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How Slums Can Save the Planet

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the rose-tinted dept.

Earth 424

Standing Bear writes "One billion people live in squatter cities and, according to the UN, this number will double in the next 25 years. Stewart Brand writes in Prospect Magazine about what squatter cities can teach us about future urban living. 'The magic of squatter cities is that they are improved steadily and gradually by their residents,' writes Brand. 'Squatter cities are also unexpectedly green. They have maximum density — 1M people per square mile in some areas of Mumbai — and have minimum energy and material use. People get around by foot, bicycle, rickshaw, or the universal shared taxi.' Brand adds that in most slums recycling is literally a way of life e.g. the Dharavi slum in Mumbai has 400 recycling units and 30,000 rag-pickers. 'Of course, fast-growing cities are far from an unmitigated good. They concentrate crime, pollution, disease, and injustice as much as business, innovation, education, and entertainment,' says Brand. Still, as architect Peter Calthorpe wrote in 1985: 'The city is the most environmentally benign form of human settlement. Each city dweller consumes less land, less energy, less water, and produces less pollution than his counterpart in settlements of lower densities.'" Reader Kanel adds this note of perspective: "Kevin Kelly is another guy who wrote about slums in a very positive light, though he was more interested in self-organisation and why cities are cool, I think. Kelly also reports on the strange trend for slum tourism. What we're seeing here is that the 'slums' have become a vehicle for people to bring out their own ideas about cities, humans, and the universe at large. I have a feeling that we're not really going to learn a lot about slums if we study them through these guys."

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Been there and hated it (5, Interesting)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304298)

Slums? What a retarded story, yes I read it.

Am I alone or (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304318)

do others regard this as cynical as well?

Re:Am I alone or (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304468)

Welcome to the future!

First, you have to be mentally prepared for what is yet to come. Check.

Re:Am I alone or (3, Insightful)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304536)

Yep. Be prepared to move in, as this is how the powers that be would like you to live, both in your home, and in your cubicle. Now get in line consumer and spend spend spend! Virtual glass baubles and beads of course. They are better for the environment.

Re:Am I alone or (5, Informative)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304764)

Cities are benign? Only if you don't count the per-head energy and resources required to maintain the city and it's residents' way of life. If you count that, then every morsel of food must be marked up to account for the energy of bringing it from rural areas to distribution points, to warehouses, to supermarket shelves, to your pantry and then to your mouth. That's just an example. City living is nothing more than a concentration of workers to benefit industrial interests.

Re:Am I alone or (5, Insightful)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304542)

If the predominant lesson learned from Slums is not how to prevent them then I think we are missing something . . .

Re:Am I alone or (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304722)

Well pretty soon they're going to realize that without oil we're not going to be able to feed even half the world, so if you'll please first move into the slum and never mind the wall they're planning to build next. Pay no attention to those towers with what looks like gun mounts ...

After all, if we don't do this, we'd be killing gaia. Now that would be bad.

Re:Am I alone or (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304908)

Slums are a self-replicating problem. Look at the slums in India or various African nations, for instance. Or even the ghettos of American cities, especially LA. The cycle works like this:

1) A person is born into a slum.
2) If the person survives into adult-hood, they have no education, no job and far too much free time.
3) Since they have no job obligations of any sort, they fuck far more often than anyone in a civilized Western non-slum city is able to. Oh, and they do this without using condoms or birth control of any sort.
4) The women thus shit out far more children, per-capita, than those living in better conditions. When I visited the slums of Mumbai, for instance, it was routine to see a 30-year-old woman with seven children. And those are just the ones that survived; most women had actually had 10 to 12 children by that point, but some did not make it. Most women end up having 10 living children by the time they hit menopause.
5) So one man and one woman have now created five to ten more people who start back at Step 1), and repeat the process.

The solution? Massive condom airdrops would probably be a good place to start. Blanket the slums in condoms for a generation. Help the people there break that cycle they've gotten into by not having children.

We've seen a similar thing happen in America over the past 30 years, with easier access to abortions. The crime rate has dropped in many areas, since poor women who become pregnant can abort their pregnancy rather than having a child who will grow up to become just another useless gangsta or thug committing crime all day.

Re:Am I alone or (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31305032)

I could not agree more. The only reason slums are 'green' or recycle is due to poverty. They cant afford power and they cant afford to buy new. The latter being a mildly good affect of the first.
This article/idea is just more rubbish from people who want everyone to go green no matter the cost. Be it lifestyle or effect on economies. I for one do not welcome our new green wanna be overlords.
We should focus more on bringing everyone up to the level 1st world countries expect. We should be focusing on how to generate renewable power, not on how to use less. We should focus on how to take all garbage and recycle it easily. Sorting and cleaning is ridiculous. Garbage is dirty!

Re:Am I alone or (4, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304688)

I was immediately reminded of Isaac Asimov's Caves of Steel. In that novel the humans live in very, very compact fashion..... basically like dorms. One dorm per family. Shared bathrooms/toilets. They have to because there's not enough energy to live like we live, and support 20 billion people, so the humans must live in the most "green" way possible - minimally.

Re:Am I alone or (2, Insightful)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304720)

Yes it is cynical. Poverty is good unless you're rich, in which case poverty becomes essential or you can't be rich

Sector 7 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304320)

Whenever I think "Slums" I think of the Sector 7 slums from FF7.

Re:Sector 7 (1)

bmecoli (963615) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304504)

Do you get the song "Oppressed People" stuck in your head too?

Where do the authors live? (2, Interesting)

e9th (652576) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304328)

I wonder how many of the cited authors live in "conurbations made up of people who do not legally occupy the land they live on."

Re:Where do the authors live? (5, Insightful)

aynoknman (1071612) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304366)

You miss the point. The point is not that slums are good for the people who live in them. Slums are good for people who don't live in them.

Re:Where do the authors live? (4, Interesting)

ionix5891 (1228718) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304412)

concentration camps

that's what spring to mind reading the description for this article

rather perverse (BladeRunner'ish) way of thinking eh :(

Re:Where do the authors live? (3, Interesting)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304426)

Why do all people living in the slum leave it at the earliest possible convenience if they can afford it?
Why do all people living outside the slum vote to demolish these settlements as soon as a political opportunity opens up?

If it is ecological wonderland, why do they have no sewage system, not even septic tanks?
If it is ecological wonderland, why do people die of disease, crime and poverty there?
If it is *regarded* as ecological wonderland, with such a low standard of living, filthy unsanitary conditions, high infant mortality, extreme crime levels, extreme poverty, garbage-digging humiliation, fire hazards - does it tell us something about the slum, - or does it rather tell us something about The Greens that rave and dream about living in a human-made hellhole?

