The Financial Times (via Slate) had this really good article on megacities, and how they have evolved over the past thirty years. A megacity, in the article’s definition, is a city with a population greater than ten million people. The subtext of the article is, basically a megacity is so big that any accurate accounting of population is impossible because a. the population is growing/moving too fast and b. the city lacks the infrastructure to count them all and 3. many of them are undocumented, transitory, or otherwise flying below the radar.
The notion that cities are changing really frickin’ fast is not new, but I found the article to be a really cogent summary of the ways in which cities have grown beyond themselves. It clearly described some of the challenges of the 21st century urban area, particularly in the developing world: unplanned development, fundraising (read: taxation) challenges, burgeoning slums and seriously rapid in-migration – especially in Asia, where (according to the article), the urban population is growing by 45 million people per year (damn!).
While some cities have grown in a fairly organized fashion (Tokyo and Seoul in particular), others are, basically, a shitshow; how to resolve the challenges the less successful cities face is one of the Grand Planning Challenges of our time.