Skip to navigationSkip to content

Rethinking cities

Cities have been the source of many of humanity’s greatest triumphs as well as some of our greatest injustices. Our ability to live together in close proximity is essential to innovation—unless coronavirus has finally made remote work a substitute for doing things in person. Whether or not cities still can claim to be economically essential, they’re going to have to change dramatically to address climate change, inequality, and a shifting workforce.

Art: Quartz. Photo: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton

Sponsored Obsession by
  • Growth for all cities

    Image copyright: Reuters/Temilade Adelaja
    Shoppers crowd at a market place, as Nigeria’s Lagos state eases a round-the-clock curfew imposed in response to protests against alleged police brutality, after days…

    68%: Share of the global population that will live in cities by 2050, a growth of 2.5 billion people from 2018 numbers. Much of that growth will happen in China, India, and Nigeria

  • By the digits

    34: Megacities (cities with a population of 10 million or more) in the world as of 2022

    12%: Proportion of the global population living in megacities in 2018 

    50: Megacities expected by 2035

    16%: Proportion of the global population expected to be living in megacities in 2035

  • Charting the urban-rural divide

    In the US and elsewhere, the difference between urban and rural populations isn’t just geography—it’s an indication of political leanings. As more people move to cities and the loci of political and socioeconomic power becomes even more concentrated in urban centers, this division will likely become even more stark.

  • Quotable

    “At the end of day, we can all stand in the water up to our ankles on a sunny day and recognize that something is wrong here that needs to be fixed.” —Ken Russell, a Miami city commissioner

  • Commonly held question

    Can cities survive without office workers?

    As the pandemic eliminated commutes and quieted foot and street traffic around the world, the timbre of life in cities has changed. Whether workers have moved out of cities completely or are just staying home, enterprises from fast casual lunch haunts to public transit entities have suffered. Without a constellation of information-sector companies, it will be a challenge for cities to maintain their vibrancy.

  • Keep reading

    • Can smart cities help residents without hurting their privacy? Smart cities rely on residents’ valuable personal data to succeed, but we haven’t found a way to protect the people who generate it.
    • Will cities of the future need traffic lights? Now that we’re facing a new generation of unprecedented urban growth, the traffic light as we know it may soon become a thing of the past.
    • It’s time to prepare cities for people uprooted by climate change. Making cities true havens for climate migrants will require a sweeping vision to serve current and future residents in a warming world.
    • I’ve seen a future without cars, and it’s amazing. Post-pandemic, cities can begin to undo their worst mistake: giving up so much space to cars.

  • Fun fact

    Image copyright: Reuters/Rafiqur Rahman
    A Bangladeshi woman carries food in tiffin carriers to supply to different shops and offices in Dhaka July 19,2005. Many poor people in Dhaka city…

    For hundreds of thousands of Mumbai residents, lunch is defined by the tiffin. The way these meals are delivered is an impressive feat, made necessary by the city’s crowded subways. Mumbai-wide, an order gets screwed up about once every two months, or one every 16 million deliveries. That’s an error rate comparable to the most efficient companies on earth.

  • Brief history

    The push for expanded broadband. For many, internet access is no longer a luxury—it’s necessary for participation in society. In order to expand access within cities, some activists are looking to categorize the internet as a utility, which would make it the government’s responsibility to ensure residents can connect. Meanwhile, in smaller cities where access can be difficult to come by, governments are juicing up connections by laying undersea cables around the world, though many are finding it difficult to create broadband networks of their own.