I always suspected the Ecological Stalinists want us to go back into the caves. *Knowing* they dream of slums of totally impoverished illegal aliens is even more frightening.

Re:Where do the authors live? (0, Flamebait)

Shadow of Eternity (795165) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304496)

If it is ecological wonderland, why do they have no sewage system, not even septic tanks?

I can't say much for the rest... but you do realise that when you fertilize a plant you basically shit on it, right?

Re:Where do the authors live? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304656)

You shouldnt use a carnivore (or omnivore like a human)'s shit to fertilize anything you plan to eat.... bacteria, parasites all that good stuff. Why do you think humans used outhouses to shit in, but used cow pies to fertilize the crops.

Re:Where do the authors live? (1)

anticlimate (1093749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304910)

I know shit about fretilizers (sorry, couldn't resist), but AFAIK animal dung too has to be composted (especially chicken's) before use, and according to some anecdotes in China they used to use sewage from "public" privies (but that latter may be just that - an anecdote).

Re:Where do the authors live? (3, Informative)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304948)

Dung can be used for fertilizing. Human and pig dung works fine to grow plants. Devoid of other alternatives, it is possible and the plants don't mind the source.

The problem is, you're closing a feedback loop on parasites and bacteria harmful to human or swine. All it takes then is any pathogen that survives composting to quickly increase its effects.

Re:Where do the authors live? (3, Insightful)

bitrex (859228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304782)

Yeah, but sewage contains a whole lot more than just human shit, and there's an enormous volume of the stuff. The difference between a nutrient and toxin is often just a matter of degree. But if you're convinced that fertilizer and raw sewage are equivalent in practice, why not route your dwelling's sewage outflow pipe into your garden and tell us how it goes?

Re:Where do the authors live? (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304822)

If you can afford it, you make damn sure the shit is processed beforehand. Disease sucks.

Re:Where do the authors live? (2, Interesting)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304514)

*Knowing* they dream of slums of totally impoverished illegal aliens is even more frightening.

It is indeed getting very worrying. The use of hate and fear is a well known political tool, and the increasing proficiency of these groups in using this tool along with media manipulation techniques is quite dangerous. They would have us hate and fear the air that we breathe (carbon emissions), our quality of life (just about everything), even hate and fear our own children (malthusian nuts, I'm looking at you).

There are issues with the environment, yes. We should reduce harmful pollutants, of course, and aim to reduce our general ecological footprint since we don't need to reduce biodiversity in order to thrive, not any more at least. Its just not best practise. But we don't need to go into a self flagellating spiral of self destruction in order to achieve that, far from it.

I find it interesting that you mention Stalinists also, since there is in my experience a strong connection between extreme leftist groups and eco-extremists. It is established doctrine among overtly communist organisations to infiltrate new movements and co-opt them into pushing their own agenda. Case in point the Green party here in Ireland has "redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor" as a central focus of their party constitution, what does that have to do with Green issues? Not to go all McCarthyist on the situation, but it is irksome to see perfectly good new ideas and movements utterly ruined by these bearded cultists.

Re:Where do the authors live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304638)

Not to go all McCarthyist on the situation...

Don't worry, you already have.

...but it is irksome to see perfectly good new ideas and movements utterly ruined by these bearded cultists.

I could say the exact same thing about right wing extremists.

Re:Where do the authors live? (0, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304736)

When did this become a left/right issue ? Supposedly environmentalism exists across the political spectrum, no ?

Of course only the left wing would find this "shared infrastructure" that is called a slum a good idea. Not that any lefty would ever want to actually live in one, but they're perfectly suitable for all those dissidents and commoners. I'm sure they'd vote for a fence or a wall around them next.

Yes, you'd defineately need to be a lefty, and a sufficiently deluded lefty to think that you yourself wouldn't end up in one at that. No shortage of those though.

Re:Where do the authors live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304644)

They would have us hate and fear the air that we breathe (carbon emissions)

I don't breathe carbon, you insensitive clod!

And I for one do not welcome our new carbon-breathing, photosynthesizing, slightly plant-like alien overlords.

Re:Where do the authors live? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304802)

But we don't need to go into a self flagellating spiral of self destruction in order to achieve that

I think Manfred Mann speaks for progressives on this one: "But mama, that's where the fun is."

there is in my experience a strong connection between extreme leftist groups and eco-extremists

They're called "watermelons": "Green" on the outside, "red" on the inside. And they're hardly "extreme" anymore by today's standards. They're still just as crazy and evil as they ever were, it's just that this type of crazy and evil has gone mainstream and is now "normal". The far left is the new center. ("Reality has a liberal bias.")

Re:Where do the authors live? (2, Insightful)

anticlimate (1093749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304836)

While I share Your feelings about extreme Malthusians (I mean the people, who publicly welcome any catastrophe because it lowers population) - I have yet to meet any "eco-extremists" (or "dark greens" as others like to label those people). In the same time every related discussion is ripe with hate towards e.g. "Al Gore's followers" (rutinely used to those who accept the science of anthropogenic global warming) or those anecdotal "eco-extremists". But it's just my impression, I'm not American (I guess You are) maybe we are just surrounded by different types of people.

Re:Where do the authors live? (3, Interesting)

bitrex (859228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304854)

A planet of slums is hardly the dream of the environmental movement, Stalinist or otherwise. If anything it's the endgame of neoliberal economics -- a world of billions of poor ruled over by a godlike wealthy elite is its apotheosis.

Re:Where do the authors live? (3, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304586)

I always suspected the Ecological Stalinists want us to go back into the caves. *Knowing* they dream of slums of totally impoverished illegal aliens is even more frightening.

WTF you mean that District 9 - like 1984 - was not meant as a blueprint for a society?

Re:Where do the authors live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304660)

You're looking at just the living conditions. What about the impact of your lifestyle? How many gallons of soap water do you dump into the wild to keep your SUV shiny? How many square feet of land were used to grow the food that was used to feed the animal that produced the meat chunk that you threw away because you were full? That isn't an ecological wonderland.

Re:Where do the authors live? (5, Interesting)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304676)

You are missing the point.

Why do all people living in the slum leave it at the earliest possible convenience if they can afford it?

Of course they do, nobody is arguing that is not the case. But the opposite question also points out a truth - why do countryside dwellers move into the city slums at the earliest possible convenience if they can afford it? From TFA:

"Cities are so much more successful in promoting new forms of income generation, and it is so much cheaper to provide services in urban areas, that some experts have actually suggested that the only realistic poverty reduction strategy is to get as many people as possible to move to the city."

