Via a beautiful visual essay on the latest ADBUSTERS, I learned about the book Planet of Slums from urbanist theorist and activist Mike Davis. A sample from the book that reminds of previous posts in this blog:
Sometime in the next year or two, a woman will give birth in the Lagos slum of Ajegunle, a young man will flee his village in west Java for the bright lights of Jakarta, or a farmer will move his impoverished family into one of Lima’s inumerable pueblos jovenes. The exact moment is unimportant and it will pass unnoticed. Nonetheless it will constitute a watershed in human history; comparable to the Neolithic or Industrial revolutions. For the first time the urban population of the earth will outnumber the rural. Indeed, given the imprecisions of Third World censuses, this epochal transition may already have occurred
Indeed. How can it be possible to know anything about what is happening in places like these? Above a section of what is known as “Ciudad Neza” in Mexico City. Click to open the Google Map and zoom in to appreciate the detail. This is undeveloped land beyond the city limits. The more organized grid to the left is where the city “ends”. The paradox is that they are full of vitality, with people constantly fighting to survive. Really.
If you walk into a favella, banlieu, callampas, bidonville, vijiji, gecekonduler or kampung, you will be blown away by how much vitality and human connectness thrives there. Friendships are close, deals fast, love within the family intense – people live!
And for a very selected minority with superb skills, wisdom or plain street-smarts there will be a way out that will take them to their next destination in their neverending race to the top, or the center of the city. No one moves into these slums thinking “this is it!”. They are always temporary solutions. The image above from a slum bordering Caracas, Venezuela, built to the side of a highway and up into the mountains.
There’s a global boom in gated communities, self-contained shopping enclaves, fortified corporate towers and secure holiday resorts. The rich nations scramble to erect walls on their borders and pass ever-tighter anti-immigration laws to keep undesirables out.
As ADBUSTERS suggest, the new urban paradigm may very well be based on the high-density of these slums. Places where humanity takes precedence over the material world, where luxury has nothing to do with the riches of the world, but with the knowledge on how to live a good life.