When McGill geography professor Sarah Moser mapped 120 new cities under construction across Asia, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East, she was struck by how many of them were in vulnerable coastal areas.
“I think this has to do with the fact that a lot of these projects are real estate projects. Everyone wants to live on the coast and new cities are often geared towards the wealthy – they’re investment vehicles,” Moser says.
But the short-sighted pursuit of profit may be just one of many forces driving the surge in new cities in coastal areas. Ambitious, eye-catching projects often form part of political narratives in which authorities seek to portray themselves as making a break from the past. In some cases, new cities are billed as a utopian solution to overcrowding and congestion.
Deciphering the politics and ideology behind the development of new cities has been a major theme of Moser’s work as an urban and cultural geographer. Now, the data she has gathered on the extent of urban development in coastal areas has compelled her to examine the new city phenomenon through the lens of sustainability. Her new study will scrutinize the optimistic claims made by proponents of new cities in coastal areas.