Cities encourage growth. The slums are a hive of economic activity, providing jobs, income, and increased standard of living. Not for you or I, but for the tens of millions of people in the third world who made the choice to move from the countryside to the city.

Why do all people living outside the slum vote to demolish these settlements as soon as a political opportunity opens up?

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch". Middle and upper class residents don't want to live next to the lower classes. So where should the lower classes live?

If it is ecological wonderland, why do they have no sewage system, not even septic tanks?
If it is ecological wonderland, why do people die of disease, crime and poverty there?

TFA is discussing slums in third world nations and contrasting them with the countryside in those nations. Villages in the countryside in India and China generally do not have sewage systems. People also die of disease, crime and poverty in the countryside. Cities "promote new forms of income generation" - i.e. people move to cities because there are jobs and an opportunity to earn more than living in the countryside. In the third world (and even sometimes in the first), people do die of disease, crime and poverty, regardless of whether they live in a city slum or countryside. The comparison point here is not Vienna to a Mumbai slum - it is the Mumbai slum to the Maharashtra countryside that surrounds it.

Crime - Is the crime actually bad in comparison to, say, an American city? Here's a re-print of a newspaper editorial from The Harvard Crimson - Urban Poverty and Crime: Contrasting Boston and Mumbai, India [blogspot.com] :

"With over 18 million inhabitants, Mumbai has a population density four times that of New York City, and fully half of these inhabitants are homeless... Yet as of March 31, only 133 murders had been registered in all of Mumbai since New Years. This means that there has been one murder for roughly every 136,000 people this year, whereas Boston has had 16 murders in a city of under 600,000–roughly one murder for every 37,000 people."

does it tell us something about the slum, - or does it rather tell us something about The Greens that rave and dream about living in a human-made hellhole?

You are talking about Dark Greens [wikipedia.org] and trying to ascribe their views to the rest of society. The Green Party takes about 10% of the vote in German, but I can assure you that they do not aim to turn Germany into a "hellhole".

I always suspected the Ecological Stalinists want us to go back into the caves.

Again you project your fears about Dark Greens onto anyone who shows any concern for the environment.

Maybe you should consider some Libertarian benefits of the slums:

  • Dynamic and growing economy with practically no oversight, regulation or taxation by government
  • Entrepreneurs generally use private security in preference to the (somewhat corrupt) police
  • High density living means services can be provided cheaply and new revenue streams become possible
  • No effective local government means that people self-organise between themselves to get things done
  • There are no government provisions for the slums, so all goods and services are provided by local entrepreneurs and not the government
  • Despite the lack of effective policing, crime rates are lower than one would expect

Re:Where do the authors live? (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304754)

No, the "dark greens" are in favor of killing the "non-sustainable" portion of humans. Without oil (as we'll be in 50 years at the latest) that means between 90 and 99% of humans alive today. That's totally unacceptable.

This is merely lefty greens, who feel the need for enforced "communities". You'd be surprised how mainstream this sort of idea is, at least on campus.

Re:Where do the authors live? (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304790)

Maybe you should consider some Libertarian benefits of the slums:
- Dynamic and growing economy with practically no oversight, regulation or taxation by government
- High density living means services can be provided cheaply and new revenue streams become possible
- No effective local government means that people self-organise between themselves to get things done

I like your point about Libertarians. Many Ls are actually anarchists, saying that human society would actually be better-off with no government (other than self-rule). If Libertarian ideals took-over would we eventually end-up living in compact, filthy cities like our 1700s/1800s ancestors did? Thomas Jefferson called his century's cities "the dungheaps of humanity where the people live in their own filth".

The key word of your comment is "registered" (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304922)

"Yet as of March 31, only 133 murders had been registered in all of Mumbai since New Years. This means that there has been one murder for roughly every 136,000 people this year [which is one-fourth that of] Boston" [...] consider some Libertarian benefits of the slums: [...]Despite the lack of effective policing, crime rates are lower than one would expect

By those statistics, of course private security and a private judicial system would result in fewer registered crimes: private prosecutions, private trials, and private sentences wouldn't be registered with the central government.

Entrepreneurs generally use private security in preference to the (somewhat corrupt) police

But what happens when two private security firms engage in coercion (violence or fraud) against each other?

Re:Where do the authors live? (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304988)

"I always suspected the Ecological Stalinists want us to go back into the caves."

That comment got me wondering as to who exactly are these guys and are they connected in any way....

Kevin Kelly [wikipedia.org] is the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, and a former editor/publisher of the Whole Earth Catalog.

Stewart Brand [wikipedia.org] is an American writer, best known as editor of the Whole Earth Catalog (ding!). He founded a number of organizations including The WELL, the Global Business Network, and the Long Now Foundation. Brand also served as a member of the board of Directors of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

They sound like a couple of rich old hippies, OTOH the impressive list of sponsers of the Global Business Network [sourcewatch.org] make for an interesting read.

Re:Where do the authors live? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304440)

Where's my option to mod this article down? Oh, wait this is /.

Was Peter Calthorpe on crack? (1, Insightful)

JohnWilliams (781097) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304332)

Quote: "Still, as architect Peter Calthorpe wrote in 1985: 'The city is the most environmentally benign form of human settlement. Each city dweller consumes less land, less energy, less water, and produces less pollution than his counterpart in settlements of lower densities."

Can anyone in their right mind take this seriously? How much land, energy, water, produce and pollution is made outside cities in order to produce the food and material goods that are transporting into cities for city-dwellers to consume? It also seems reasonable that cities produce a more materialistic lifestyle than small towns.

Was Calthorpe's statement based on any actual research, or just armchair bluster?

Re:Was Peter Calthorpe on crack? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304382)

How much energy is used and pollution produced transporting things over the long distance between small towns?

Why do you think having the same number of people as a city but spread so that they are an hour or more drive apart from each other would be more efficient? Frankly, the observation that cities make more efficient use of resources borders on self-evident as far as I'm concerned. Caged hen eggs are cheaper than free range for a reason.

Re:Was Peter Calthorpe on crack? (2, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304936)

Why do you think having the same number of people as a city but spread so that they are an hour or more drive apart from each other would be more efficient?

Why do you think it's necessary for them to drive at all?

Re:Was Peter Calthorpe on crack? (1)

drsquare (530038) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304838)

Actually you'll find that suburbanites have the most materialistic lifestyles.

Re:Was Peter Calthorpe on crack? (1)

HungryHobo (1314109) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304976)

Cities really are far more efficient per person.

