Federal Reserve study offers no answers on creating a digital dollar

Don't expect the US Federal Reserve to issue a digital dollar any time soon. CNBCreports the Reserve has published its long-in-the-making study of a central bank cryptocurrency, but took no stances on whether or not it should pursue the technology. The paper instead explored the potential benefits and pitfalls of digital currencies, and asked for public comments.

The Fed cautioned that existing cryptocurrencies tend to be highly volatile, consume lots of energy and frequently have significant transaction limitations. A central bank-backed format might overcome some of those problems, the Reserve said, by serving as a "bridge" between payment services, making finance more inclusive and providing "safe and trusted" money. The Reserve also believed the digital money could improve cross-border payments and protect the role of the US dollar on the world stage.

However, the government also warned that official digital cash would need to account for possible changes to the financial world, such as encouraging more runs on financial companies. It would also need to maintain privacy, protect against crimes like fraud and be resilient. The Reserve floated the possibility of offline capability to enable transactions when internet access isn't available, such as during natural disasters.

The agency stressed its report was a "first step" in discussing the possibility of a central bank cryptocurrency, and that it would give the public until May 20th, 2022 to offer feedback and answer questions. For now, though, the Reserve will remain neutral and will only work on a digital currency if longer-term research supports the concept. It's resisting the pressure to act quickly, even if other countries are already moving forward.

Cyberattack hits Ukraine government websites amid tensions with Russia

Hackers have hit around 70 Ukraine government department websites, forcing many of them offline. A message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish on the country's foreign ministry site reportedly read "Ukrainians! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore them.”

The page referenced "historical land" and featured crossed-out versions of Ukraine map and flag. "All information about you has become public, be afraid and wait for the worst. This is for you for your past, present and future," the message is said to have read. Along with the foreign ministry site, the state emergency service, state treasury and the ministries of education, foreign affairs, sport, energy, agrarian policy, veterans and environment were reportedly targeted.

However, Ukraine's security service told CNN that personal data was not affected. It noted that most services have been restored. 

According to the Ukrainian Information Ministry, early indications suggest the Russian Federation carried out the attack. "This is not the first time or even the second time that Ukrainian Internet resources have been attacked since the beginning of the Russian military aggression," the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy suggested that references to Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups in the message were an attempt by hackers to mask the "Russian footprint." The ministry added that "It is obvious that this was done on purpose to cast a shadow over the hacker attack on Poland: Russia and its proxies have been working for a long time to create the quarrel between two friendly neighboring countries."

Hackers believed to be from Russia have targeted other parts of Ukraine's infrastructure in recent years. In 2015, an attack took out parts of the power grid. Since then, Russia was also blamed for attacks on Ukraine's weapon supply and the Kiev airport. The NotPetya cyberattack, for which the US charged Russian hackers in 2020, impacted the Ukrainian government and banking system, a state power distributor and an airport, as well as entities in Russia and the US.

The latest attack took place as Russia mobilizes 100,000 troops to Ukraine's border. Western allies fear Russia will again invade Ukraine, following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Attempts by the US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to de-escalate the situation in talks with Russia this week haven't proven successful. Russia’s lead envoy said the discussions hit a dead end.

Although Russia has denied plans to attack Ukraine, it said it may take action if its demands aren't met. Among those is an assurance that Ukraine and Georgia won't join NATO.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, condemned the cyberattack on Ukraine. He said NATO has been working with the country for years to bolster its cyber defenses and that the two sides will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation in the coming days. As part of that, the country will gain access to NATO’s malware information sharing platform.

Cyberattack hits Ukraine government websites amid tensions with Russia

Hackers have hit around 70 Ukraine government department websites, forcing many of them offline. A message in Ukrainian, Russian and Polish on the country's foreign ministry site reportedly read "Ukrainians! All your personal data has been uploaded to the public network. All data on the computer is destroyed, it is impossible to restore them.”

The page referenced "historical land" and featured crossed-out versions of Ukraine map and flag. "All information about you has become public, be afraid and wait for the worst. This is for you for your past, present and future," the message is said to have read. Along with the foreign ministry site, the state emergency service, state treasury and the ministries of education, foreign affairs, sport, energy, agrarian policy, veterans and environment were reportedly targeted.

However, Ukraine's security service told CNN that personal data was not affected. It noted that most services have been restored. 

According to the Ukrainian Information Ministry, early indications suggest the Russian Federation carried out the attack. "This is not the first time or even the second time that Ukrainian Internet resources have been attacked since the beginning of the Russian military aggression," the ministry said in a statement.

The Ministry of Culture and Information Policy suggested that references to Ukrainian ultra-nationalist groups in the message were an attempt by hackers to mask the "Russian footprint." The ministry added that "It is obvious that this was done on purpose to cast a shadow over the hacker attack on Poland: Russia and its proxies have been working for a long time to create the quarrel between two friendly neighboring countries."

Hackers believed to be from Russia have targeted other parts of Ukraine's infrastructure in recent years. In 2015, an attack took out parts of the power grid. Since then, Russia was also blamed for attacks on Ukraine's weapon supply and the Kiev airport. The NotPetya cyberattack, for which the US charged Russian hackers in 2020, impacted the Ukrainian government and banking system, a state power distributor and an airport, as well as entities in Russia and the US.

