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The Jardim Angela shantytown was once the most violent community in the world, but has gone through a transformation. (RICKEY ROGERS/Rickey Rogers/Reuters/Newscom)
The Jardim Angela shantytown was once the most violent community in the world, but has gone through a transformation. (RICKEY ROGERS/Rickey Rogers/Reuters/Newscom)

Earlier discussion

Doug Saunders answers questions on global migration Add to ...

Doug Saunders Jay, this is a key question. These information links have always been at the centre of the arrival-city migration process: People do not simply move from villages to the city; they go after very specific and concrete labour or business opportunities (that's why, when the economy declines as it has now, immigration virtually stops - - there haven't been Latin Americans coming to the USA or north Africans coming to Europe this year, because there are not jobs). Traditionally, what's happened is that circular, seasonal migration to the city has brought members of the village into the city temporarily, and they've brought information back, including decisions as to whether to bring additional family members with them. This is still at the core of this process, but it's aided by mobile-phone penetration, which is near universal in even the poorest countries now.

Susana Immigration may bring economic opportunities for a host country, but what about social cohesion, cultural integration and the ability of the host country to absorb populations with vastly differing backgrounds and large populations? Take Vancouver, for instance, there have been many issues arising lately as to the size of the Chinese community there and how it is isolating itself and reinforcing cultural and racial differences. Most Canadians are generally open to immigration as long as those arriving show respect for the host country's values, customs and language. What is your opinion on these kinds of social-cultural issues?

Doug Saunders Susana, the core subject of ARRIVAL CITY is how to make economic and cultural integration work, and I look at the factors that can make it succeed or fail. A culture is a fluid and flexible thing, so what happens is that the "host" community and the "arrival" community tend to integrate into each other. Canadians know this -- our culture has shifted over the years to incorporate elements of the various arrival communities that make up our population. We all drink espresso now as a result of the Italian wave of the 1950s; conversely, the children of that wave all speak English and go to hockey games. Culture is a product of this economic inclusion, not a starting point.

Arachnid Globalization will end when peak oil starts (if it hasn't already) how will this effect migration? there will be major food riots overseas when oil goes up in price again, will we see more refugee ships coming here? will we turn them away next time?

Doug Saunders Arachnid, I think resource shortages will pose difficulties, but the solutions will likely involve more elaborate linkages between countries. National isolation was a luxury that was only affordable during a period of seemingly unlimited energy resources; now that we have scarcity and shrinking populations, there will be great pressure for much more liberal and competitive markets in people.

dilip_andrade Hi Doug, You've raised the point that urban planning often looks to the successful "arrival cities". Which cities have failed as arrival cities, and what can we learn from them?

Doug Saunders Hi Dilip -- Writing ARRIVAL CITY turned me into more of an architectural determinist -- that is, I realize that the physical shape of a neighbourhood, its buildings and streets and the space between them and so on, can have a much more profound effect on the human conditions there than I'd imagined. It's not everything, but it matters. We need to look at the failures of places like the highrise banlieue outskirts of French cities, which have forced their populations into marginality and violence, and the outskirts of Amsterdam which have produced alienated and threatening communities (I spend a lot of time in both places in ARRIVAL CITY). I have a number of lessons, but three important ones come to mind: 1) migrant neighbourhoods need to be high density, closely packed and tightly connected to the city -- high population density is a signal of success in urban spaces and should be embraced; 2) Places need to be flexible -- you can't have housing that can't be turned into shops or businesses, or purchased by its residents, because that flexibility is key to integration. Highrise housing needs to have business spaces within it, and needs to be ownable; 3) You need to have very concrete links to the city, both physical and economic, so people aren't isolated. When I see places like Malton, Ontario, a highrise community on the far outskirts of Toronto in a region (Peel) that is North America's largest recipient of new immigrants, I see a place that is failing all those tests.

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