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Earth News

How Slums Can Save the Planet 424

Posted by kdawson
from the rose-tinted dept.
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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How Slums Can Save the Planet

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  • by zoomshorts (137587) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @05:22AM (#31304298)

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

    • by nutshell42 (557890) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @03:27PM (#31308498) Journal
      Perhaps you did read it but you sure as hell didn't understand it. Neither did a lot of other slashtards judging by the flood of idiotic commentary further down.

      The author talks about the benefits of high population density at all income levels. City dwellers use less resources than people in rural areas.

      No one wants to live in a slum... except the millions of people moving from rural areas into slums every year. They're not all completely ignorant, it's just that the countryside around the city is even more of a hellhole than the slums. Thinking used to be that that wave of migration should be stopped at all costs but that has changed and in many country it's now policy to try and improve the situation in the slums instead. That's because planners have come to realize that by and large urban poverty's better than rural poverty. Education, sanitation, health, social mobility, environmental footprint, cities are superior to villages in almost every way.

      I don't know where everyone got the idea that the author recommends that we turn regular cities into slums or that everyone should be poor. 90% of the upvoted comments are variations on "omg he sezs we should all live in slums. the author should try living in one, kthxbye." I haven't seen so many burning strawmen outside a Microsoft article in years.

      P.S.: The only valid argument I could find in 10 pages was about transport costs but it still is wrong. Yes, transporting food costs energy. But it's not much. When people talk about local food in rich countries they aren't talking about growing vegetables on your roof. The problem is that vegetables from Virginia are shipped to Thailand for processing and then shipped back to Maryland.

      • by BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) on Monday March 01, 2010 @01:08PM (#31319174) Homepage Journal

        Education, sanitation, health, social mobility, environmental footprint, cities are superior to villages in almost every way.

        Except that I can't play my drums in the city without inciting a jihad from my neighbors. I can't keep a well stocked, functioning garage at a reasonable price with which to maintain my motorcycle. I can't open the garage door to my shop without my neighbors freaking out over the strange smells coming from that, "mad scientist's lab." I can't raise my pet cow in the city, which provides milk and, eventually, a couple years worth of meat for my family. I can't raise chickens in the city, which provide eggs and a convenient means of waste disposal, in the city. I can't clean my vintage rifle collection to ensure that they remain in good, functional condition without my neighbors freaking the crap out over the madman next door. I can't walk around without my shirt off on a hot day because some over-reactive mother thinks that means I am some kind of pervert.

        So, sure, high population density areas are nice in quite a few ways. The one thing they are not nice about is encouraging innovation, invention, or trying something new. City life has its advantages, I will never deny that. But you can be damned sure that if you are going to live in the city you are going to have to fight for your right to try new things every step of the way.

        I'll take my freedom any day, thanks.

  • Am I alone or (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 28, 2010 @05:29AM (#31304318)

    do others regard this as cynical as well?

    • Re:Am I alone or (Score:5, Insightful)

      by siloko (1133863) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:48AM (#31304542)
      If the predominant lesson learned from Slums is not how to prevent them then I think we are missing something . . .
      • 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 (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 28, 2010 @08:26AM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

        by BeanThere (28381) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @08:43AM (#31305130)

        No shit. Who the hell thinks slums are a positive thing? I've spent a fair bit of time in and around the slums of South Africa, and trust me, it is roughly akin to hell on Earth --- they are not an "example", there is absolutely nothing positive about them, they cannot "teach us" anything, and the only lessons we must take away are how to prevent them.

        What is perhaps a more useful question to ask is, what are the motives behind those who would attempt to brainwash us into thinking they're a positive thing? I am highly suspicious; for some reason I can't put my finger on, I smell evil here, not ignorance.

        If slums were better, people would live in them voluntarily and self-organise their communities like slums naturally when given the choice. Those that live in them are dying to get out.

