Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Baltimore, not so fragile after all?

Once in a while Baltimore can surely use some good news. Unfortunately, the good news sometimes unfold in obscure places, such as CityLab, the daily news bulletin for urbanists which the Atlantic Magazine puts together. That bulletin is actually there to bring to light stuff that usually lingers in far more remote corners of our knowledge industry and help planners and folks who care about cities find to use that information.
Map screenshot for Baltimore. The interactive map is linked below the article.
This actually defines the metro area.

Such as the story about the world fragility map put together by the Igarape Institute, a think tank and independent research institute headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. That institute explains its map:
The metrics for Baltimore/Towson
The world’s most fragile cities are crisscrossed with no-go areas and gripped by extreme volatility. As the cases of Karachi, Kinshasa, and Port-au-Prince demonstrate, hybrid and parallel forms of governance typically emerge.
Militia groups and gangs substitute for the state, including when it comes to delivering basic services to specific neighbourhoods. In cities ranging from Manchester to Mogadishu, local criminal mafias may have more legitimacy than state providers.
In order to understand the dimensions of city fragility, the Igarapé Institute, United Nations University,World Economic Forum and 100 Resilient Cities developed a data visualisation platform. The consortium focused on 2,100 cities with populations of 250,000 or more. Cities were graded across 11 variables, including population growth rates, unemployment, income inequality, access to basic services (electricity), pollution levels, homicide rates, terrorism-related deaths, conflict events, and natural hazards (including the extent of exposure to cyclones, droughts and floods).
Reading this, which Marylander wouldn't think of Baltimore? But here is the good news: Baltimore has a very respectable fragility score of 1.9 (the least fragile is 1.0 and the most fragile is 4.0). San Francisco and Washington DC have a score of 1.5 by comparison, San Jose has the same as Baltimore. Because of terrorism New York and London are above 2.0 .A unremarkable place like Syracuse ranks a high 1.1.

I don't want to rain into the parade, but some factors, like Baltimore's newest murder rates or its poor PARCC school test scores may not have registered all that well when the Brazilians put the map together, probably because the huge inequity inside the region averaged things out. As they should if we had a functional region in which all partners equally share the burdens. As far as the fragility of the country (the last two score items): the fall elections will have to prove it.

Though the map doesn't show how divided the Baltimore region is, it shows that fragility divides the world. The brunt of war, unrest and climate change is very unevenly distributed, Mogadishu an extreme case, also Kabul, Afghanistan. Oslo, Norway and Canberra, Australia are listed as not fragile at all. No wonder, the global migrations.

So let's just soak in that we don't look so bad on this map and pretend its meaningful!

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Where the Fragile Cities are (CityLab)
Global Fragile Cities Map Igarape Institute