Linda Poon is a staff writer at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
A roundup of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the past seven days.
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“High in the Andes, A Mine Eats a 400-Year-Old City,” Tony Dajer, National Geographic
CERRO DE PASCO, Peru—For a woman intent on moving an entire city, fifty-six-year old Congresswoman Gloria Ramos Prudencio, barely five feet tall, looks unassuming. Her city is Cerro de Pasco, population 70,000. Perched on the treeless Peruvian altiplano at 14,200 feet, it’s one of the highest cities on the planet.
“As a girl, walking past Bellavista, where the Americans lived, I would pester my mother, ‘Why do the gringos get the nice houses?’ ” the soft-spoken Ramos recalls. “In school my teachers called me preguntona”— she of too many questions.
These days, her main question is how to save her hometown from a very big hole.
Latin America over the past decade has seen its mining sector triple in value to $300 billion. Peru’s economy, among the fastest growing, derives one-sixth of its gross domestic product from minerals. At Cerro de Pasco, you can see the entire history of Peruvian mining —and the costs it sometimes imposes: The mine here is literally consuming the 400-year-old town that supports it.
“How to Say Goodbye to City Life,” Tom Breihan, Deadspin
There may come a time in your life when, through choice or necessity, you will find yourself abandoning the metropolis you’ve called home for however many years. The bars you’ve been kicked out of, the parks you’ve surreptitiously pissed in, the various former workplaces where you once spent so much time ... they may no longer be a part of your life. Maybe you got a job offer somewhere where people smile and wave at strangers. Maybe you’ve got kids and don’t want them to see you arguing with your terrifying Eastern European landlord anymore. Maybe the Yakuza are looking for you. Whatever the case, it’s time to say goodbye to big-city life and resettle someplace quieter. This will be an adjustment, but it doesn’t have to be a painful one.
When you’re living in a bigger city, it’s easy to forget that there are other, smaller places in between said cities. But they do, and many of them are more livable than you might imagine. Some of them, in fact, are so livable that, within a few years, you will visit your old city and shock yourself by wondering why in the fuck people live this way. Here’s some advice on how to get to that point.
“What It Feels Like to Cover Gun Violence in America,” Jennifer Mascia, Vogue
“Reports of a shooting at a community college in Oregon.”
My editor is reading aloud from Twitter. In our one-room office with a view of the Empire State Building, I and the other writers and editors at The Trace—a news site dedicated to gun violence and policy—begin refreshing for updates. Reports of someone roaming a school with a gun have become common, but these episodes usually end in arrest, which is what I’m expecting when my editor speaks again. “Ten people dead at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg.”
Here we go. I snap into motion and start gathering details for the stories we’ll be posting over the next few hours. Where’d he get the gun? If he (and it’s almost always a he) armed himself legally—as at least eleven perpetrators of mass shootings since 2009 have done—I want my readers to know that some mechanism along the way failed. I look up the laws in Oregon. How difficult is it to get a firearm there? What are the criteria for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed handgun? Does Oregon prohibit private sales at gun shows?
I keep my eye on Twitter, where stories about acts of heroism by victims and survivors are starting to pop up in my feed. One of the students at Umpqua, Chris Mintz, an Army veteran, was shot seven times after charging the gunman. He is photographed smiling from his hospital bed. One mother tells a reporter that her sixteen-year-old daughter, while inside the school, announced her bullet wound to friends and family via Facebook: “ ‘The effer shot me in the back!’—her word, not mine.” It’s barely a whiff of comic relief, but in the midst of all this death and chaos, a mother apologizing for her daughter’s language is so normal, it almost brings me to tears.
“Coffee Across America,” Palmer Gibbs, Mashable
WASHINGTON, D.C. — We unfolded the United States map on the kitchen table, simultaneously excited and overwhelmed with our upcoming cross-country road trip. With an arrival date set in stone, we knew we had to be efficient, but we didn’t want such a remarkable experience to fly by in a haze of unremarkable strip malls and Starbucks.
In our planned 10 days on the road, how could we anchor our stops in a way that would let us experience each town, sans tourist traps?
We found our answer in local coffee shops.
My partner Colette and I have frequented independent shops wherever we’ve lived, and love how they often reflect the varied vibe of different neighborhoods. We hoped replicating the practice on the road would have the same effect, providing a window into each community we visited.
Plus, we knew we would need (at least) one caffeine jolt a day. Like many Americans, Colette and I try not to interact with humanity until we’ve gulped down at least one cup of joe.
“Resettled Refugees Help To 'Bring Buffalo Back’,” Joel Rose, NPR
If you want to see how refugees are changing Buffalo, N.Y., the West Side Bazaar is a good place to start. It's an incubator for immigrant-owned businesses. And it's the only place in town where you can eat Ethiopian sponge bread, Burmese noodles and Peruvian chicken at the same table. It's also a market with clothing and gifts.
"We are like family here — families from different countries," says Nadeen Yousef, who moved to Buffalo from Iraq last year. Yousef now has a booth at the bazaar, where she sells handmade macrame wall hangings and art.
There's been a vigorous debate in this country about refugee resettlement, much of it focused on whether Syrian refugees pose a security threat. There's been less talk about what happens when refugees put down roots in their new country, in places like Buffalo's west side.