Also: Uber drivers are stressed and in debt, and who is really buying property in San Francisco.

Keep up with the most pressing, interesting, and important city stories of the day. Sign up for the CityLab Daily newsletter here.


What We’re Following

Deep breaths: When the first Earth Day took place on this day in 1970, cities weren’t seen as good for the planet. Protesters wore gas masks to emphasize how urban life detached people from nature, industrialized cities had very visible air and water pollution, and New York City was seen as an “ecological nightmare.” But those initial demonstrations launched a movement that produced agencies and laws to tackle the environmental problems concentrated in cities. As CityLab’s Laura Bliss wrote of the day’s roots in 2015, Earth Day started the ideological shift that would later see cities as more environmentally friendly.

That movement also gave way to new fields of study that examined environmental science and planning. One example of this research is the Children’s Health Study in California. As thousands of children blew into spirometers to measure the power of their breathing, scientists compared those results with neighborhood air quality to inspect the link between air pollution and health. With increased long-term health consequences, “[p]ollution had planted a hidden seed of vulnerability in these children, an unseen frailty that would set their futures on a different trajectory than their peers’,” as Beth Gardiner writes in her new book, Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution. Read an excerpt on CityLab: How Scientists Discovered What Dirty Air Does to Kids’ Health

Andrew Small

More on CityLab

What Happened to Earth Day?

In the beginning, it was a policy-shaking event that awakened a new generation of activists. But now even environmentalists have misgivings about it.

Kate Yoder

Conversations With D.C. Uber Drivers Reveal Stress and Debt

A new report from Georgetown University reveals wage and other challenges faced by Uber drivers in Washington, D.C., yet many say they plan to keep driving.

Sarah Holder

Could Hawaii Be Paradise For Hydrogen-Powered Public Transit?

As prices drop for renewable power, some researchers hope the island state could be the ideal testbed for hydrogen fuel cells in public transportation.

Laura Bliss

Who’s Really Buying Property in San Francisco?

A lot of software developers, according to an unprecedented new analysis.

Alexis C. Madrigal

Every Tree in the City, Mapped

Researchers at Descartes Labs are using artificial intelligence to make a better map of the urban tree canopy.

Linda Poon

Border Art

A model of a church created by a young person held at Tornillo detention facility in El Paso, when it was operational. (Daniel Perez/University of Texas El Paso)

Last year, the U.S. government built a massive detention facility to hold migrant children in a remote area around Tornillo, Texas, near the U.S.-Mexico border. Over its seven-month lifespan, the tent city at Tornillo housed about 6,000 undocumented teenagers, largely from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. It closed in January amid a public backlash to the government separating children from their parents and holding 13- to 17-year-old kids in detention longer than usual.

Now, the best physical evidence of that facility can be found in a museum: An art exhibit at the University of Texas El Paso’s El Paso Centennial Museum features work created by children who lived at Tornillo. “In the midst of that secrecy, and all of us wondering about the kids, this artwork gave us a little glimpse into [their] lives,” said the director of UTEP’s Institute of Oral History, who acquired the art. CityLab’s Tanvi Misra takes a look at the art of the migrant kids detained in Tornillo.

What We’re Reading

What the rise of renting means for cities (Governing)

Los Angeles has a plan to reboot its bus system—using cellphone data (Wired)

Every building of every block in New York City during the 1980s (New York Times)

“Fixer Upper” is over, but the transformation of Waco, Texas, is just beginning (BuzzFeed News)

Tell your friends about the CityLab Daily! Forward this newsletter to someone who loves cities and encourage them to subscribe. Send your own comments, feedback, and tips to

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Coronavirus

    The Post-Pandemic Urban Future Is Already Here

    The coronavirus crisis stands to dramatically reshape cities around the world. But the biggest revolutions in urban space may have begun before the pandemic.

  2. Perspective

    In a Pandemic, We're All 'Transit Dependent'

    Now more than ever, public transportation is not just about ridership. Buses, trains, and subways make urban civilization possible.

  3. Equity

    What Bigotry Looks Like During Social Distancing

    As reports of harassment and assault against Asian Americans increase, community advocates are finding new ways to tackle the spread of xenophobia.

  4. Illustration: two roommates share a couch with a Covid-19 virus.

    For Roommates Under Coronavirus Lockdown, There Are a Lot of New Rules

    Renters in apartments and houses share more than just germs with their roommates: Life under coronavirus lockdown means negotiating new social rules.

  5. A pedestrian wearing a protective face mask walks past a boarded up building in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Governors from coast to coast Friday told Americans not to leave home except for dire circumstances and ordered nonessential business to shut their doors.

    The Geography of Coronavirus

    What do we know so far about the types of places that are more susceptible to the spread of Covid-19? In the U.S., density is just the beginning of the story.