It has been one year since riots erupted in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and 25 years since the granddaddy of them all, Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, was burned into our consciousness with the image of a young man staring down a column of tanks. Particularly since the recent spate of upheavals following the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings, it would seem that these leaderless revolutions in public squares across the globe have displaced the Gandhis, Mandelas and Martin Luther Kings of movements past.
But that, it turns out, is their fatal flaw.
The rapid pace of urbanization is turning cities into petri dishes for such phenomena. India, for example, will add another 500 million to its cities by 2050, and Nigeria will add almost 200 million. This urban boom is putting pressure on housing, infrastructure, public health and even clean air and water. And when governments fail to meet these citizens’ needs, mobile technologies and close living quarters make it easier than ever to take to the square en masse in protest.
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