Example:
Heating appartments.

If you live in an apartment most of your walls are shared with other apartments so any heat lost through them will heat other apartments.

The little house on the prairie on the other hand either has to have thick thick insulation in every wall and tripple glazed windows or else it will lose a lot of heat to the outside air.

Transport:

In a big city public transport can be economic and efficient and you normally don't have to go far to get what you need.

The denizens of the little house on the prairie on the other hand need to drive 20 miles to the nearest big town whenever they need anything they can't whittle.

Yes a city with 10,000,000 people covering 100 square miles will have more of an impact than a tiny community of farmers covering 100 square miles but each individual in that little rustic community has probably tens or even hundreds of times the ecological impact of any one person in that city of 10 million and uses many times the energy.

Slums are Good! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304358)

I suppose Socialists find slums desirable.

Everyone can be equal in their poverty in a slum. True equality for all is human destiny!

Re:Slums are Good! (1)

BlueStrat (756137) | more than 4 years ago | (#31305022)

I suppose Socialists find slums desirable.

Everyone can be equal in their poverty in a slum. True equality for all is human destiny!

Why was this modded "Troll"? Socialism is all about "sharing the wealth" and "income redistribution", described as "economic justice" and "social justice".

Most of the world lives closer to the conditions of the Mumbai slums than they do to the average US suburbanite, so when all this "equalization" occurs, do you think the average standards will end up being closer to the standards enjoyed by the average US suburbanite, or to a Mumbai slum resident?

It's *much* easier to reduce significantly the standards enjoyed by a few hundred million than it is to raise significantly the standards of many billions to achieve equality.

Think about that simple fact whenever someone goes on about how Socialism isn't that bad, and how "social & economic justice" is a great thing and what that may mean to yourself, your children, and their children.

And no, this isn't a zero-sum game; raising living standards in one part of the world does not necessarily mean that some other part must go through a reduction in those standards. This is class-warfare guilt-tripping for political manipulation and not based on actualities.

Strat

A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (5, Interesting)

Gopal.V (532678) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304364)

Somehow in my world view, the concept progress somehow involved a rise in the standard of living globally. In a more selfish angle, poverty anywhere is a threat to prosperity everywhere ... but it should come as no surprise that a low standard of living has a lower carbon footprint, but a reversal into the medieval dark ages, into a world of filth and disease is not where I thought progress would take me.

The hint of "noble savage" that this particular article seems to dig up almost horrifies me. The illusion that somehow all of us should aspire to simple living goes against two centuries of human culture. Even they aspire for me, as the article clearly spells out "Discomfort is an investment". These people aren't comfortable, the population explosion and the draw-in into the cities is causing the rural india to collapse, the two-bit farmer who grew his own grain & sold his veggies during the rains is gone. Fewer hands to till and more mouths to feed.

Because I live in urban India, I see slums day in & day out. I walk by them, I occasionally grab a cup of chai from the roadside vendor (hey, I got an immune system, don't I?). I end up people-watching, the drunkard husband, the garbage picker kids, the housemaid wife, the precocious teenager dreaming of a gangster life. Vivid, poignant & stark at the same time. But very rarely do I click a picture or write about what I see (maybe I'm in middle-class denial, I don't know). Though occasionally rant about the representation of it [dotgnu.info] in popular culture. This is the bombay [flic.kr] I love to visit, not the slums or the bombed hotels.

I want progress, not just for me ... but for everyone. Not a green planet that's So-so-Soylent. Let me have my dream, at least ... don't glorify my nightmares :(

Ugh, I think I've spent all the optimism I'd had for the day.

Re:A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304476)

Wow, it's interesting to hear someone bring up the high concept of "progress". The way I remember it, the alternative to progress wasn't regression into the dark ages but the knowing recognition of limits to growth. We have to learn to live with each other and what we have now, the theory goes. The concept of progress is connected with the "frontier". You may have heard "America has always had a frontier" and statements like this are supposed to invoke some sort of vision of progress.. America, the ever expanding land of opportunity, and to most, that's exactly what it does. To some, though, the invocation of frontier concept makes them think of native Americans.. to these people the frontier is a place where wars are fought, where the natives give up their lands and their culture to the oppressors. These people would say America's frontier, right now, is Afghanistan and Iraq. You'll occasionally hear talk of bringing progressive government to these regions. Again, you're supposed to think of free elections and equal rights and economic expansion. America isn't stealing Iraq's oil and Afghanistan's gas reserves under the a flag of conquest.. they're building infrastructure so the native peoples can become a part of the world economic system.

I don't want to sound biased here, I think there's a little bit of truth in both philosophies.. I don't think its terribly fair to forcibly "elevate" people on the ladder of progress to get at their resources, but I also don't think it is terribly wrong to help lift people out of poverty when its incredibly obvious (to us) that they are materially rich and just don't have the means to utilize that wealth to increase their standard of living. I guess it's our motives they question, but I don't think selfish motives necessarily make an action immoral - they can be mutually beneficial.

And finally, as I'm a space nut, I have to say something about the "high frontier" and the promise of progress that it offers. The resources in Iraq and Afghanistan pale in comparison to the resources off-Earth and, in my opinion, there's literally no moral issues with acquiring and utilizing those resources to increase our standard of living. What, you might ask, could I possibly mean by increase our standard of living? America (and other western countries) have the highest standard of living in the world.. can't we be satisfied with what we've got? As you point out, I don't think that's human nature, nor is it desirable. And if such a limit to our growth is to be forced on us then I think *that* is a moral issue.

Imagine the price of platinum being no greater than the price of steel. Imagine the price of steel dropping so much that it is in the noise of the transportation costs (we're almost there!). Not everyone can own a private island.. but maybe one day everyone can own an island in space (Gerard O'Neil would concur). The seduction of progress from the ultimate frontier.. it's so alluring that it's not surprising there are some among us who see it as a hedonistic luxury, but most of our modern amenities seem that way to the rest of the world. Are they right?

Space (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304710)

Platinum is already extremely expensive. The technology to mine it in space mostly already exists, at least on the large scale. I'm not of the opinion that space will be an economical venture any time soon. Not before we have a real revolution in energy production, or it becomes really feasible for a small group of entrepreneurs to send some really damn good robots off-planet.

Re:A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (4, Insightful)

AudioInfecktion (1088677) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304500)

I still don't think most of the readers have a concept of what it is you describe.

This topic was enough to get me up at 4am, log in to a computer that I usually do not use. Type in my horrendously complex password while still groggy eyed to expose the fantastic, misguided "progressive" bullhocky Stewart Brand is proposing.

