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The prototype cities on display at February’s National Engineers Week Future City Competition in Washington, D.C., featured magnetic levitation trains, fuel-cell automobiles, and other environmentally friendly advances that urban planners have advocated for decades, though these planners were barely a decade old. The 14 participating teams looked at the future through 12-year-old eyes; proposals reflected the range of junior-high temperaments, from convincing to optimistic to prankish. Vulcan, an Icelandic city of the year 3703, has banned cars and draws energy from the ocean. Earth View, a moon colony submitted by a team from Omaha, Neb., is home to “transparent titanium” and the top-ranked Lunar Huskers football team. Marmalade Chunks — on the Jovian moon Ganymede — exports marmalade made from an orange-like fruit, since oranges are long since extinct on Earth. Settlers avoid overcrowding by shrinking themselves with a “debigulator.” (The physics of the device were sketchy.) Shrink rays aside, concern about environmental collapse and urban sprawl outpaced whimsy during the two-day finals. One team lectured judge and reporter alike that damage to the ozone layer might already be irreparable. The students’ intense emotions seemed only more poignant given the competition’s corporate affiliates: General Electric, Chevron, Texaco, and 3M.

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WE'LL BE BLUNT

It is astonishingly hard keeping a newsroom afloat these days, and we need to raise $253,000 in online donations quickly, by October 7.

The short of it: Last year, we had to cut $1 million from our budget so we could have any chance of breaking even by the time our fiscal year ended in June. And despite a huge rally from so many of you leading up to the deadline, we still came up a bit short on the whole. We can’t let that happen again. We have no wiggle room to begin with, and now we have a hole to dig out of.

Readers also told us to just give it to you straight when we need to ask for your support, and seeing how matter-of-factly explaining our inner workings, our challenges and finances, can bring more of you in has been a real silver lining. So our online membership lead, Brian, lays it all out for you in his personal, insider account (that literally puts his skin in the game!) of how urgent things are right now.

The upshot: Being able to rally $253,000 in donations over these next few weeks is vitally important simply because it is the number that keeps us right on track, helping make sure we don't end up with a bigger gap than can be filled again, helping us avoid any significant (and knowable) cash-flow crunches for now. We used to be more nonchalant about coming up short this time of year, thinking we can make it by the time June rolls around. Not anymore.

Because the in-depth journalism on underreported beats and unique perspectives on the daily news you turn to Mother Jones for is only possible because readers fund us. Corporations and powerful people with deep pockets will never sustain the type of journalism we exist to do. The only investors who won’t let independent, investigative journalism down are the people who actually care about its future—you.

And we need readers to show up for us big time—again.

Getting just 10 percent of the people who care enough about our work to be reading this blurb to part with a few bucks would be utterly transformative for us, and that's very much what we need to keep charging hard in this financially uncertain, high-stakes year.

If you can right now, please support the journalism you get from Mother Jones with a donation at whatever amount works for you. And please do it now, before you move on to whatever you're about to do next and think maybe you'll get to it later, because every gift matters and we really need to see a strong response if we're going to raise the $253,000 we need in less than three weeks.

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