        • Re:Am I alone or (Score:4, Insightful)

          by tburkhol (121842) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @10:15AM (#31305852)

          No shit. Who the hell thinks slums are a positive thing? I've spent a fair bit of time in and around the slums of South Africa, and trust me, it is roughly akin to hell on Earth --- they are not an "example", there is absolutely nothing positive about them, they cannot "teach us" anything, and the only lessons we must take away are how to prevent them.

          They can teach us about the resilience of life. They can teach us that it is possible, if extremely unpleasant, to live on almost nothing. In its extreme, "green living" means to live on almost nothing, and a slum is an example of what your life could be like if you truly minimize your carbon footprint. They're not positive, but they're definitely lessons.

          One imagines that the lesson we should really take is that neither a zero carbon lifestyle nor a McMansion-living, Hummer-driving US lifestyle can be the future. That you don't really need single-serving, prepackaged, frozen corn, but you don't really want to rely on the box it came as roofing material. Compromise, somewhere between the fanatics on both sides.

        • Re:Am I alone or (Score:5, Insightful)

          by 1s44c (552956) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:18AM (#31306390)

          I've seen slums in India and I totally agree with you. Hell on earth is probably understating it. It's just not possible to express how bad these places are in words, the words just don't exist. No human could see real slums and believe they can teach us anything.

          Stewart Brand and Kevin Kelly should try living in a slum for just 24 hours. The mental scars would last a lifetime.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BeanThere (28381)

            +1 ... maybe it's just something you have to experience first-hand to really 'get' :/

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by martyros (588782)

            I've seen slums in India and I totally agree with you.

            You've seen them, but have you lived in them?

            I haven't seen them, but in Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts, he paints them in a distinctly positive light. The main character is an Australian, at some point forced by circumstances to move into one of the slums. Before moving in he talks to two people from the slums. He realizes later that it was actually an interview: they were there to see if they were going to allow him into their community. Cond

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by greg_barton (5551)

          they cannot "teach us" anything

          I disagree with TFA as you do, and take issue with it's whiff of noble savagery, but must take issue with this. Everything can teach us something. You can observe a slum and see how it organizes itself without wanting anyone to live in one, just as you can observe any physical system. It just happens to be a common theme of the environmental movement that, for the planet to survive, we must learn to live more simply. I happen to agree with that to a limited extent, but if

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

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

        Indeed.

        Slums are not idyllic. But we should learn from them.

        Because, if we don't, that's how we could all end up living once the era of cheap energy ends.

    • Re:Am I alone or (Score:5, Interesting)

      by commodore64_love (1445365) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:21AM (#31304688) Journal

      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.

      • by Nadaka (224565)

        We will never reach 20 billion. All indications show that the rate of human reproduction is dropping and the the population will max out between 9 and 12 billion. This is being caused by increased use of contraceptives in the west as people try to retain a higher lifestyle without the vast financial burden of children plus, the third world people continue to starve and as of yet unidentified biological factors reducing fertility even among those who are attempting to breed. If we are lucky, we are looking a

        • Re:Am I alone or (Score:4, Informative)

          by BeanThere (28381) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @08:50AM (#31305178)

          What? Your post is in stark and blatant contradiction to glaring facts. The "West", which does have a very low birthrate, constitutes only a small percentage of the population, less than 20%. China, another 20 odd %, has a low birthrate but only artificially. Everywhere else, birthrates have exploded since the introduction of large-scale vaccination and the 'food aid' industry that holds back starvation wherever famine crops up. Africa has about a billion people and shows no signs of slowing down, and no, they're not urbanising, they're not becoming educated, and their birthrates aren't dropping significantly. We may never reach 20 billion, sure, but that will more likely be due to the unsustainability of the current 'system' and limited resources.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by SomeKDEUser (1243392)

            grrr, I hate the I agree moderation, especially when this is so wrong. people have no idea how their world really looks like.

