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Watching Slumdog Millionaire, the Oscar winning film of 2008 that is being released on DVD today, can be a bracing experience for those accustomed to the conveniences of Western living. The destitute living is accurately and graphically depicted and is all too real for those that have seen it. Yet, the real danger is letting the poverty obscure a larger, perhaps more important lesson about urban places: Many of these urban slums are functioning, productive cities in their own right, and represent an intergenerational path toward economic improvement.
Worldwide media coverage earlier this week of Tata Motors unveiling their Nano car-for-the-masses brings the argument over individual car ownership to the forefront yet again. Thanks to one hundred or so years of clever marketing, our society glorifies the bling of a shiny new car, demands auto ownership as a basic right, and proclaims its necessity to be (almost) as critical as water, food, and shelter.