Will cities lead the charge?Review of The Triumph of the City by Edward Glaeser
The message of Edward Glaeser’s book is in the sub-title: ‘How our greatest invention makes us richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier’. ‘Aha’, you might think – depending on your preference: agriculture; universities; printing; penicillin; the internet; roll-on deodorant; cheese and onion crisps . . . Well, No. There’s a further clue to Glaeser’s thinking in the main title. His book is called ‘The Triumph of the City’. These ‘dense agglomerations’ (which is as close as we come to a definition) are engines of innovation, the epitome of human progress. Cities vary a great deal, as we discover towards the end of the book (the ‘imperial city’, the ‘smart city’, the ‘consumer city’); and some fail (step forward Detroit). But taken as a group, cities speed innovation, act as gateways between markets and cultures, provide opportunities for cultural enrichment – and, incidentally, provide a higher standard of living at a lower environmental cost than suburban or rural alternatives. I live in Brighton, which used to be only a town. But, hooray, we were declared a city by the Queen in 2000. I definitely feel richer, smarter, greener, healthier and happier!