The latest attack took place as Russia mobilizes 100,000 troops to Ukraine's border. Western allies fear Russia will again invade Ukraine, following its annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Attempts by the US, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to de-escalate the situation in talks with Russia this week haven't proven successful. Russia’s lead envoy said the discussions hit a dead end.

Although Russia has denied plans to attack Ukraine, it said it may take action if its demands aren't met. Among those is an assurance that Ukraine and Georgia won't join NATO.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of NATO, condemned the cyberattack on Ukraine. He said NATO has been working with the country for years to bolster its cyber defenses and that the two sides will sign an agreement on enhanced cyber cooperation in the coming days. As part of that, the country will gain access to NATO’s malware information sharing platform.

US greenhouse emissions increased by 6.2 percent last year

Over the last year, US greenhouse emissions increased by 6.2 percent compared to 2020 levels, according to a new report from the Rhodium Group. The jump puts the country further behind meeting the reduction targets put forward by the Paris climate agreement. Under the deal, the US has pledged to reduce its greenhouse emissions between 50 percent and 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. As of last year, they were 17.4 percent below that benchmark. That’s a step back from the 22.2 percent reduction the country had achieved the year prior.

Behind the increase in overall emissions were corresponding jumps in pollution generated by the country’s transportation and power sectors. Compared to 2021, those sectors generated an additional 10 percent and 6.6 percent of greenhouse emissions. Driving those increases was a 17 percent increase in reliance on coal-generated power and more people driving after a pandemic-related downturn.

The report underscores how important is it is for the US to clean up its power grid and transportation sector. Another recent study found that wind and solar could meet 85 percent of the country’s current electricity needs. So much of whether the US will meet its Paris Agreement commitments will depend on if the country can mobilize investment as part of policies like President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. The fate of the bill is uncertain, but what is clear is that the technology is there to enable a clean transition. Until recently, natural gas had never been more affordable, and yet it was still more expensive than renewable sources of energy

US greenhouse emissions increased by 6.2 percent last year

Over the last year, US greenhouse emissions increased by 6.2 percent compared to 2020 levels, according to a new report from the Rhodium Group. The jump puts the country further behind meeting the reduction targets put forward by the Paris climate agreement. Under the deal, the US has pledged to reduce its greenhouse emissions between 50 percent and 52 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. As of last year, they were 17.4 percent below that benchmark. That’s a step back from the 22.2 percent reduction the country had achieved the year prior.

Behind the increase in overall emissions were corresponding jumps in pollution generated by the country’s transportation and power sectors. Compared to 2021, those sectors generated an additional 10 percent and 6.6 percent of greenhouse emissions. Driving those increases was a 17 percent increase in reliance on coal-generated power and more people driving after a pandemic-related downturn.

The report underscores how important is it is for the US to clean up its power grid and transportation sector. Another recent study found that wind and solar could meet 85 percent of the country’s current electricity needs. So much of whether the US will meet its Paris Agreement commitments will depend on if the country can mobilize investment as part of policies like President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan. The fate of the bill is uncertain, but what is clear is that the technology is there to enable a clean transition. Until recently, natural gas had never been more affordable, and yet it was still more expensive than renewable sources of energy

US puts drone maker DJI and seven other Chinese companies on investment blocklist

The US government will place eight Chinese companies including drone manufacturer DJI on an investment blocklist for alleged involvement in surveillance of Uyghur Muslims, the Financial Times has reported. The firms will reportedly be put on the Treasure department's "Chinese military-industrial complex companies" list on Tuesday, meaning US citizens will be barred from making any investments. 

DJI is already on the Department of Commerce's Entity list, meaning American companies can't sell it components unless they have a license. At the time, the government said it was among companies that "enabled wide-scale human rights abuses within China through abusive genetic collection and analysis or high-technology surveillance." However, unlike products from Huawei and others, DJI drones are have not been banned for sale in the US. 

The latest moves are part of an effort by US President Joe Biden to sanction China for repression of Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region. Others that will be added to the list include cloud computing firms and facial recognition companies that operate in Xinjiang.

Yesterday, the US House and Senate passed a bill that would ban imports from Xinjiang, unless companies could prove they were not made using forced labor. It's set for a vote in the upper chamber of Congress prior to a holiday recess.

Xiaomi was placed on the same investment blocklist early in 2021. However, it fought the decision, saying that none of its principals were connected with the Chinese military and that a lack of US investment would lead to "immediate and irreparable harm." In May, the government agreed to lift the ban. 

In 2020, DJI commanded a massive 77 percent of the consumer drone market. Over the last two months, it has released a pair of key products, the large-sensor Mavic 3 drone and full-frame Ronin 4D cinema camera with a built-in gimbal and LiDAR focus system. A year ago, DJI said it had "done nothing to justify being placed on the Entity list," and that "customers in America can continue to buy and use DJI products normally."

Hitting the Books: How the Silicon Valley mindset damages rural American communities

America has always been a nation segregated into haves and have-nots with rampant inequity a seemingly natural aspect of our social order — the motif impacting towns and cities just as starkly as the people who live in them. But it doesn't have to be this way, argue authors UC Davis Professor, Stephen Wheeler, and Temple University Associate Professor, Christina Rosan. 