            Go to gapminder.org, look at he stats on longevity and fertility. See the world flatten at an accelerating rate since the 60s. Basically, today, _now_, not "in projections", not "soon", the world has largely moved beyond (as in lower fertility/higher longevity) the fertility/longevity of the US in 1970. Except Africa, mostly because of the AIDS epidemics.

            if you have 20 min to kill, go

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by ydrol (626558)

            You might want to look at mortality rate, rather than just birthrate. There is a reason why poor people have lots of children !

            eg consider following rates per 1000.

            USA 14 births - 8 deaths. ( http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004395.html [infoplease.com] )
            Zimbabwe 27 births , 22 deaths ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_Zimbabwe#Death_rate [wikipedia.org] )

            Africa - Population Density ( Pop. density 30.51/km2 )
            N. America Population - ( Pop. density 22.9/km2 (59.3/sq mi) )

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Dupple (1016592)
      Yes it is cynical. Poverty is good unless you're rich, in which case poverty becomes essential or you can't be rich
  • by e9th (652576)
    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."
    • by aynoknman (1071612) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @05:45AM (#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.
      • by ionix5891 (1228718) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:05AM (#31304412)

        concentration camps

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

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

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phoenix321 (734987) *

        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,

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          *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, an

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by anticlimate (1093749)
            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 a
          • by bitrex (859228) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:54AM (#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.
            • by phoenix321 (734987) * on Sunday February 28, 2010 @09:07AM (#31305302)

              Reality check: billions of poor only survive their infant years by modern medicine and vaccination.

              But the hatred towards a godlike wealthy elite is quite a problem, since every time I hear this or similar quotes, it is directed against the common man and woman in The West who lives a middle-class lifestyle.

              Taxes don't target the elite, they hover above them. Everything you do only hits the middle class and by attacking them, you split their ranks into slum side and elite side. Only a working, wealthy middle class can ever hope to control a corrupt elite. No one else can, not the entire People's Liberation Army. (Just look at the levels of corruption inside their ranks)

              • by Kral_Blbec (1201285) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @12:08PM (#31306880)

                Taxes don't target the elite, they hover above them. Everything you do only hits the middle class and by attacking them, you split their ranks into slum side and elite side.

                I really like that line. The rich have enough left over to still be filth rich. The poor just get refunded in terms of public assistance. The middle see a distinct impact to their budget.
                disclosure, I lean towards the FairTax myself.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by Hal_Porter (817932)

          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?

        • by chrb (1083577) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:18AM (#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 p
          • 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: (Score:3, Informative)

            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".

            • by BeanThere (28381) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @09:12AM (#31305336)

              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?

              You just changed the definition of "libertarian" and then postulated what might happen if (your definition of) "libertarians" "took over". WTF? A "libertarian" is not an anarchist, they are two *very* different things. Maybe you meant "some people who call themselves libertarians are actually anarchists", but did you make that omission on purpose? And then did you actually mean "If anarchists took over", or, "If libertarians took over"? Are you purposely trying to conflate the two, or did you just word your post extremely badly?

              To clarify for other readers who might now have been misled by your incorrect statements, an anarchist believes there should be no government (leaving people to be entirely self-organising, and thus allowing private armies and thus, in all probability, the ultimate rule of whoever has the biggest private army), while a libertarian believes in small government, with individual rights and property ownership, and an enforcement system, but government retains a monopoly on force in order to enforce individual liberties.

              Finally, you imply that libertarian societies would lead to "compact, filthy cities like our 1700s/1800s ancestors", conveniently leaving out that the results of that was the biggest economic boom in the history of humanity leading to a powerful society with one of the highest standards of living in human history, a technological superpower society that basically invented almost every useful bit of technology the rest of the world uses today to slowly catch up in dragging itself out of poverty.

          • "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: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by bitrex (859228)

            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."

