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Why Are Squatter Cities The 'Cities Of Tomorrow'?

"To just assume that these places should be driven out of existence is not the answer." — Robert Neuwirth
Robert Leslie
"To just assume that these places should be driven out of existence is not the answer." — Robert Neuwirth

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode The Future of Cities. Watch Robert Neuwirth's full Talk — Our Shadow Cities — on

About Robert Neuwirth's Talk

Author Robert Neuwirth spent two years exploring one of the most profound trends of our time: the mass migration of the world's population into urban shantytowns. Life in a favela, slum or shantytown is hard: no water, no transport, no sewage. But in the squatter cities of Rio, Nairobi, Istanbul and Mumbai, Neuwirth discovered restaurants, markets, clinics and effective forms of self-organization.

In this Talk, Neuwirth demonstrates how the world's squatter sites — where a billion people now make their homes — are thriving centers of ingenuity and innovation.

About Robert Neuwirth

American journalist and author Robert Neuwirth wrote Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A New Urban World, describing his experiences living in squatter communities. He has written articles for The New York Times, The Nation and Newsday.

In his latest book, Stealth of Nations, Neuwirth challenges conventional thinking by examining informal economies close up. He spent four years living and working with street vendors and traders working within these informal economies to capture their scope, vigor — and lessons. He calls it "System D," arguing that these are not hidden economies, but visible, growing and effective ones that foster entrepreneurship and represent nearly 2 million jobs worldwide.

Our challenge, Neuwirth says, isn't to end squatter cities or shut down gray markets — but to engage and empower those who live and work in them.

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