In their new book, Reimagining Sustainable Cities: Strategies for Designing Greener, Healthier and More Equitable Communities, Wheeler and Rosan examine the steps municipalities across the country have taken in recent years in response to climate change, as well as their social and sustainability shortcomings, offering community-based solutions to ensure that urban development in the 21st century equitably raises the standard of living for all residents, not just for the rich. 

In the excerpt below, the authors take a look at the myriad trials faced by residents of eastern Kentucky, a once thriving pastoral region ravaged by the intractable march towards modernization and distillation of wealth to the select few.              

Reimagining Sustainable Cities cover
University of California Press

Copyright © 2021 by Stephen M. Wheeler and Christina D. Rosan. Reprinted with permission from University of California Press.


While this book is about reimagining sustainable cities, we pause here to connect sustainable cities with the larger national and international context in terms of spatial inequality. We live in a world that is deeply interconnected. If we want sustainable cities, we need to work on reducing spatial disparities between cities and rural areas, and between different regions worldwide. Linkages between communities need to be recognized, and resources shared and equalized. Situations must be ended in which some regions exploit others by giving them the unwanted by-products of production, such as pollution, waste, and labor exploitation, while simultaneously moving resources and profits from poor regions to rich ones.

In and around the towns of eastern Kentucky, where Stephen Wheeler’s ancestral family is from, people of English and Scottish descent lived for many generations as self-sufficient farming families. That way of life changed in the second half of the twentieth century. Better roads, electricity, and telecommunications connected Appalachia with the rest of the world. Urban job opportunities lured away the young. Farming families became part of the cash economy and acquired new desires for processed foods, appliances, motor vehicles, and personal accessories. But hill farms didn’t generate enough cash to buy such things, especially with rising federal subsidies for agribusiness in other parts of the country. So the people of eastern Kentucky became designated as poor and came to see themselves that way.

Environmental problems grew as well. Giant bulldozers scraped away hilltops and extracted coal, adding this region to the long list of others worldwide suffering from the “resource curse.” Runoff from coal mining poisoned wells and polluted waterways. Coal jobs left as quickly as they had come, leaving many even poorer.

A new, more globalized retail economy brought first Kmart and then Walmart, putting family-owned stores out of business. Fast-food outlets proliferated. But the new service economy jobs didn’t pay much. To make better money some people began growing marijuana in hard-to-reach locations in the hills. Drug use, alcoholism, and obesity spread. Fundamentalist religion gained adherents and combined with Fox News (starting in the 1990s) to promote reactionary political values. A region that had been Democratic until the late twentieth century now helped elect US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell in turn played one of the largest roles in thwarting progressive legislation from Barack Obama’s administration, supporting Donald Trump’s presidency and fueling the rise of populism in the US.

If this tale of decline were one isolated example, it might not matter much. But spatial inequality persists and spreads worldwide. Some left-behind communities are rural. Others are urban. Entire countries are stuck in poverty due to the legacy of military or economic colonization. Spatial inequality is a core challenge to the development of more sustainable cities. Every community needs to be able to thrive, not just certain favored ones within a highly unequal global system. Instead of engaging in a zero-sum approach to development, with winners and losers, communities need to support one another so that all improve their quality of life and sustainability.

The so-called winners of today’s global economic competition have their own problems. At the other end of the spectrum from Appalachia is Silicon Valley. This forty-mile corridor in the San Francisco Bay Area is an economic dynamo envied the world over. Covered by orchards and agricultural fields in the 1950s, this beautiful area was known as “Valley of Heart’s Desire.” Now no orchards remain, and the region is a congested sprawl of poorly connected office parks, subdivisions, malls, and commercial strips. Incomes are high, but the price of a home is nearly five times that in the US as a whole. Many residents cannot afford housing near their jobs and so endure lengthy commutes or are housing insecure. Social inequality, traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions expanded greatly during the past fifty years, reducing the quality of life in the region and contributing to global warming.

The Silicon Valley ethic of “move fast and break things” has created dynamic companies, unprecedented technology, and great wealth for a few. But the new gig economy pioneered there often operates at the expense of workers and the environment. It often produces an enormous concentration of wealth that comes from the exploitation of others. One study found that one-fifth of San Francisco Uber and Lyft drivers earned virtually nothing when their full expenses, including things such as health insurance, were accounted for. The tech industry has also been heavily criticized for sexual harassment during the MeToo movement and racism during the Black Lives Matter movement. The combination of individualism, predatory capitalism, toxic masculinity, and lack of concern for the common good that Silicon Valley represents works strongly against a sustainable and equitable future.

Similar problems of unequal development exist in other successful urban areas worldwide, including Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangalore, Singapore, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Tel Aviv. Though among the world’s economic success stories, on many dimensions of sustainability they are failures. The growing core-periphery disparities that produce left-behind communities and “sacrifice zones” on the one hand and wealthy but unsustainable and highly unequal job centers on the other are at the heart of recent global development patterns.

Let us imagine instead a world where we are not content with the concentration of wealth and opportunity in a small number of global cities; where all communities have affordable housing and provide a decent quality of life; where cities meet the needs of people locally and regionally but do not drain wealth from other parts of the world; where no areas are left behind in the transition to a green economy, their populations increasingly alienated, despairing, and vulnerable to unscrupulous politicians and warlords; and where social dimensions of sustainability are well served everywhere.

