Planet of Slums

In: Uncategorized

19 Aug 2006

The Guardian also has a review of Planet of Slums by Mike Davis. Ian Sansom makes the now common point that sometime soon the number of urban dwellers will outnumber the number the world’s rural inhabitants for the first time in human history. Sansom goes on to argue that:

“this is bad news, because the cities that Davis examines and describes are not the rich, vibrant cultural centres beloved of Sunday-supplement dandies and middle-class flâneurs, but vast “peri-urban” developments, horizontal spreads of unplanned squats and shantytowns, unsightly dumps of humans and waste, where child labour is the norm, child prostitution is commonplace, gangs and paramilitaries rule and there is no access to clean water or sanitation, let alone to education or democratic institutions.”

What Sansom forgets is that, bad as conditions in urban slums may be, conditions in rural areas are often worse. People in the third world are migrating to the cities for a reason. The challenge is to raise everyone’s living standards rather than attack third world city-dwellers.