            I often see Boston get singled out in comparisons of this sort, most likely due to the unfortunate fact that the limits of the actual legally defined "City of Boston" are quite small compared with the metro area, and that the area contains a couple predominantly black neighborhoods that have been in a constant state of gang warfare since time immemorial. It takes a great statistical leap of faith to extrapolate that anomaly into how "safe" or "unsafe" the entire city of Boston is- if one were so inclined o

        • "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 Foun
      • Planet of Slums (Score:5, Interesting)

        by meehawl (73285) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {maps.lwaheem}> on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:17AM (#31306382) Homepage Journal

        Slums are good for people who don't live in them.

        This is one of the single most insightful comments in this thread. New urban megaslums exist because the political structures in those countries have failed to establish a civil society that redistributes the income more fairly among its inhabitants to create situational stability, upward mobility, without too much downward mobility below a certain floor [metafilter.com] . It is not so much a failure of wealth creation as a failure of political will, or a product of a definite politial will to clear the countryside so as to establish monoculture agriculture to grow cash crops for export to rich countries and to enrich a select few. To compare the slums of Lagos to expensive moored boats in Sausalito, and to imply that all slums are generating a transformation where "the progress is from hick to metropolitan to cosmopolitan [prospectmagazine.co.uk]", as Brand does, is to insult the intelligence of all but the most criminally naive and deludedly optimistic.

        One of the single best books published within the recent few years about the new megaslums is Planet of Slums [amazon.com] by Mike Davis. He takes a little bit of a historical detour, illustrating that the phenomenon of urban megaslum is not unique to the late 20th century. There was a single example of amegaslum (that is, a place where 1m+ people subsisted on virtually no income for generations in the context of a markedly unequal society) and that was Dublin, Ireland, during the 19th century following the abolition of the Irish Parliament when the remote British Westminster Parliament basically deindustralised what had been one of the more advanced nations in Western Europe and left it subject to famines and depopulation. Anyway, Davis shows that during the late 19th century economists studied Dublin's inhabitants, wondering how it was that they managed to subsist on so little, and many of their arguments then echo those today from analysts across the political spectrum as they regard an increasingly slummy world where the City of Tomorrow is not made of gleaming postmodernist spies ala Dubai, but in fact is much smellier and grimier, and has no running water or sewage.

        That literally billions of people precariously subsist in these cities today is a miracle. To imagine that they will survive the disruptions of the coming water and resource wars of the warming centuries is magnificently optimistic.

        I'm copying here a blog post on Metafilter [metafilter.com] because it has some high-quality links, unlike the Brand/Kelly anti-thought drivel:

        Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day [portfoliosofthepoor.com] A new book by Daryl Collins of Bankable Frontier Associates [bankablefrontier.com] (first chapter of the book is available from PUP [princeton.edu]); Jonathan Morduch of NYU's Financial Access Initiative [financialaccess.org]; Stuart Rutherford, author of The Poor and Their Money [thepoorandtheirmoney.com] and founder of SafeSave [safesave.org]; and Orlanda Ruthven of Impactt [impacttlimited.com] investigates the question of how over a billion people make ends meet on only $2 a day. "The authors report on the yearlong "financial diaries" of villagers and slum dwellers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa--records that track penny by penny how specific households manage their money. [portfoliosofthepoor.com]" The strategies adopted by the households of

  • by Gopal.V (532678) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @05:45AM (#31304364) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:27AM (#31304476) Homepage Journal

      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?

    • by AudioInfecktion (1088677) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:35AM (#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.
      • by QuantumG (50515) *

        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 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.

    • by bguiz (1627491) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:56AM (#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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by chrb (1083577)

      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.

  • by An dochasac (591582) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @05:55AM (#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: (Score:2, Troll)

      by phoenix321 (734987) *

      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 thos

      • "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.
        • "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 sc

    • 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 on
  • SHUT UP (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    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"

    • 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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Antony-Kyre (807195) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:01AM (#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.

    • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:17AM (#31304442) Homepage Journal

      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: (Score:3, Interesting)

        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 infrastr
        • >>> 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 ra

    • 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

    • by selven (1556643)

      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.

  • by fantomas (94850) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:02AM (#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.

     

  • by bobinabottle (819829) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:03AM (#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.
    • by TapeCutter (624760) * on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:29AM (#31304732) Journal
      "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? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alarindris (1253418) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:05AM (#31304414)
    Absolutely ridiculous. Live in your toilet, it's green...

    Having been to Barbados, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic I'm fucking speechless.
  • Recycling (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Hadlock (143607) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:06AM (#31304422) Homepage Journal

    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.

    • 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 thei

      • 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.

    • by mobby_6kl (668092)

      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, e

    • 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.

  • by MongooseCN (139203) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @06:19AM (#31304448) Homepage

    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: (Score:2, Informative)

      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: (Score:3, Informative)

      by blahplusplus (757119)

      The ugly truth is that the world has too many people to have a western standard of living without conflict and war, most people are not responsible in their breeding habits and there are too many religious, irresponsible and uneducated.

  • 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.

  • by hughbar (579555) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:01AM (#31304592) Homepage
    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.
  • 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.
    • by TeXMaster (593524) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @09:46AM (#31305622)

      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.

      While I get your point, fascism was in fact much less disregarding of general human welbeing than many capitalistic societies. For example, in Italy fascism was what laid out the basic infrastructure of the social welfare state (meaning essential housing, schooling and healthcare for everybody regardless of census, and leading to a consequent general improvement of the health and literacy of the population). It also brought forth the sanitations of swampy areas in the center-north Italy, with consequent reduction of endemic diseases such as malaria. So I seriously fail to see what's fascist about the article (given that it even lacks the _negative_ aspects of Fascism, such as the total lack of freedom of expression and all the other consequences of a totalitarian government, or the racist degeneration that came with its attachment to Nazism).

      Personally, I find the article useless, in the sense that it doesn't tell me anything non-obvious: scarcity of resources leads to very efficient use (and re-use), lack of resources leads to the use of alternatives, abundance of resources leads to waste. Wow that's surprising. People that waste could learn from the people that are efficient. Wow that's even more surprising. The article also fails to point out how it's possible to increase efficiency and reduce waste _without_ carrying over the negative aspects of slum life, but it'll never happen because the behavioral patterns of human don't shift towards efficiency unless there's a pressing need for it.

  • by jimicus (737525) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:28AM (#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".

  • by Lacraia (871364) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:37AM (#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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 28, 2010 @07:58AM (#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'.

  • Do people become environmentally friendly in a large scale only when they don't have any other choice left?

    Living in a slum might be "green"*, but it is a horrible situation. People there often either depend on environmentally friendly actions (recycling) or can't do anything else (having/driving a car). Does it say something about us?

    *except for the overpopulation and constant growth of the slums themselves, which often are invasions on protected lands.

  • This reminds me of the BIG BALL OF MUD [laputan.org] theory by Brian Foote and Joseph Yoder at the Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    Shantytowns are squalid, sprawling slums. Everyone seems to agree they are a bad idea, but forces conspire to promote their emergence anyway. What is it that they are doing right?

    Shantytowns are usually built from common, inexpensive materials and simple tools. Shantytowns can be built using relatively unskilled labor. Even though the labor force is

  • by hessian (467078) on Sunday February 28, 2010 @11:56AM (#31306744) Homepage Journal

    People in the country own more land.

    But they use fewer resources.

    Your land use is not just your dwelling. It's roads, hospitals, schools, stores, bars, gov't agencies and so forth.

    If anything, cities use more land because they offer more services and cater to people who want more things like fast food, nail polishing, designer haircuts, etc.

    How this idiotic and unscientific article got on the front page of Slashdot... I'm guessing it's just an easy pitch for troll batting practice.

I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated. -- Poul Anderson

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