Sources of the Problem

Today’s spatial inequity problems have long historical roots, illuminated by literature in fields such as economic geography, sociology, and environmental history. One starting point is physical geography. Some parts of the world have more fertile soils than others, more abundant mineral resources, more useful plant, animal, and fish species, and/or more benign topography and climate. Other places have been strategically well located to serve as trading centers and market towns or have been easy to defend against attack. Such communities have been able to accumulate modest amounts of wealth and power. The “chessboard” of geographical wealth is constantly shifting and with global warming is likely to shift in even greater ways in the future.

However, in other cases spatial inequities have resulted from military, religious, cultural, political, and/or economic systems that further centralize power and wealth. Typically these have drained resources from the periphery to the core of empires. Many parts of the world still suffer the legacy of colonization. Local traditions and cultures were disrupted, peoples were exploited, racism was institutionalized, ecosystems were harmed, and corrupt, colonizer-friendly governments were installed following independence. The damage has been so profound and long-lasting in many places that reparations may be appropriate. The need for climate justice may likewise call for reparations and repayments.

Twentieth-century economic development philosophies exacerbated spatial inequality on the assumption that economic globalization was to everyone’s long-term benefit. Various versions of “growth pole” theory, originating in the 1950s, sought to focus business development in particular geographical locales within countries on the assumption that this would leverage economic development in other parts. Such wider-scale progress was rare; growth poles instead often channeled resources to local elites, created isolated business enclaves, and harmed the environment.

The municipal economic development practice of chasing branches of multinational corporations has likewise undermined prospects for a more stable long-term economic base in cities worldwide. This “race to the bottom” competition leads suburbs to compete to host the newest shopping mall, central cities to compete for corporate headquarters, and states or countries to lower their environmental and labor standards to attract multinational corporations. However, the resulting businesses often don’t provide the expected number of jobs, pay the decent wages promised, or stay more than a few years. As Margaret Dewar has pointed out in her well-titled article “Why State and Local Economic Development Programs Cause So Little Economic Development,” politicians have an incentive in the short term to appear to be generating jobs by attracting well-known companies but little incentive to take into account long-term economic or environmental sustainabilIty. A recent example of the extreme lengths that municipalities will go to in order to attract development can be seen in the global competition for the second Amazon headquarters.

The Bretton Woods framework of post–World War II development assistance only deepened global spatial disparities, creating what economist Andres Gunder Frank termed “the development of underdevelopment.” Agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund loaned funds to developing countries for megaprojects that created wealth for elites but left others poor and displaced, while countries accumulated enormous debt to lenders in the Global North. National governments focused on what sustainability-oriented NGOs refer to as “extreme infrastructure.” These dams, power plants, industrial zones, and large-scale agricultural projects sought to jump-start an export-oriented form of economic development that was often environmentally harmful and funneled capital created by Third World labor and resources into First World bank accounts.

Yet another source of disparities has been the structural adjustment policies that neoliberal governments in wealthy nations insisted upon as a condition for international assistance during the past forty years. These require developing countries to take actions such as cutting social programs, privatizing public assets such as utilities and railroads, reducing barriers to foreign investment, and lowering taxes on the wealthy. The effect has been to make life harder for the poor while enriching elites and international corporations. It is increasingly clear that structural adjustment policies need to be discontinued and policies that promote spatial equity put in their place.

Finally, the offshoring of manufacturing from wealthy nations to low-cost and less regulated parts of the globe during the past half century has had complex effects on spatial disparities. It has impoverished the US Rust Belt as well as the British Midlands, leading to the growth of right-wing populism in both places. Meanwhile, it has helped fuel the rise of megacities and megaregions in the developing world, leading to massive internal migration and expanding economic disparities between those urban areas and the countryside. Undoubtedly, these global economic shifts have improved quality of life for many. But they have harmed others, disrupted societies, contributed to the climate crisis, and widened the gulf between rich and poor communities (figure 7).

Figure 7
UC Press

Although spatial disparities are still expanding in many places, there is hope for the rebirth of left-behind cities and regions. Manchester, UK, the first industrial powerhouse in Europe, lost much of its manufacturing in the middle of the twentieth century but has since rebuilt itself by focusing on culture, education, physical regeneration, and its geographical role as a transportation center. The US steel capital of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after losing 350,000 industrial jobs in the 1980s, reinvented itself as a center of renewable energy, health care, and education. Even the long-declining hulk of Detroit, one of the most hollowed-out American cities, is showing signs of a turnaround. Examples such as these indicate the possibility for left-behind places to rebound. But all of these cities had assets to start with, including a strong identity and an active elite that led revitalization efforts. Other communities and regions don’t have such advantages. And the pervasive problems associated with spatial inequality affect wealthy as well as declining places, necessitating holistic and imaginative solutions at higher levels of governance.

Hitting the Books: How the Silicon Valley mindset damages rural American communities

America has always been a nation segregated into haves and have-nots with rampant inequity a seemingly natural aspect of our social order — the motif impacting towns and cities just as starkly as the people who live in them. But it doesn't have to be this way, argue authors UC Davis Professor, Stephen Wheeler, and Temple University Associate Professor, Christina Rosan. 

