WORKSHOP ON MEGACITIES
November 10-11, 2008
World population continues growing much faster in cities than in rural areas as a result of many economic, social, political, and technological factors. This rapid urbanization has lead to the emergence of megacities,-- those with populations greater than 10 million. There are currently 15 megacities in the world, Los Angeles being one of the two in the United States, and with a population soon to exceed 20 million. Moreover, the number of megacities is growing exponentially, and there are many more urban areas of several million inhabitants that share common and similar problems with megacities.
Megacities face tremendous challenges. This includes increasingly complex transportation systems, energy and environmental impacts, and risks from natural and manmade hazards. Also there are unprecedented pressures associated wtih population growth, including homelessness, poverty, and the spread of disease. Megacities function through complex interactions between people and social systems, infrastructure systems, business and industry, and the environment. Today these complex interdependencies are so poorly understood that urban systems may respond unpredictably to extreme events, such as earthquakes, fires, droughts, floods, and terrorist attacks.
Megacities apply tremendous pressures to the environment. A megacity consumes an enormous amounts of energy, other natural resources, and imported goods; and releases production, exports, ordinary and toxic wastes, and greenhouse gases. Very little that feeds and builds a megacity comes from the city itself, and even less of the waste stays there. Thousands of square kilometers are required outside the city limits to feed a megacity and absorb its discards. Thus, megacities have large ecological footprints that threaten not only their own sustainability but that of many other areas.
Faced with the gigantic challenges of megacities, the Center on Megacities hosted a workshop on November 10-11, 2008. The workshop objectives were to discuss transformational technologies for megacities among scientists, engineers, economists and other social scientists, architects and planners. These innovations will facilitate: 1) functional, livable, and sustainable high-density space above and below ground while recognizing constraints on energy, transportation, and water; 2) sustainable use and enhancement of water and energy resources; 3) cleaner water and air and acceptable exposure for public heath; and 4) safety and resiliency in the face of major disruptions.
The Workshop called upon 20 different areas of expertise from atmospheric and natural sciences, engineering, social science, architecture, public health, planning and public policy. The workshop addressed megacities challenges by integrating innovatively complex systems sciences, information technology, engineering, environmental sciences; public health, economics and other social sciences, and planning.
The Workshop built upon a successful vision that prompted the naming gift of the Sonny Astani Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering in November 2007, and the creation of the Center for Megacities at the University of Southern California in October 2008. The main objectives of the Workshop were to: 1) build partnerships and explore new ideas for interdisciplinary research integrating disciplines such as complex systems sciences, natural sciences, architecture, policies and planning, economics and finance, and 2) create an interdisciplinary research agenda responsive to the needs of large urban expansions.
The workshop was organized around the following seven key issues in megacities: (1) Energy and Water Resources (2) Pollution, Waste, Environment, and Public Health (3) Transportation and Ports (4) Disasters, Risks and Security (5) Livability, Land Use, and Architecture (6) Social and Economical Aspects (7) Complex Systems (8) Finance and Entrepreneurship.
The workshop on megacities was sponsored jointly by the USC Provost Office through a Zumberge Grant, the Viterbi School of Engineering through an Innovation research funds, and Montgomery Watson Harza (MWH).