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2017 Pro-Am Student Award finalist

Surviving the City

About the Project

By 2050, two thirds of the people in the world will be living in cities. This dramatic influx is putting a strain on urban life, and raising critical questions for the people living through these challenges. Where will they get clean water and safe food? How can they educate their children? What is the best way to relocate people? Can people and industry safely coexist? How will the urban boom affect crime?

While policymakers are trying to sort through these and other questions about the future of cities, residents in these burgeoning urban centers are taking matters into their own hands. Our project aims to focus on these stories of people surviving the challenges of living in cities that are quickly changing around them.

In Tianjin, China, residents are still reeling from a massive chemical warehouse explosion that brought into stark relief the challenges of urban populations expanding to the industrial outskirts of cities. In Beijing, China, millions of children of migrant families that moved to the capital are struggling to find education in a system that restricts outsiders from attending public school. In Colombia, the new peace deal with rebels is posing challenges for security in cities. In Calí, Colombia, residents living in flood plains are being forcibly evicted, as climate change affects where people in cities can safety live. In Bangalore, India, a place once known for its lakes, clean water is increasingly scarce. And as the “Silicon Valley of India” keeps growing, urban areas are taking over farmlands, posing challenges for feeding the expanding population.

We brought together journalism students from four universities worldwide for an unprecedented collaboration that challenges the traditional way that foreign correspondence is practiced. Students from Colombia, India and China worked in partnership with students from the University of British Columbia, jointly reporting on these complex issues through a course entitled International Reporting – JOUR 555A. The reporters abroad brought language, cultural understanding and local knowledge to the project, while the UBC students provided an outsider’s eye and perspective. Together, these diverse teams were able to capture the nuances of these stories and produce projects using a range of mediums including moving pictures, sound, images, text and 360 video.

Through a series of multimedia stories published in The Guardian, BBC News and Toronto Star, Surviving the City presents stories of ordinary citizens who are their struggles as their cities rapidly change.