In their new book, Reimagining Sustainable Cities: Strategies for Designing Greener, Healthier and More Equitable Communities, Wheeler and Rosan examine the steps municipalities across the country have taken in recent years in response to climate change, as well as their social and sustainability shortcomings, offering community-based solutions to ensure that urban development in the 21st century equitably raises the standard of living for all residents, not just for the rich. 

In the excerpt below, the authors take a look at the myriad trials faced by residents of eastern Kentucky, a once thriving pastoral region ravaged by the intractable march towards modernization and distillation of wealth to the select few.              

Reimagining Sustainable Cities cover
University of California Press

Copyright © 2021 by Stephen M. Wheeler and Christina D. Rosan. Reprinted with permission from University of California Press.


While this book is about reimagining sustainable cities, we pause here to connect sustainable cities with the larger national and international context in terms of spatial inequality. We live in a world that is deeply interconnected. If we want sustainable cities, we need to work on reducing spatial disparities between cities and rural areas, and between different regions worldwide. Linkages between communities need to be recognized, and resources shared and equalized. Situations must be ended in which some regions exploit others by giving them the unwanted by-products of production, such as pollution, waste, and labor exploitation, while simultaneously moving resources and profits from poor regions to rich ones.

In and around the towns of eastern Kentucky, where Stephen Wheeler’s ancestral family is from, people of English and Scottish descent lived for many generations as self-sufficient farming families. That way of life changed in the second half of the twentieth century. Better roads, electricity, and telecommunications connected Appalachia with the rest of the world. Urban job opportunities lured away the young. Farming families became part of the cash economy and acquired new desires for processed foods, appliances, motor vehicles, and personal accessories. But hill farms didn’t generate enough cash to buy such things, especially with rising federal subsidies for agribusiness in other parts of the country. So the people of eastern Kentucky became designated as poor and came to see themselves that way.

Environmental problems grew as well. Giant bulldozers scraped away hilltops and extracted coal, adding this region to the long list of others worldwide suffering from the “resource curse.” Runoff from coal mining poisoned wells and polluted waterways. Coal jobs left as quickly as they had come, leaving many even poorer.

A new, more globalized retail economy brought first Kmart and then Walmart, putting family-owned stores out of business. Fast-food outlets proliferated. But the new service economy jobs didn’t pay much. To make better money some people began growing marijuana in hard-to-reach locations in the hills. Drug use, alcoholism, and obesity spread. Fundamentalist religion gained adherents and combined with Fox News (starting in the 1990s) to promote reactionary political values. A region that had been Democratic until the late twentieth century now helped elect US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). McConnell in turn played one of the largest roles in thwarting progressive legislation from Barack Obama’s administration, supporting Donald Trump’s presidency and fueling the rise of populism in the US.

If this tale of decline were one isolated example, it might not matter much. But spatial inequality persists and spreads worldwide. Some left-behind communities are rural. Others are urban. Entire countries are stuck in poverty due to the legacy of military or economic colonization. Spatial inequality is a core challenge to the development of more sustainable cities. Every community needs to be able to thrive, not just certain favored ones within a highly unequal global system. Instead of engaging in a zero-sum approach to development, with winners and losers, communities need to support one another so that all improve their quality of life and sustainability.

The so-called winners of today’s global economic competition have their own problems. At the other end of the spectrum from Appalachia is Silicon Valley. This forty-mile corridor in the San Francisco Bay Area is an economic dynamo envied the world over. Covered by orchards and agricultural fields in the 1950s, this beautiful area was known as “Valley of Heart’s Desire.” Now no orchards remain, and the region is a congested sprawl of poorly connected office parks, subdivisions, malls, and commercial strips. Incomes are high, but the price of a home is nearly five times that in the US as a whole. Many residents cannot afford housing near their jobs and so endure lengthy commutes or are housing insecure. Social inequality, traffic congestion, air pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions expanded greatly during the past fifty years, reducing the quality of life in the region and contributing to global warming.

The Silicon Valley ethic of “move fast and break things” has created dynamic companies, unprecedented technology, and great wealth for a few. But the new gig economy pioneered there often operates at the expense of workers and the environment. It often produces an enormous concentration of wealth that comes from the exploitation of others. One study found that one-fifth of San Francisco Uber and Lyft drivers earned virtually nothing when their full expenses, including things such as health insurance, were accounted for. The tech industry has also been heavily criticized for sexual harassment during the MeToo movement and racism during the Black Lives Matter movement. The combination of individualism, predatory capitalism, toxic masculinity, and lack of concern for the common good that Silicon Valley represents works strongly against a sustainable and equitable future.

Similar problems of unequal development exist in other successful urban areas worldwide, including Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, Bangalore, Singapore, Toronto, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Tel Aviv. Though among the world’s economic success stories, on many dimensions of sustainability they are failures. The growing core-periphery disparities that produce left-behind communities and “sacrifice zones” on the one hand and wealthy but unsustainable and highly unequal job centers on the other are at the heart of recent global development patterns.

Let us imagine instead a world where we are not content with the concentration of wealth and opportunity in a small number of global cities; where all communities have affordable housing and provide a decent quality of life; where cities meet the needs of people locally and regionally but do not drain wealth from other parts of the world; where no areas are left behind in the transition to a green economy, their populations increasingly alienated, despairing, and vulnerable to unscrupulous politicians and warlords; and where social dimensions of sustainability are well served everywhere.

