Arne Hendriks is so enthralled by fat that he is building his own “fatberg” – a huge congealed slab of fat, oil and grease. He currently has almost 50kg worth in a giant tank. Eventually he hopes to float it in the ocean. At a science conference in a Newcastle University lecture theatre, the Dutch artist explains his fascination with fat. “It is the iconic substance of our age. Fat is life’s battery and allows us to move away from direct energy sources. It allows us to regard ourselves as embodied energy.” But for cities around the world, fatbergs – made up of fats, oils and greases or FOGs – are a problem to be solved, not a substance to be celebrated. Last month on the streets of Malabon, just north of Manila, paddle boats replaced cars after typhoons Egay and Falcon were exacerbated by FOGs from restaurants and fast-food chains, clogging the sewers and submerging the streets. Nor is Manila’s sewer system the only one with … [Read more...] about Fighting the fatbergs: how cities are waging war on clogged sewers
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If you live in Glasgow, you are more likely to die young. Men die a full seven years earlier than their counterparts in other UK cities. Until recently, the causes of this excess mortality remained a mystery. “Deep-fried Mars bars,” some have speculated. “The weather,” others suggested. For years, those reasons were as good as any. In 2012, the Economist described it thus: “It is as if a malign vapour rises from the Clyde at night and settles in the lungs of sleeping Glaswegians.” The phenomenon has become known as the Glasgow effect. But David Walsh, a public health programme manager at the Glasgow Centre for Population Health, who led a study on the excess deaths in 2010, wasn’t satisfied with how the term was being used. “It turned into a Scooby-Doo mystery but it’s not an exciting thing,” he says. “It’s about people dying young, it’s about grief.” He wanted to work out why Glaswegians have a 30% … [Read more...] about Urban living makes us miserable – this city is trying to change that
If you propose a high-rise public housing project in America, your opponents will almost certainly use Pruitt-Igoe as a rhetorical weapon against you – and defeat you with it. The Captain WO Pruitt Homes and William L Igoe Apartments, a racially segregated, middle-class complex of 33 11-storey towers, opened to great fanfare on the north side of St Louis between 1954 and 1956. But within a decade, it would become a decrepit warehouse exclusively inhabited by poor, black residents. Within two decades, it would undergo complete demolition. Whether you call Pruitt-Igoe’s short, troubled existence a failure of architecture, a failure of policy, or a failure of society, its fate remains bound up with, and reflective of, the fate of many American cities in the mid-20th century. Even before the dust settled from the infamous, widely televised 1972 implosion of one of Pruitt-Igoe’s buildings (the last of which wouldn’t fall until 1976), the argument that the design had … [Read more...] about Pruitt-Igoe: the troubled high-rise that came to define urban America – a history of cities in 50 buildings, day 21
You are lying down with your head in a noisy and tightfitting fMRI brain scanner, which is unnerving in itself. You agreed to take part in this experiment, and at first the psychologists in charge seemed nice. They set you some rather confusing maths problems to solve against the clock, and you are doing your best, but they aren't happy. "Can you please concentrate a little better?" they keep saying into your headphones. Or, "You are among the worst performing individuals to have been studied in this laboratory." Helpful things like that. It is a relief when time runs out. Few people would enjoy this experience, and indeed the volunteers who underwent it were monitored to make sure they had a stressful time. Their minor suffering, however, provided data for what became a major study, and a global news story. The researchers, led by Dr Andreas Meyer-Lindenberg of the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim, Germany, were trying to find out more about how the brains of different … [Read more...] about Sick cities: why urban living can be bad for your mental health
She has barely ever been in a car, and never eaten meat or flown. Now 31, she lives on the 15th floor of a city centre tower from where she can just see the ocean 500 yards away on one side and the suburbs and informal settlements sprawling as far as the eye can see on the other. Life is OK in this megacity. She earns the exact median income and is as green as she feels she can be: she has no children yet, her carbon footprint is negligible, and her apartment, built in the early 2000s, has been retrofitted for climate change with deep insulation, its own solar air-con and heating systems. It has a “living” wall of plants and a balcony where she grows a few vegetables. Waste is automatically sorted or composted. Outside it may be roasting, with temperatures often higher than 40C. Inside, she’s cool. She loves where she lives, even though the water tastes slightly salty sometimes and there are often electricity outages in the summer months because of the frequent … [Read more...] about The climate crisis in 2050: what happens if cities act but nations don’t?