Stewart Brand: Why squatter cities are a good thing (2006 Tedtalk)

by ameetdesh on Sep 15, 2007      Category: Housing & Sanitation Tags: economics video urbanization tedtalk

Rural villages worldwide are being deserted, as billions of people flock to cities, to live in teeming squatter camps and slums. And Stewart Brand says this is a good thing. Why? It'll take you 3 minutes to find out

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ameetdesh's picture


I am doctoral student at UC San Diego. I am interested in Economics and role of appropriate Technology in development and education. With the internet, the world has become a small place, with best practices in various fields accessible at mouseclick. In future I would like to play such rolw of a more



ameetdesh's picture

I think this is a very important economic fact, that people crowding the cities & staying in slums are there trying to get out of poverty. Some people high up in government are trying to reverse the trend of urban migration, and such project, if not designed properly, might be a sink of public funds & will hardly dent the problem.

aaditeshwar's picture

Interesting point. I somehow missed the crux of the talk! This is a cross-posting from the rural-urban divide discussion...

To add to the confusion, I came across a new term: the peri-urban interface. It takes an interesting time-dependent perspective on how rural areas integrate with urban areas, and how these "interfaces" become places of high flux and contradictory policies. I particularly liked the categorization of how this change leads to both opportunities as well as problems. In this light, does urbanization only imply moving to cities, or urbanization also implies how rural areas are transformed into urban centers? Take a look at this excellent urbanization-chart on BBC: As you can see, it is not just a few cities that are attracting more and more people, but newer and newer cities that are coming up.

ameetdesh's picture

Great article Adi! I think, cities thrive because they offer most efficient hence rewarding, coordination mechanism for cooperative human endeavors apart from farming. In terms of access to capital, talent, market. Coordination needs either physical proximity if trade is of material goods or excellent communication if it is not. In this sense, one way to look at holistic development is to create more & more avenues of cooperation & enable equitable access to them by policies & infrastructure. (education, better roads, energy, communications, creation of many small cities, strengthning peri urban interface) When rural GDP grows to match Urban, the migration will cease. For that to happen, agriculture has to be more productive. For which, it needs to be consolidated, use more technology and employ less people. If we make sure that cities deliver on the promise of better life, and there is upward mobility in slums, things are good.

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