Infoporn: the 30 cities on the edge of disaster
by Matthew Reynolds (feat. Robert Muggah)
Dec 3, 2016
Cities can cope with high income inequality, natural disasters or booming populations - but combine the three and the result is deadly. Robert Muggah, research director of Rio de Janeiro-based think tank the Igarapé Institute, combed through data on 2,100 cities to find out which factors make an area more likely to become violent, unsafe and fragile.
"Every city in the world manifests some degree, to a lesser or greater extent, of fragility," says Muggah, who chronicled the world's murders in WIRED 07.15. "In Asia, statistics that seem to pull cities towards fragility are significant numbers of terrorist killings or high levels of air pollution. In the Americas, it's homicide."
Although many of the world's most fragile cities are afflicted by conflict, about a third are located in stable countries. The 40 fragile cities in middle- or high-income countries include London, whose social inequality and high risk of flooding make it the fifth most fragile city in Europe. New York's exposure to cyclones places it at the top of the US list.
"Cities seen to be stable can potentially become less so, if we don't start understanding and engaging with some of these underlying risks," Muggah says.
Muggah is combining his fragility index with data on climate change from Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, in a visualisation that will be installed in museums around the world in 2017. Yet, he says, there are huge gaps when it comes to the developing world.
"There is a lack of information about what's going on in the majority of cities. Ninety per cent of future urban population growth is going to take place in cities we know very little about."