth dwellers called homosapiens, human beings. It doesn’t matter the color, the creed. We’re all earth dwellers here, in this world."
—The Honorable Joe Shirley, Jr.
President of the Navajo Nation
Address to the Indigenous World Uranium Summit, November 30, 2006

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