Sources of the Problem

Today’s spatial inequity problems have long historical roots, illuminated by literature in fields such as economic geography, sociology, and environmental history. One starting point is physical geography. Some parts of the world have more fertile soils than others, more abundant mineral resources, more useful plant, animal, and fish species, and/or more benign topography and climate. Other places have been strategically well located to serve as trading centers and market towns or have been easy to defend against attack. Such communities have been able to accumulate modest amounts of wealth and power. The “chessboard” of geographical wealth is constantly shifting and with global warming is likely to shift in even greater ways in the future.

However, in other cases spatial inequities have resulted from military, religious, cultural, political, and/or economic systems that further centralize power and wealth. Typically these have drained resources from the periphery to the core of empires. Many parts of the world still suffer the legacy of colonization. Local traditions and cultures were disrupted, peoples were exploited, racism was institutionalized, ecosystems were harmed, and corrupt, colonizer-friendly governments were installed following independence. The damage has been so profound and long-lasting in many places that reparations may be appropriate. The need for climate justice may likewise call for reparations and repayments.

Twentieth-century economic development philosophies exacerbated spatial inequality on the assumption that economic globalization was to everyone’s long-term benefit. Various versions of “growth pole” theory, originating in the 1950s, sought to focus business development in particular geographical locales within countries on the assumption that this would leverage economic development in other parts. Such wider-scale progress was rare; growth poles instead often channeled resources to local elites, created isolated business enclaves, and harmed the environment.

The municipal economic development practice of chasing branches of multinational corporations has likewise undermined prospects for a more stable long-term economic base in cities worldwide. This “race to the bottom” competition leads suburbs to compete to host the newest shopping mall, central cities to compete for corporate headquarters, and states or countries to lower their environmental and labor standards to attract multinational corporations. However, the resulting businesses often don’t provide the expected number of jobs, pay the decent wages promised, or stay more than a few years. As Margaret Dewar has pointed out in her well-titled article “Why State and Local Economic Development Programs Cause So Little Economic Development,” politicians have an incentive in the short term to appear to be generating jobs by attracting well-known companies but little incentive to take into account long-term economic or environmental sustainabilIty. A recent example of the extreme lengths that municipalities will go to in order to attract development can be seen in the global competition for the second Amazon headquarters.

The Bretton Woods framework of post–World War II development assistance only deepened global spatial disparities, creating what economist Andres Gunder Frank termed “the development of underdevelopment.” Agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund loaned funds to developing countries for megaprojects that created wealth for elites but left others poor and displaced, while countries accumulated enormous debt to lenders in the Global North. National governments focused on what sustainability-oriented NGOs refer to as “extreme infrastructure.” These dams, power plants, industrial zones, and large-scale agricultural projects sought to jump-start an export-oriented form of economic development that was often environmentally harmful and funneled capital created by Third World labor and resources into First World bank accounts.

Yet another source of disparities has been the structural adjustment policies that neoliberal governments in wealthy nations insisted upon as a condition for international assistance during the past forty years. These require developing countries to take actions such as cutting social programs, privatizing public assets such as utilities and railroads, reducing barriers to foreign investment, and lowering taxes on the wealthy. The effect has been to make life harder for the poor while enriching elites and international corporations. It is increasingly clear that structural adjustment policies need to be discontinued and policies that promote spatial equity put in their place.

Finally, the offshoring of manufacturing from wealthy nations to low-cost and less regulated parts of the globe during the past half century has had complex effects on spatial disparities. It has impoverished the US Rust Belt as well as the British Midlands, leading to the growth of right-wing populism in both places. Meanwhile, it has helped fuel the rise of megacities and megaregions in the developing world, leading to massive internal migration and expanding economic disparities between those urban areas and the countryside. Undoubtedly, these global economic shifts have improved quality of life for many. But they have harmed others, disrupted societies, contributed to the climate crisis, and widened the gulf between rich and poor communities (figure 7).

Figure 7
UC Press

Although spatial disparities are still expanding in many places, there is hope for the rebirth of left-behind cities and regions. Manchester, UK, the first industrial powerhouse in Europe, lost much of its manufacturing in the middle of the twentieth century but has since rebuilt itself by focusing on culture, education, physical regeneration, and its geographical role as a transportation center. The US steel capital of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after losing 350,000 industrial jobs in the 1980s, reinvented itself as a center of renewable energy, health care, and education. Even the long-declining hulk of Detroit, one of the most hollowed-out American cities, is showing signs of a turnaround. Examples such as these indicate the possibility for left-behind places to rebound. But all of these cities had assets to start with, including a strong identity and an active elite that led revitalization efforts. Other communities and regions don’t have such advantages. And the pervasive problems associated with spatial inequality affect wealthy as well as declining places, necessitating holistic and imaginative solutions at higher levels of governance.

DJI’s Mavic 3 packs dual Four Thirds and telephoto cameras

DJI is best known for drones, but it's possibly the most inventive camera company right now. After unveiling the outrageous full-frame Ronin 4K camera/gimbal last month, it has now launched the $2,200 Mavic 3 drone with not just one, but two innovative camera systems.