I invite the rest of you out there to take a look at this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJhVM930YXY [youtube.com] video, taken from a movie that I can't remember the title of at the moment in my 4am and see what it is that he thinks. The picture on the article is so sanitized it makes puke.

This is not what human kind should be reduced to. For the author of this article to believe its someones place to live like this to satisfy some "green" agenda is reprehensible.

Honestly, the best way that I've seen for enabling this segment of society to grow and prosper and have success is the availability of micro loans. The amount of success driven by this type of economic activity is truly inspiring.

I'm going back to sleep now.

Re:A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304544)

Honestly, the best way that I've seen for enabling this segment of society to grow and prosper and have success is the availability of micro loans. The amount of success driven by this type of economic activity is truly inspiring.

I don't disagree, in fact I donate on the New Space [kiva.org] team over at Kiva, please come join us.

The discussion about slums is in comparison to rural poverty. If you actually saw the progress that the poor were making in slums and compared it to the stagnation that is poverty out on the land, you'd see why he's so impressed. The world really is a global village now. People around the world are getting micro-loans right now and doing business to improve their life. Most of those people are in slums, not out on the farm.

No progress without education (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304684)

the best way that I've seen for enabling this segment of society to grow and prosper and have success is the availability of micro loans.

The best way that I've seen for enabling this segment of society to grow and prosper and have success is the availability of education. Credit will not help people who have no marketable skills.

Re:A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (3, Insightful)

bguiz (1627491) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304568)

Mod parent up. While I don't live there, I have been to the slums of both Bombay and Kolkata. The sights (and the smells) are indeed gripping:

the drunkard husband, the garbage picker kids, the housemaid wife, the precocious teenager dreaming of a gangster life. Vivid, poignant & stark at the same time.

That hit the nail on the head. Add to that rackets who mutilate or amputate scores of children just to increase their begging ability, and other such nauseating scenes. Makes you think - even if they really do have less of an impact on the environment - so what? That is not the least of their concerns, and it certainly should be the least of your concerns as a relatively well off and comfortable 3rd party observer.

Re:A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (1, Insightful)

chrb (1083577) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304726)

Somehow in my world view, the concept progress somehow involved a rise in the standard of living globally... These people aren't comfortable

And yet, they are more comfortable than they would be given the other lifestyle options that are available to them.

the draw-in into the cities is causing the rural india to collapse, the two-bit farmer who grew his own grain & sold his veggies during the rains is gone

Because subsistence farming is not that great, and his sons wanted a better life and moved to the city?

Don't compare the slums to a western standard of living. Compare them to the other options that these people have available to them. The slum prostitute choosing to service ten men a day doesn't do it because she likes the job, she does it because the alternative is worse.

Re:A Precious Illusion of Progress ... (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304812)

>>>a reversal into the medieval dark ages, into a world of filth and disease is not where I thought progress would take me.

I did. For years now I've realized that if Oil & Coal becomes so scarce that its costs $1000 a barrel and gasoline is $50 a gallon, and electricity costs $2 per kilowatt-hour, we can no longer live like we live. We must revert to living in a pre-oil and pre-coal type of society, like our ancestors did in the 1700s.

Oh and no I don't think there's any viable replacement for oil and coal. Solar/nuclear/wind will help cushion the fall, but they won't be able to replace the billions of barrels we use every year.

slums aren't all they're cracked up to be but... (2, Interesting)

An dochasac (591582) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304390)

Architects, sociologists, city planners.. indeed all of us could learn something about the kind of innovation that goes on in slums as the result of necessity. Our cushy world is based so much around luxury, not necessity, that it's nearly impossible to strip away what we really need. Some MIT students studied the carbon footprint of homeless [newscientist.com] and found that een the homeless of the U.S. have nearly twice the carbon footprint of the global mean. If people with homes in ROW can get by, even be relatively happy with half the carbon footprint of our homeless, maybe they know something we should learn.

Whether we reach peak-oil, peek debt, peak atmospheric carbon or our population reaches a point where food and water becomes too scarce, eventually most of us will have to learn to live with what we need rather than what we want. We won't learn that if we (Like Beijing), take working old neighborhoods, Hutongs and silk market and replace them with hi rises and supermalls. We wont learn it if we do like the U.S. and declare such neighborhoods "Blighted" [americancity.org] and seize them by eminent domain and hand them over to private developers [wikipedia.org] who understand greed more than they understand the architecture and sociology of necessity.

Re:slums aren't all they're cracked up to be but.. (1, Troll)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304454)

So in other words, to reduce our carbon footprint (which may or may not do anything about global warming), living in a literal concentration camp is the best alternative to the Western of life?

Is that the IPCC's plan to stop global warming, reducing our life to as much as possible short of executing unwanted polluters?

The inventions, innovations we see in the slums are the result of extremely harsh conditions, high crime and an incredibly accelerated *evolution* of ideas. Because people that don't have those ideas are rapidly killed by mobsters, starved by hunger or consumed by disease.

Face it, slums are almost like concentration camps, without the gas chambers. With the Mob taking over the role of the SS, and complete with starvation, humiliation, disease, poverty and the inability to really leave the place. Some leave the slums, but most who were born there also die in that place.

Imprisoned Jews in the concentration camps built simple submachine guns and radio transmitters out of rubbish, literally. If occupants of a slum produce similar incredible feats of poor-engineering, it is a testament of human endurance, ingenuity and spirit prevailing even in hellish environments. It is telling us how strong and clever humans can be, if they need to. It is not the future standard model of urban living.

Re:slums aren't all they're cracked up to be but.. (1)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304776)

"Is that the IPCC's plan to stop global warming, reducing our life to as much as possible short of executing unwanted polluters?"

Jebus how far can you strech something to suit your politics. The IPCC is a scientific review panel, if you want to attack the international politics of climate change by linking them to concentration camps you should at least know the acronym you are looking for is the UNFCCC.

Re:slums aren't all they're cracked up to be but.. (1)

phoenix321 (734987) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304918)

"The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was negotiated on the basis of initial IPCC findings. The UNFCCC was established and signed by almost all countries in 1992 at the Rio Summit."

So UNFCCC exists only because of the IPCC, which tells us something about their relationship.

I would distrust this organization just for the six-letter acronym. Knowing it is the in^h^hmanifestation of IPCC makes things even worse.

Why do we have a scientific research panel, when the science is settled? How scientific is that and why should we continue to tarnish the reputation of science with this global warming agenda?

