Our weekly roundup of the most intriguing articles about cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days. Share your favorites on Twitter with #cityreads.
"Refugees of the Modern World," Joseph Stromberg, Slate
You can turn on your phone on in Green Bank, W.Va., but you won’t get a trace of a signal. If you hit scan on your car’s radio, it’ll cycle through the dial endlessly, never pausing on a station. This remote mountainous town is inside the U.S. National Radio Quiet Zone, a 13,000–square-mile area where most types of electromagnetic radiation on the radio spectrum (which includes radio and TV broadcasts, Wi-Fi networks, cell signals, Bluetooth, and the signals used by virtually every other wireless device) are banned to minimize disturbance around the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, home to the world’s largest steerable radio telescope.
For most people, this restriction is a nuisance. But a few dozen people have moved to Green Bank (population: 147) specifically because of it. They say they suffer from electromagnetic hypersensitivity, or EHS—a disease not recognized by the scientific community in which these frequencies can trigger acute symptoms like dizziness, nausea, rashes, irregular heartbeat, weakness, and chest pains. Diane Schou came here with her husband in 2007 because radio-frequency exposure anywhere else she went gave her constant headaches. “Life isn’t perfect here. There’s no grocery store, no restaurants, no hospital nearby,” she told me when I visited her house last month. “But here, at least, I'm healthy. I can do things. I'm not in bed with a headache all the time.”
"Russia’s Olympic City," Anna Nemtsova, Foreign Policy
Six-year-old Kirill Dragan looked on silently as the wall grew. Just a few days earlier the spot where workers were stacking up cinderblocks on layers of mortar had been a roadway lined with the flowerbeds and grape trellises owned by Kirill's parents and 12 other families. But then the bulldozers and trucks moved in, submerging it all in dust and concrete. The boy watched as heavy machines dug holes, dumped mounds of gravel and sand, and unloaded more and more concrete blocks. The giant construction site for the 2014 Winter Olympics spreads all the way from the shores of the Black Sea to the snow-capped peaks of the Caucasus Mountains on the horizon.
For months, this neighborhood of dilapidated houses has been trying to fight back the tide of construction and cynical threats from officialdom. If you were wondering why a topless, obscenity-yelling woman protestor saw the need to confront Russia's president about human rights violations during his trip to Germany earlier this week, all you have to do is come to Sochi.
"Want to Read the Law? It'll Cost You," Lydia DePillis, The New Republic
Say you live in Rhode Island and want to upgrade the ancient plumbing in your kitchen. You figure you should be able to save some cash and do it yourself, but want to make sure you're on the up-and-up with all applicable codes and regulations. So you head over to the state’s website to read the plumbing code.
Problem is, the 15-page "code" is actually just a series of modifications to a 156-page volume of standards published by the International Code Council—the 2009 edition of which, according to the introduction to the state regs, “is protected by the copyright that has been issued to the ICC. As a result, the State Building Code is not available in complete form to the public in an electronic format."
"The Future of the City," Leo Hollis, Aeon Magazine
Hurricane Sandy raises big questions about how we will live in the future. A city mayor, even one as optimistic as New York’s Michael Bloomberg, cannot stand up amid the wreckage and tell people that everything is fine, that it will never happen again. Today we face an ecological challenge of our own making: now that the majority of us live in cities, it is within the metropolis that our future salvation or death warrant will be drafted.
"Struggling W.Va. Town Hopes Boy Scout Camp Brings New Life," Noah Adams, NPR
Picture a tiny town set along a creek in West Virginia. A mountain rises from the town's eastern edge, overlooking the 1,400 people living below. Then, July comes — and 50,000 people arrive on that mountain for the National Boy Scout Jamboree.
The town is called Mount Hope. I've heard some call it "Mount Hopeless." The town went through the long, downward slump from the boom days of deep-mine coal, when it was a grand, small-town capitol of coal mining.
Top image: DRGill /Shutterstock