Urban Resilience: How American Cities are Innovating for The 21st Century

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The "smart city" may be the latest trend in urban planning, but the fundamentals haven't changed.
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Over the last year, The Takeaway has been exploring the idea of “urban resilience” with a number of public radio stations, including KPBS in San Diego, OPB in Portland, WDET in Detroit, and KUT in Austin. And today, as part of our year in review, we’re exploring innovation and technology in the 21st century. Here’s what you’ll find in this special episode:

  • How resilient are this nation's cities in times of stress? We put that question to Dan Zarrilli, New York City's chief resilience officer and the senior director of climate policy and programs. He oversees New York's preparedness in light of climate change predictions. Zarilli says having someone focused on climate change helps with disaster planning.
  • The small town of Borrego Springs, California is home to about 3,400 people. But as power outages roll across the Golden State, this tiny community has been able to do something few other towns have: Get off the grid entirely. Erik Anderson, a reporter for KPBS, explains.
  • The winter of 2015 was the warmest in the lower 48 states since record keeping started 121 years ago, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The world’s warming climate is already having an impact on places like Austin, Texas, according to KUT Reporter Mose Buchele.
  • The majority of U.S. cities had electricity by the 1930s, but that wasn't the case in rural parts of the country. Nowadays, many rural areas in America are still waiting for high-speed internet. Christopher Mitchell, director of Community Broadband Networks at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Minneapolis, Minnesota, explains what it’ll take to spread fiber optic cables across rural parts of the nation.
  • For years, environmental regulators knew Portland, Oregon had an air pollution problem. But now researchers with the U.S. Forest Service have found a way to use the city’s tree moss to test for air pollution. Cassandra Profita from Oregon Public Broadcasting hit the streets to find out more.
  • When the city of Detroit emerged from the nation’s largest-ever municipal bankruptcy two years ago, it was left with a razor-thin financial cushion. Now, Detroit’s downtown is booming with new construction, but some long-time residents — primarily African Americans — fear the investment isn’t about them. WDET’s Quinn Klinefelter explains.