Re:slums aren't all they're cracked up to be but.. (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304486)

What exactly can we learn from slums? Recycling is good? Waste not want not? We already know that, and we even have a pretty good grasp of how to do it, but we don't... because we don't have to, as you say.

It's not always greener to endlessly recycle either, and to keep stuff going beyond its useful life, the way they do in the slums. Better to have modern, fast, energy efficient trains than one ancient diesel with passengers hanging off the sides. Better to replace your crappy old car with a new one that pollutes less and uses less than half of the energy to run. Better to figure out how to build comfortable and energy efficient housing than to recycle your wood and steel into uncomfortable shacks. People in slums don't do any of that, not because they are stupid or because it makes no sense, but simpy because they have no options. We do. I bet there are a few clever tricks being cooked up in the slums, but I seriously doubt that those have great relevance for us. A bit like the advise given by the homeless guy in "The day after tomorrow", to stuff newspapers into your clothes to help you keep warm. Seriously, I think we can do better than that, for ourselves as well as for people living in those slums today.

I fully agree that we too will have to learn to live by necessities rather than wants, but I would counter the article with the statement that there is nothing the slums can teach us about future urban living... except that we had best make sure our future isn't all slums. Noble savages die very, very young...

SHUT UP (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304394)

I think it is VERY ill-advised to get sociologists and urban planners to be holding up the "slum model" to folks who are not particularly interested in going green.

"Hey guys, this is the FUTURE!"

"No thanks"

Re:SHUT UP (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304930)

How about the Amish-American model that I live next to? They plant seeds, harvest the final product, and eat it. They make their own clothes. They don't burn gasoline. Or coal electricity. Their homes are heated with renewable energy from trees (wood).

It isn't a perfect lifestyle, but I imagine their carbon footprint is near-zero, and certainly better than living in slums.

Population density (2, Insightful)

Antony-Kyre (807195) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304398)

I don't see how it can ever be pleasant to live so close to other people. I'm all for energy efficiency, but there has to be a better way.

Re:Population density (4, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304442)

I don't see how it can ever be pleasant to live so close to other people. I'm all for energy efficiency, but there has to be a better way.

Fewer People.

Re:Population density (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304482)

I don't see how it can ever be pleasant to live so close to other people. I'm all for energy efficiency, but there has to be a better way.

Fewer People.

That's the hard truth, even if people don't care to hear it, don't like to hear it, don't want to her it. That won't change the fact that it is the truth at this point in time for our current stage of civilization.

For now living space is finite, resources are finite and that's not going to change greatly in the foreseeable future, and the more population we try to support the less likely it will change in the future until it becomes truly unsustainable over the immediate short term. If it reaches that point things will get very ugly, very fast.

Re:Population density (2, Interesting)

Darkman, Walkin Dude (707389) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304614)

You should read up on Byzantine (thats the Eastern Roman Empire city) efforts to control population many many hundreds of years ago - the more things change, the more they stay the same. As the population expands, so too does our ability to deal with its demands. You could fit the entire population of the earth very comfortably in an area the size of Texas, thats a plot of land for each man, woman and child. Obviously something like that would need careful planning and probably subsurface transport infrastructure etc, not that I'm advocating a single megacity. Their food and energy needs could be readily taken care of by using the rest of North America, leaving everywhere else completely empty.

Re:Population density (1)

manicb (1633645) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304768)

Please elaborate on the farming methods which could achieve this, and how long that energy supply would last.

Re:Population density (1)

Tromad (1741656) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304972)

I don't have a reference on hand but there was an article on here about a year ago on tower greenhouse farming, where someone demonstrated that tons of food could be grown in a very small amount of ground space. Depending on the location, power could be a combination of nuclear, solar, and wind. The later two are somewhat inefficient but continuously see improvements.

Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304784)

You could fit the entire population of the earth very comfortably in an area the size of Texas, thats a plot of land for each man, woman and child.Obviously something like that would need careful planning and probably subsurface transport infrastructure etc, not that

No you couldn't - even with careful planning. It's impossible for 7 billion people+ and growing. Getting the potable water there and handling the sewage - even if you had unlimited funds. That's the plan breaker right there.

Their food and energy needs could be readily taken care of by using the rest of North America, leaving everywhere else completely empty.

Ah. Just out of curiosity, how would you get all of that there? Truck and trains? All those truck and trains converging into one mega-city?

Not gonna happen - even if this were Star Trek days and they could do it with those flying transport thingys.

Re:Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304942)

Texas is about 268,000 square miles (including water area, but slums can be made to float), times (5280 ft/mi)^2 is 7,471,411,200,000 square feet, or 1000 square feet per person with a world population of 7.4 billion. Which is the size condo I'm living in now (quite comfortably). Water could enter the area the same way sewage exits -- via underground piping. Same with oil, and gas. For food distribution -- air drop! (And then I guess for "taking out the garbage", we'd have to do like exams in college where everyone passes them down to the end of the aisle! Okay maybe that one should be rethought.)

Re:Population density (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304958)

>>> the more things change, the more they stay the same.

No not really. They wanted to control the population because it was a burden on the State Treasury, and their solution was often as simple as saying, "Leave the city... go into the countryside." That's not the same as our goal, which is literally to stop poisoning ourselves because the planet is becoming overburdened. The Roman solution of "leave the city" is no longer a workable solution.

Just think - if our population were 1/2 billion rather than 6 billion, global warming from CO2 emissions wouldn't even be an issue.

Re:Population density (1)

BlackPignouf (1017012) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304730)

Plus, the "environmentally-friendliness" in function of the population density is *not* monotonically increasing.

There's an optimum somewhere, but I can assure you it isn't attained in LA or in Shanghai.
All the food has to be imported from at least a few 100 miles, people having to commute from one side of town to the other have to stay in traffic jams a few hours a day, and the heat island effect has a huge impact on air conditioning and electricity demand.

As far as TFA is concerned, environmentalists have to take minimum standards of living into account or they're just being assholes.

Re:Population density (1)

anticlimate (1093749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304752)

That is my main problem with cities in general. You can eliminate pollution, make the city bike- and walk-friendly, reduce crime etc., but living together with tens of thousands of people tends to increase psychological stress. Well at least it increases my level of stress living in a city, but I guess I'm not alone.

Another factor against large cities sounds rather strange, (and I'm not really sure it should be decisive choosing your place of living): resistance to disaster - be it a flood, earthquake or a war. I remember seeing a presentation somewhere from the '50s which recommended developing suburb-like living areas because human casualties would be lower there in case of a nuclear explosion, than in a dense city.

