Katie Couric: “Urbanization explained”

In a little under three minutes, Katie Couric explains urbanization. Here is some of the text that goes along with the video:

Bright lights, big cities are getting bigger and brighter. Urbanization — the expansion of cities — is on the rise. People across the globe are heading into urban areas looking for work, education and health care. Others arrive, fleeing wars and natural disasters. They turn to the city life for better living and more opportunities…

Without the proper planning, the rapid increase in urban areas, especially in developing countries where most growth is happening, can lead to some big problems. The World Economic Forum has identified the biggest challenges, from health to poverty to pollution to outmoded transportation…

Governments are faced with the challenges of properly preparing cities for these popping populations by following health guidelines, making housing affordable, funding infrastructure projects and investing in mass transit and alternative energy sources to give Mother Nature a break.

But, still, cities are hot spots for cultural development and economic opportunity. So whether you’re a country mouse or a city slicker, when it comes to urbanization, at least you can say, “Now I get it.”

Three quick thoughts:

  1. The story is broken into three parts: the rapid population increase in cities, the peril of these growing cities, and some of the promise of cities. Explain the term, describe some of the problems this causes, and hint at some good things about cities.
  2. A good portion of this is devoted to the difficulties that arise with rapidly growing cities. These are real issues – though they have been going on for decades and will likely continue in the future – that need big solutions. Yet, few solutions are offered or nor is there any suggestion how cities might be part of the solution rather than simply present more issues. And, why put the big issues ahead of the promise of cities which only comes at the end? If the majority of the world’s people are going to be in cities within the next few decades and the majority of the world’s GDP is there as well, could cities be both perilous and promising? As the viewer, should I be fearful of what these global megacities bring (epidemics, climate change, etc.)?
  3. There are some interesting cultural references in here such as country mouse and city mouse as well as country boy (or girl) versus city slickers. These simply seem outdated to me; in 2015, how many people really use these terms? While urbanization is happening at an impressive rate around the world, it already took place in the United States with now more than 80% of the population living in metropolitan areas.

Untimely end for source of Internet meme about Internet

The NBC employee who released footage of Bryant Gumbel, Katie Couric, and Elizabeth Vargas struggling to define the Internet back in 1994 has been fired. So much for (corporate) information wanting to be free.

But I also don’t quite understand what all the fuss has been about. Sure, their conversation sounds silly to us today. But this was only 16 years ago. If anything, this clip and its popularity demonstrates how quickly the Internet has become an part of everyday life. Back in 1994, the Internet was not used by the common American. My family got AOL in the next year or two, I remember a friend’s family having Prodigy around this time, but most people had no access and realistically, no need for access. Couric, Gumbel, and Vargas were like many Americans: just trying to figure out what this new technology was and how it was used.

More broadly, this released video fits with patterns of more modern people laughing at or commenting on how much better life is now compared to the past. From the vantage point of 2011, we can see the benefits of the Internet and we are bombarded with messages from companies suggesting we need even more of it (in our phones, in our treadmills, etc.). But anytime new technology is introduced, it takes time for the mass public to figure out whether it is a good change or not.