Some of the most famous cities in history were never built. These 10 Utopian cities may have been failures, but they expressed our ideas about what the future of human civilization could look like. And many ideas contained in them continue to influence us today.
Illustration from Destiny
Air pollution in the Chinese capital Beijing has reached levels judged as hazardous to human health.People visit the Tian’anmen Square in Beijing, capital of China, Jan. 11, 2013. The PM 2.5 (particles less than 2.5 microns) data in Beijing hit 240 to 446 on Friday, which means the 6 rating heavily polluted air quality.
Readings from both official and unofficial monitoring stations suggested that Saturday’s pollution has soared past danger levels outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO).
The air tastes of coal dust and car fumes, two of the main sources of pollution, says a BBC correspondent.
Economic growth has left air quality in many cities notoriously poor.
A heavy smog has smothered Beijing for many days, says the BBC’s Damian Grammaticas, in the capital.
By Saturday afternoon it was so thick you could see just a few hundred metres in the city centre, our correspondent says, with tower blocks vanishing into the greyness.
After a week of election postmortems, one thing is clear: Mitt Romney’s failure to understand America’s changing demographics led to his undoing. But there was another killer: Geography. Deep blue cities and their inner suburbs came out for Barack Obama, pulling the president through in battleground states like Colorado, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida. And they put him so far ahead in places like Wisconsin, Nevada, and Pennsylvania that Romney never really had a chance (not to mention his home base of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, which went 78 percent for the president).
Of course, this isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2008, Obama took cities even more convincingly, allowing him to win North Carolina and Indiana as well. But America is only growing more urban, with cities that had been losing population since the 1960s finally starting to swell again. Eventually, fast-growing blue cities like San Antonio, Houston, and Austin could bring even the GOP stronghold of Texas within the Democrats’ reach. In the long term, the stakes are high: Republicans could be relegated to permanent minority party status.
“One of two things will eventually happen,” says Columbia University professor Ester Fuchs, who’s served as an advisor to New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. “Either [the GOP] will change from the inside and transform, because it will lose its ability to create a majority coalition over time. Or, if the Republican Party doesn’t recognize the demographic shifts, they will disappear as one of the major parties.”
More than half of Chinese now live in cities. This marks a watershed in the country’s history, as the world’s most populous nation has become its newest urban society. The global ramifications of this are as yet unknown, but the origins of such rapid urbanisation do not lie in the reform period, which began with the death of Mao Zedong in 1976. Ancient capitals, such as Kaifeng and Luoyang, were already great cities more than one thousand years ago. Centuries later the two Ming capitals of Beijing and Nanjing impressed the Jesuit priest Mateo Ricci, when he visited them around the turn of the 16th century. In the Lower Yangzi delta, China’s most developed region, Shanghai was then but a small town.
However two neighbouring cities were already immortalised in the Chinese adage: ‘Above is heaven, on earth are Suzhou and Hangzhou.’ The 19th century brought the British and their gunboats, spurring the rapid expansion of Shanghai, a city that quickly became known as the Paris of the East. Under Mao cities lost their ancient walls and acquired the smokestacks and compounds of socialist production centres. This long history means that China’s contemporary urban landscape may look futuristic but its roots lie in the deep past and each rapidly expanding megalopolis has its own distinct historical identity.
It is only in the last three decades that historians of China have moved away from their focus on the Communist revolution and explored how other factors have been central to the country’s development. One of the most fruitful areas of research has been the history of cities, though for many years it was believed that there was no such thing as urban culture in late imperial China. This stems from the sociologist Max Weber’s idea that a European merchant class developed a separate corporate identity, whereas elites in China may have lived in the city but remained linked to the countryside through extended lineage ties. This was simply not the case. Instead, commercial or political distinctiveness produced diverse and vibrant cities across the empire, reflected in the rapid growth of guidebooks, group tours (often led by literati) and the rise of a salon culture. Suzhou epitomised this trend. From the mid-Ming dynasty onwards (c.15th century) its two major industries of cotton and silk were supplemented with small-scale trades such as embroidery, printing, jewellery and the copying of books and pictures. Its streets were lined with hostels, flower boats sailed its canals, their courtesans enticing tourists with promises of evening delights, while dealers traded in myriad products from across the empire. Meanwhile the city’s elites wrote, painted and designed celebrated gardens, some of which survive.
Basically someone’s going to make a lot more money from cities, states, counties that the Tea party candidates who got us here live in. Will their constituents notice that they are pissing tons more money away in finance costs for local governance?
Standard & Poor’s lowered the AAA ratings of thousands of municipal bonds tied to the federal government, including housing securities and debt backed by leases, following its Aug. 5 downgrade of the U.S.
The rating company assigned AA scores to securities in the $2.9 trillion municipal bond market including school- construction bonds in Irving, Texas; debt backed by a federal lease in Miami; and a bond series for multifamily housing in Oceanside, California. Olayinka Fadahunsi, an S&P spokesman, said he couldn’t provide a dollar figure on the affected debt.
S&P also cut ratings on securities backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, prerefunded issues and munis repaid by using federal assets, also known as defeased or escrow bonds. No state general-obligation ratings were affected and the company said some may remain unchanged.