That said I think there are major factors, other than wether you will live near a target if a nuclear war breaks out, or if Gozilla will stomp over your apartment (those monsters just love dense cities :)

Re:Population density (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304934)

Focus on the third dimension, both up and down. You can still have nice big houses, but there's going to be 5-10 of them stacked on top of each other.

Summary of article: great but we won't live there (5, Insightful)

fantomas (94850) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304400)

So a brief summary of the article would appear to be: affluent Westerners living in air conditioned, well educated, health insured cosmopolitan urban areas think that slums with no sewage facilities, running water, health care or protection against corruption or physical violence are a great way of housing migrant, poor populations. Said poor will have more opportunities in life if they live in urban slums than rural poverty. Rich authors of articles do not offer to move out of their million dollar homes to move into the slums, despite singing their praises.

 

Kevin McCloud explored this (3, Informative)

bobinabottle (819829) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304408)

http://www.channel4.com/4homes/on-tv/kevin-mccloud-slumming-it/ [channel4.com] Quite an interesting documentary series on the benefits and shortcomings of living in slums in Mumbai. He goes and lives in Dharavi for a few weeks and describes his experiences from a micro and macro point of view.

Re:Kevin McCloud explored this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304450)

I remember watching this.
And i felt really bad when i saw the families walking around in the landfills, barefeet in all sorts of chemicals that could be there.
And worse is the government is thinking of completely demolishing the place and building awful high-rise flats in place.

High-rise flats are just an awful design, mainly because it separates all the space instead of links between the buildings on all, or most floors.
If people want to build up the way, at least keep things connected instead of forcing people to the ground floors just to get across to the other buildings!
Smarter cities my ass, they just cause more separation, and slums are highly social places.
Not to mention they absolutely destroy one of the good parts, the fact that it is mostly an open area. High-rise flats are literally just houses with staircases to the now useless ground levels.

I have designed some slum-inspired smart towns in my spare time that work just as well as slums and have all the niceties of regular housing.
Just a shame my life went the way of computers instead of architecture, but computers were my first love, architecture was second.
I should probably just post all my ideas on a website sometime since the likeliness of me getting around to doing it is slim.
If anyone else out there could use my ideas to improve the lives of others, it would make me feel some sort of relief.

Re:Kevin McCloud explored this (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304732)

"He goes and lives in Dharavi for a few weeks and describes his experiences from a micro and macro point of view."

All the time knowing he can fly home whenever he wants.

30yrs ago as a young married guy with one kid I lived on what American's call a trailer park, I worked 60hr weeks as a day labourer on nearby farms which still did not pay enough to live in a rented house. I lost count of the number of tourists I told to go fuck themselves after they had remarked to me what a "carefree lifestyle" I had.

What? (2, Interesting)

Alarindris (1253418) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304414)

Absolutely ridiculous. Live in your toilet, it's green...

Having been to Barbados, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic I'm fucking speechless.

Recycling (3, Interesting)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304422)

I'm a little shocked that people in the suburbs are always surprised to hear that dense cities, particularly areas with poor people recycle practically everything. In Bogota, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, and Buenos Aires - HUGE, bustling cities easily on par with the populations of NYC and LA -- it was not the least bit surprising to see an entire family (yes their 4 and 5 year old children happily helped out), or groups of widows, or simply a homeless man working together to pull apart the trashbags left out on the sidewalk and digging through all the thrown away food for the odd aluminum can, recyclable soda bottle, a pile of used staples or bent paperclips. At the end of buisness the streets would be teeming with boys aged 12-15 collecting shreded paper from banks in giant sacks 3' in diameter, carted off on wobbly, self made carts to who knows where, grinning at their great haul. Cleaning crews would show up about an hour later and cart off whatever was left behind (very, very little). Even in Dallas I've had to run off homeless people from my backyard, digging through my trash to find the odd bottle or soda can. Recycling is everywhere -- except the suburbs.
 
As Santiago, Chile has proven, there are many developed countries that are under the global radar with bustling cities that are rather self sufficient. The huge sprawling, wasteful metroplexes of the US are rather unique. Even poor China and India with their bad pollution recycles practically anything and everything.

Not all trash is recyclable (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304780)

an entire family (yes their 4 and 5 year old children happily helped out), or groups of widows, or simply a homeless man working together to pull apart the trashbags left out on the sidewalk and digging through all the thrown away food for the odd aluminum can, recyclable soda bottle, a pile of used staples or bent paperclips

The problem with that is that not all trash has the same value.

Beverage cans are made of aluminum, which has the highest price among common garbage items. No one will want to waste their time recycling plastic bottles if there are aluminum cans available. There's very little value in recycling plastic which will most probably end in a landfill, no matter how many people are gathering garbage.

Empty plastic bottles float in water and get washed away to the nearest water course [wordpress.com] after any heavy rain and ultimately end in the ocean [wikipedia.org]

Re:Not all trash is recyclable (1)

tecnico.hitos (1490201) | more than 4 years ago | (#31305014)

No one will want to waste their time recycling plastic bottles if there are aluminum cans available. There's very little value in recycling plastic which will most probably end in a landfill, no matter how many people are gathering garbage.

Miserable people can't afford letting anything behind, since it's their only hope of getting some money.

I live in a suburb in Brazil. I see they taking away not only plastic bottles, but cardboard as well, which has even less value. This is actually very common here.

Re:Recycling (1)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304978)

You present this as a positive thing rather than just a fact of life in these places, so disregard this if this wasn't your intention.

Some recycling isn't bad of course, but all those people do this mainly because they're really fucking poor, not because they share Al Gore's concerns. There aren't many homeless or very poor people in American suburbs, therefore nobody wants to waste their time picking up bottles and cans off the streets. I don't think young children being forced to do this is a good sign, either.

Re:Recycling (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 4 years ago | (#31305016)

That's because we Americans and Europeans have "time" on our side. It sounds like those poor persons are spending literally hours searching through trash just to find a few bottles and other knick-knacks.

In contrast, we in America and Europe only need a few minutes to earn the money and just BUY the bottle. For us it is not logical to spend hours to get these items.

It's more environmentally friendly to die. (4, Insightful)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304448)

Living in a slum is good because it's environmentally friendly and uses less resources? He may as well argue that's it's even more environmentally friendly to die young.

Re:It's more environmentally friendly to die. (2, Informative)

Dull Boy Jack (1586443) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304724)

In fact, it's even more environmentally friendly not to be born at all. No need for people to die young or live in a slum. I find it really odd that most debates on man-made environmental changes forget to mention overpopulation. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overpopulation [wikipedia.org]

Re:It's more environmentally friendly to die. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304914)

Better yet to not be born at all, so that we stop suffocating the planet and ourselves with our avarice.