As rumored, there are two models in the Mavic 3 family, the Standard and Cine models, along with a "Fly More" combo that bundles more accessories. The main difference is that the Mavic 3 Cine has a built-in 1TB SSD and supports Apple ProRes 422 HQ video recording — highly desirable for professional film productions. The latter is also considerably more expensive, as I'll discuss shortly. 

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Mavic 3's main 24mm (35mm-equivalent) f/2.8 - f/11 Hasselblad-branded camera has a Four Thirds sensor that's considerably larger than the 1-inch sensor on the current Air 2S model. And yet, the camera module doesn't look much bigger and the Mavic 3 weighs slightly less than the Mavic 2 (895g compared to 907g). 

Four Thirds is the same size as the Micro Four Thirds sensor on Panasonic's BGH1 box camera, for example, so it should allow for more cinematic video and photos. The variable aperture, along with optional ND filters, will make it easier to shoot in a variety of lighting conditions. It also comes with a new autofocus system called Vision Detection that supposedly optimizes focusing speeds.

With the main camera, it now shoots 5.1K video at 50fps, or 4K at 120 fps — up from 5.4K 30fps and 4K/60p video on the Air 2S. DJI claims a native dynamic range of 12.8 stops, thanks to the 10-bit D-Log color profile. As for still images, it can shoot 20-megapixel photos in 12-bit RAW.

If you need to get in much, much closer, DJI has squeezed in a second camera directly above the main camera. This one has a half-inch 12-megapixel sensor and 162mm tele lens (35mm equivalent), which is around a 4X zoom, or claimed 28X hybrid zoom. The aperture is fixed at f/4.4, and it offers strictly automatic, rather than manual exposure control. It can capture 4K video at up to 30 fps. 

DJI has confirmed that the Mavic 3 will have up to 46 minutes of autonomy in ideal conditions (40 minutes of hover), as leaks had suggested. That's up pretty massively from the Mavic 2 Pro or Air 2S, both of which offer 31 minutes of flying time. It can also fly a bit faster too, at 47 MPH compared to 45 MPH. Those capabilities were enabled by a higher-capacity battery, more energy-efficient motors/propellers and a more streamlined shape on the Mavic 3's arms, body and gimbal. "Wind tunnel testing shows Mavic 3 produces 35 percent less drag than previous generations," DJI wrote. 

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Mavic 3 also offers enhanced flight safety thanks to its updated APAS 5.0 system that uses inputs from six fish-eye vision sensor and two wide-angle sensors to detect and avoid obstacles. Meanwhile, the ActiveTrack 5.0 system has new options for tracking subjects no matter which way they're moving, and it can even continue to track a subject if it moves out of frame and pick it back up when it reappears. All of that allows "more fluid and diverse drone and camera movement," DJI said. 

It also comes with an improved RTH (Return to Home) system that works by automatically calculating the shortest, safest and most energy-efficient route to land back at its home point. It can take into account wind speed and power when calculating the path, giving users a bit more flying time before triggering the RTH action. Another updated feature is O3+ signal loss prevention that allows for a maximum control range of 15 km. Mavic 3 is also DJI's first drone with a 1080p 60fps transmission speed on the live feed, meaning "the camera view is displayed at a resolution close to what the camera actually records," DJI notes. 

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

Along with the drone, DJI introduced a number of new accessories, including a new DJI RC Pro smart controller, a 65W Portable Charger that's compatible with notebooks and smartphones and allows for fast charging (around 96 minutes), a wide-angle lens and two sets of ND filters (ND4/8/16/32 and ND64/128/256/512) that allow for shooting in bright sunlight. It also introduced a carrying bag that converts into a backpack that can fit the drone, a laptop and other accessories. 

Engadget received the drone just yesterday, so we haven't had a chance to fly it yet — stay tuned for a full review. However, I'm impressed so far by the design and small details like the storage cover that protects the camera, gimbals and propeller (below). It's also clear that DJI has put a lot of thought into the new charging system and batteries that should make operation more practical. Even the carrying bag/backpack is well conceived, with pockets and sleeves for the batteries, ND filters and more.

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

As you may have noticed, the drawback with the Mavic 3 is the relatively high price. Rather than $1,600 as was rumored, the Mavic 3 starts at $2,200 for the Standard model, which includes the Mavic 3 drone, storage cover, one battery and charger, the RC-N1 remote control "and other essential items." The $3,000 Mavic 3 Fly More Combo adds two extra batteries (three total), a three-battery charging hub, the ND4/8/16/32 filter set and the fancy bag/backpack.

Finally, the $5,000 Mavic 3 Cine Premium Combo gives you all that plus the aforementioned 1TB SSD and Apple ProRes 422 HQ recording (arriving in January 2022). It adds a few more accessories to the Fly More Combo as well, including the RC Pro remote, ND64/128/256/512 filters and the DJI 10Gbps data cable. Five grand is obviously lot of money, but the Cine model is aimed more at professional film producers. All three drones are now available to order from DJI's website, Amazon and other authorized partners. 

DJI’s Mavic 3 packs dual Four Thirds and telephoto cameras

DJI is best known for drones, but it's possibly the most inventive camera company right now. After unveiling the outrageous full-frame Ronin 4K camera/gimbal last month, it has now launched the $2,200 Mavic 3 drone with not just one, but two innovative camera systems.

