Letter from the Editors

Article excerpt

Five years ago, on the occasion of World Population Day in July 2011, the United Nations declared that over half the world's population lived in cities. Since their rise at the dawn of civilization, cities have played a critical role in the history of humanity--indeed, the word "civilization" itself is rooted in the Latin word for "city." Nobel Prize winner and Saint Lucian poet Derek Walcott wrote that, "A culture, we all know, is made by its cities." Yet, cities continue to be plagued by problems ranging-from poverty to environmental degradation. As the world urbanizes at a rate unprecedented in human history, it is clear that the future of humanity lies in our ability to effectively craft the city.

Our Features section begins to tackle this challenge with a piece by Paul James, Director of the UN Global Compact Cities Programme, who illustrates the unsustainability of cities given the high rates of consumption and overpopulation. This argument is furthered by Kongjian Yu of Peking University Graduate School of Landscape Architecture, who warns that while China's urban development continues to soar, it is in dire need of innovation in resource usage. The conversation is broadened by Zsuzsanna Jakab, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, who enriches our understanding of urban health by considering factors ranging from leadership to urban design. Michael Cohen, the Director of die International Affairs Program at the New School, further widens the scope of the discussion by challenging us to think about how the city can be reinvented to suit current urban life. Finally, in a unique analysis of last year's uprisings in Tunisia, Nezar AlSayyad, from the University of California, Berkeley, introduces us to the ability of urban space to shape mass movements.

We are pleased to begin our Perspectives section with Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Galir Store, who coins the term "summit mania" to bring attention to the increasing frequency of global meetings that are failing to result in effective action. Next, Professor Ricardo Torres Perez of the University of Havana describes Cuba's break from the past and his hope for the country's economic and diplomatic future. …