Let me make this abundantly clear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304492)

I would rather subjugate an entire continent into forced labour to maintain my country's standard of living than live in a slum.

What a cynical, naive and misleading article (1)

carlhaagen (1021273) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304508)

Worst. Train of thought. Ever.

Slums *are* green though (1)

joebutton (788717) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304546)

Lots of people are making the entirely reasonable and correct point that slums are not very nice places to live. Nevertheless, the article is correct in saying that slums engender efficient, low-impact living, when compared to the lifestyles of the rich (anyone reading this is almost certainly rich, in global terms). I've heard various people say things along the lines of "you want to see an environmental disaster area - go and look at a slum". This thinking attempts to sidestep the responsibility of the rich by blaming the poor, who are in fact relatively guiltless. We might not want to live there, but we should jettison the popular idea that slums are bad ecologically, as it is the reverse of the truth.

Re:Slums *are* green though (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304892)

If we'd all revert to the "slum" way of living, we'd also revert society and the positive parts of its progress. The slums are green in comparison, but they, too, would be greener if they just did not exist at all. The entire article makes nothing but a moot point.

Translation (1)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304554)

Here's my translation of it:

Rich people could learn how to safe money from watching poor people.

Seriously? All you can learn from poor people about money is how they spend it when they -have no choice- in how they spend it.

Keyword here is teach (4, Interesting)

hughbar (579555) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304592)

I agree with many of the posters here that say most of the current slums are horrific. Also, I live in a poor part of London and have just returned from Bangkok where I visited and walked through some of their slums.

However, I believe the key word here is 'teach'. There are many things that I admire in Bangkok that I'd like to introduce to the East End. Good street food at an affordable price rather than look-alike hamburger chains (as part of the informal economy), re-use of anything reusable, (often) better levels of respect for property and people, ingenuity that doesn't exist in the gadget-heavy west. Yes, there are rats and open-sewers as well, but that doesn't invalidate the rest.

Walkability is also a big factor. I live near a canal but many of my female neighbours won't use the towpath because no-one else does, of course, this is a downward spiral, so I'm trying to get it to be a little more attractive, then more people walk it.

I have to say this about the article. (1)

cuby (832037) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304700)

It is Fascist. Try to pass through a slum with a million people without sewers and see how green it is. Science without considering human wellbeing is not a good thing.

You can find someone to agree with any POV (2, Interesting)

jimicus (737525) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304728)

Go back a couple of hundred years and you can find monographs written saying what a wonderful thing black slavery was.

More recently, apartheid in South Africa provoked similar views - plenty of white South Africans didn't really see a problem with denying 80% of the population all sorts of rights.

This is just another example of someone saying "I'm rich and the status quo works in my favour. I am therefore going to defend the status quo, even if that means spouting on about how wonderful it is that all these poor people live in such terrible conditions".

I'll pass (1)

FatherDale (1535743) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304758)

I live in India. If this is the future, I'm not interested.

Poverty, not density, forces effeciency (4, Insightful)

Lacraia (871364) | more than 4 years ago | (#31304762)

This article just make me sick. Any discourse involving slums without considering the effects of poverty just comes out wrong. Of course people living in slums " have minimum energy and material use". They have to. They have no choice. With such a small amount of resources that the people in the slums have they are forced to use them as efficient as possible. Something we, wealthy people, don't need to. At least in our own narrow perspective. We, the rich, aren't less energy efficient because we happen to live less dense. It because we feel like we can afford it. I can go by car, not because it's the only means of traveling, but it's more convenient and it doesn't mean I have to refrain from eating a couple of days. A enormous amount of the worlds population don't have this luxury. One proof of this missintepration of why people in densely populated areas are more energy efficient is that rich people in, for example, Manhattan (as it is used in the article) will most likely travel a lot by taxi and several times a year, if not monthly, travel by air. The reason for this: because they have the resources to do so. It seems like we're benign to use whatever resources that are available to us. I don't want force everyone to live like those in Rosinha, Rio de Janeiro. Neither do I want everyone to put a strain on the world like the financial elite. Judging by the growth of the world population and the state of the environment, we, rich and lucky, need to learn to use what we have in a much sustainable and efficient manner. We might have to look to the poor for this knowledge, but don't think that they are more efficient for no other reason then a dire need to be so.

Son you don't know what you sayin' (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304868)

I live in one of the biggest cities of the world, and that would be São Paulo, Brazil. The population is around 12 million people. The city core (which actually compromises a huge stake of the total city area) is pretty much highly developed (except for the huge daily congestion). Now, if you go to the outskirts, you will reach the slums. Have you ever been to one, I ask you? Do you really think it's green? You don't really know what you're saying then. First, most of the slums here are located in the southern portion of the city - which compromise hills, and, guess what, forests. However, the green hills no longer exist. They have been swept by slums. This also happens in Rio, just google for pictures and you'll know what I mean.
Slums don't have piped water. That means the population will dispose at nearby rivers or land, causing irreversible environmental damages. Slum "houses" are poorly constructed wood made structures. Now guess what happens when it rains? The water force takes everything downhill, houses and garbage. The avalanche destroys everything on its ways. People get killed. The garbage ends up on rivers anyway, or clogging the city sewage, causing massive floods. How green is that?
There are a bunch of counter arguments on the "slum is green" stupid theory. I could spend hours talking about them, but I think it is also worth mentioning the social side.
Hell, would you leave your comfortable house now to dwell in a place which is even worse than tree houses? Dirty? Dangerous? Rain prone?
Why don't you ask India whether they like their slums, sir?

I am sorry, but in theory it might even sound a little bit cute. In practice, you ain't got no damn idea of what you sayin'.

We don't have a resource problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304870)

There are plenty of resources, there are too many people. When people start praising the virtues of living like slum rats, you know society is beginning to lose all perspective. Overpopulation isn't some far-fetched future problem, it has been a problem for quite some time now.

"Humans are a stain on Gaia" is shithead idiocy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304916)

"Slums are good because they're green"?!?!

WTF? Anyone think any of the purveyors of that absolute stupidity ever lived in anything other than a sheltered suburban home with no exposure to any hardship whatsoever? And their Mommy and Daddy took care of all their needs, paying for their college "education", after which they got a "hard" job typing on an (energy-sucking!) computer at some useless "think" tank where they could "save the planet from the EVIL humans"? Clueless dimwits.

Calling someone who thinks that slums are good a shit-for-brains idiot is an insult to every single turd ever pinched out over the entire lifespan of the Universe.

TROLL (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31304970)

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