As rumored, there are two models in the Mavic 3 family, the Standard and Cine models, along with a "Fly More" combo that bundles more accessories. The main difference is that the Mavic 3 Cine has a built-in 1TB SSD and supports Apple ProRes 422 HQ video recording — highly desirable for professional film productions. The latter is also considerably more expensive, as I'll discuss shortly. 

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Mavic 3's main 24mm (35mm-equivalent) f/2.8 - f/11 Hasselblad-branded camera has a Four Thirds sensor that's considerably larger than the 1-inch sensor on the current Air 2S model. And yet, the camera module doesn't look much bigger and the Mavic 3 weighs slightly less than the Mavic 2 (895g compared to 907g). 

Four Thirds is the same size as the Micro Four Thirds sensor on Panasonic's BGH1 box camera, for example, so it should allow for more cinematic video and photos. The variable aperture, along with optional ND filters, will make it easier to shoot in a variety of lighting conditions. It also comes with a new autofocus system called Vision Detection that supposedly optimizes focusing speeds.

With the main camera, it now shoots 5.1K video at 50fps, or 4K at 120 fps — up from 5.4K 30fps and 4K/60p video on the Air 2S. DJI claims a native dynamic range of 12.8 stops, thanks to the 10-bit D-Log color profile. As for still images, it can shoot 20-megapixel photos in 12-bit RAW.

If you need to get in much, much closer, DJI has squeezed in a second camera directly above the main camera. This one has a half-inch 12-megapixel sensor and 162mm tele lens (35mm equivalent), which is around a 4X zoom, or claimed 28X hybrid zoom. The aperture is fixed at f/4.4, and it offers strictly automatic, rather than manual exposure control. It can capture 4K video at up to 30 fps. 

DJI has confirmed that the Mavic 3 will have up to 46 minutes of autonomy in ideal conditions (40 minutes of hover), as leaks had suggested. That's up pretty massively from the Mavic 2 Pro or Air 2S, both of which offer 31 minutes of flying time. It can also fly a bit faster too, at 47 MPH compared to 45 MPH. Those capabilities were enabled by a higher-capacity battery, more energy-efficient motors/propellers and a more streamlined shape on the Mavic 3's arms, body and gimbal. "Wind tunnel testing shows Mavic 3 produces 35 percent less drag than previous generations," DJI wrote. 

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

The Mavic 3 also offers enhanced flight safety thanks to its updated APAS 5.0 system that uses inputs from six fish-eye vision sensor and two wide-angle sensors to detect and avoid obstacles. Meanwhile, the ActiveTrack 5.0 system has new options for tracking subjects no matter which way they're moving, and it can even continue to track a subject if it moves out of frame and pick it back up when it reappears. All of that allows "more fluid and diverse drone and camera movement," DJI said. 

It also comes with an improved RTH (Return to Home) system that works by automatically calculating the shortest, safest and most energy-efficient route to land back at its home point. It can take into account wind speed and power when calculating the path, giving users a bit more flying time before triggering the RTH action. Another updated feature is O3+ signal loss prevention that allows for a maximum control range of 15 km. Mavic 3 is also DJI's first drone with a 1080p 60fps transmission speed on the live feed, meaning "the camera view is displayed at a resolution close to what the camera actually records," DJI notes. 

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

Along with the drone, DJI introduced a number of new accessories, including a new DJI RC Pro smart controller, a 65W Portable Charger that's compatible with notebooks and smartphones and allows for fast charging (around 96 minutes), a wide-angle lens and two sets of ND filters (ND4/8/16/32 and ND64/128/256/512) that allow for shooting in bright sunlight. It also introduced a carrying bag that converts into a backpack that can fit the drone, a laptop and other accessories. 

Engadget received the drone just yesterday, so we haven't had a chance to fly it yet — stay tuned for a full review. However, I'm impressed so far by the design and small details like the storage cover that protects the camera, gimbals and propeller (below). It's also clear that DJI has put a lot of thought into the new charging system and batteries that should make operation more practical. Even the carrying bag/backpack is well conceived, with pockets and sleeves for the batteries, ND filters and more.

DJI's Mavic 3 drone fits in a Four Thirds and 28x hybrid zoom camera
Steve Dent/Engadget

As you may have noticed, the drawback with the Mavic 3 is the relatively high price. Rather than $1,600 as was rumored, the Mavic 3 starts at $2,200 for the Standard model, which includes the Mavic 3 drone, storage cover, one battery and charger, the RC-N1 remote control "and other essential items." The $3,000 Mavic 3 Fly More Combo adds two extra batteries (three total), a three-battery charging hub, the ND4/8/16/32 filter set and the fancy bag/backpack.

Finally, the $5,000 Mavic 3 Cine Premium Combo gives you all that plus the aforementioned 1TB SSD and Apple ProRes 422 HQ recording (arriving in January 2022). It adds a few more accessories to the Fly More Combo as well, including the RC Pro remote, ND64/128/256/512 filters and the DJI 10Gbps data cable. Five grand is obviously lot of money, but the Cine model is aimed more at professional film producers. All three drones are now available to order from DJI's website, Amazon and other authorized partners.