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TED2006

Stewart Brand: What squatter cities can teach us

February 2, 2006

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

Stewart Brand - Environmentalist, futurist
Since the counterculture '60s, Stewart Brand has been creating our internet-worked world. Now, with biotech accelerating four times faster than digital technology, Stewart Brand has a bold new plan ... Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
Basically, there's a major demographic event going on.
00:26
And it may be that passing the 50 percent urban point
00:29
is an economic tipping point. So the world now is a map of connectivity.
00:32
It used to be that Paris and London and New York were the largest cities.
00:40
What we have now is the end of the rise of the West. That's over.
00:45
The aggregate numbers are overwhelming.
00:51
So what's really going on? Well, villages of the world are emptying out.
00:53
The question is, why?
01:05
And here's the unromantic truth -- and the city air makes you free,
01:07
they said in Renaissance Germany. So some people go to places
01:12
like Shanghai but most go to the squatter cities where aesthetics rule.
01:15
And these are not really a people oppressed by poverty.
01:21
They're people getting out of poverty as fast as they can.
01:23
They're the dominant builders and to a large extent, the dominant designers.
01:26
They have home-brewed infrastructure and vibrant urban life.
01:30
One-sixth of the GDP in India is coming out of Mumbai.
01:32
They are constantly upgrading, and in a few cases, the government helps.
01:37
Education is the main event that can happen in cities.
01:41
What's going on in the street in Mumbai?
01:44
Al Gore knows. It's basically everything.
01:46
There's no unemployment in squatter cities. Everyone works.
01:53
One-sixth of humanity is there. It's soon going to be more than that.
02:06
So here's the first punch line:
02:10
cities have defused the population bomb.
02:13
And here's the second punch line.
02:19
That's the news from downtown. Here it is in perspective.
02:24
Stars have shined down on earth's life for billions of years.
02:58
Now we're shining right back up.
03:01
Thank you.
03:11

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Stewart Brand - Environmentalist, futurist
Since the counterculture '60s, Stewart Brand has been creating our internet-worked world. Now, with biotech accelerating four times faster than digital technology, Stewart Brand has a bold new plan ...

Why you should listen

With biotech accelerating four times faster than digital technology, the revival of extinct species is becoming possible. Stewart Brand plans to not only bring species back but restore them to the wild.

Brand is already a legend in the tech industry for things he’s created: the Whole Earth Catalog, The WELL, the Global Business Network, the Long Now Foundation, and the notion that “information wants to be free.” Now Brand, a lifelong environmentalist, wants to re-create -- or “de-extinct” -- a few animals that’ve disappeared from the planet.

Granted, resurrecting the woolly mammoth using ancient DNA may sound like mad science. But Brand’s Revive and Restore project has an entirely rational goal: to learn what causes extinctions so we can protect currently endangered species, preserve genetic and biological diversity, repair depleted ecosystems, and essentially “undo harm that humans have caused in the past.”

His newest book is Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto.

The original video is available on TED.com
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