This Is Not the End of Cities

Both the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement create opportunities to reshape cities in more equitable ways.

As overwhelming as the current overlapping crises may seem now, cities have suffered and survived far worse. Over the long course of history, cities have weathered all manner of pandemics and economic crashes, not to mention natural and unnatural disasters like wars, hurricanes, and earthquakes, none of which has permanently staunched their growth. Urbanization has always proven the greater force — stronger than the devastating Black Plagues that began in the fourteenth century, the deadly cholera outbreaks in nineteenth century London, and the horrific tragedy of the Spanish Flu, which killed as many as 50 million people worldwide between 1918 and 1920. Each and every time, the economic power of cities — their ability to compound innovation and productivity by compounding the talent of ambitious and creative people — has been more than enough to offset the destructive power of infectious disease.