For the first time in history, more than half the population of
the world now lives in cities. The need to shelter and sustain this
population without destroying the delicate balance of the
environment is a major dilemma for the coming
City has become a symbol of all that could go wrong with urban
development. The city's air is so thick with smog that eight out of
ten days are declared hazardous to human health. The city's center
has sunk 30 feet in the last 100 years as the city depletes its once
abundant underground water supply, squeezing the ground like a
sponge. Raw sewage flows through open canals, carrying disease to
surrounding farmlands. Journey to Planet Earth looks at what went
wrong and at some of the community-based efforts to find
Video Excerpt: Mexico City pulses
with energy but thanks to its geography, population and the
internal combustion engine, it is on the verge of environmental
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Lying astride Europe and Asia, Istanbul,
capital of three great empires, has long been a cosmopolitan city.
Economic and political refugees from Turkey's outlying regions pour
into this ancient city at the rate of 500,000 newcomers a year.
Bisecting the city is one of the busiest waterways in the world, the
Bosphorous. As shipping traffic increases, ferries and fishing boats
share the narrow strait with tankers loaded with flammable cargo,
with occasionally disastrous results. Renowned photographer Ara
Guler takes Journey to Planet Earth on a tour of the changing face
of his beloved city which now sprawls into the green countryside
that once surrounded it. We visit the municipality of Esenyurt,
which is facing these challenges head on.
Video Excerpt: Built on the edge of
two continents — Asia and Europe — Istanbul has always served as a
bridge between the Orient and the trading centers of Europe and
the Middle East. But this sophisticated waterfront city is near
collapse as a rapid increase in population taxes its water, waste
and housing resources.
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is poised to recapture its role as the commercial capital of Asia.
Already housing a population of 16 million, the city is attempting
to rebuild its infrastructure as it faces increasing problems with
pollution, water supply and waste treatment. Journey to Planet Earth
looks at Shanghai's efforts to deal with the environmental issues
facing a city that has chosen industrial growth over agricultural
Video Excerpt: Home to thousands of
multi-national corporations who see Shanghai as the financial
capital of China, if not all Asia, this city has become a beacon
to people looking for a better life. But the influx of millions of
peasants from the countryside is pushing the city to its limit.
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Surrounded by water and built of
York City is an example of a matured megalopolis whose explosive
growth came long enough ago to allow it to establish the necessary
infrastructure to provide clean air and safe drinking water for
nearly all of its inhabitants. Journey to Planet Earth visits the
neighborhoods of the South Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn's Carroll
Gardens to explore ways to improve and preserve the quality of urban
Video Excerpt: New York has many
advantages over Mexico City, Istanbul and Shanghai. When its first
wave of immigrants arrived over 100 years ago, the city was forced
to create an infrastructure to deal with the needs of its
burgeoning population. That infrastructure still works today.
NOTE: This video was shot before September 11, 2001, and
shows the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.
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