Planet of Slums

During the 18 months Fighting with The Poor Program, participants both study and take action to fight global warming and global poverty in St. Vincent, Belize and Ecuador.

Part of this program is to also to plant trees, organize clean up actions, teach in schools and start vegetable gardens along with a number of theoretical studies to understand the causes of poverty.

One of the study tasks focuses on the book “Planet of Slums” by Mike Davis, and here is from the introduction to the study task.

 

In 2008 the number of people living in cities for the first time surpassed the global rural population. The individual who tipped the scale might be a baby born to a city dweller or an adult migrating from the countryside, but in either case, it’s likely that the newcomer will have arrived in a Third World slum.

By 2030, an estimated 5 billion of the world’s 8.1 billion people will live in cities. About 2 billion of them will live in slums, primarily in Africa and Asia, lacking access to clean drinking water and working toilets, surrounded by desperation, poverty and crime.

Already these slums are huge. According to Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums, nearly 80% of Nigeria’s urban population, or some 41.6 million people, live in slums. The comparable numbers in India are 56% and 158.4 million. Many of these slum dwellers are also squatters, lacking leases or legal title to their homes.

Many slums function with their own social hierarchies, commerce and a degree of home-grown government. New migrants to the slums have to pay for the privilege of living there. In some cases, as in Pakistan and Kenya, the land is public, but local police forces or corrupt politicians demand “rent.” In others, as in many Latin American slums, the newest, poorest arrivals rent space from more-established squatters. A by-product of this diminishing supply of free land is that new arrivals move onto more marginal land: steep gullies in Tijuana, vertical hillsides in Caracas, flood-prone flats in Dhaka.

A way to reduce slums and poverty is to teach people to grow their own healthy food.

Are the slum dwellers really better off than in the villages they fled? In many cases the answer is unfortunately yes. Most of them leave because they are not able to survive in their village. In Asian many small farmers become indebted and lost their land to banks or big landowners.

The cities give more economic opportunity but life in the slums is extremely tough. According to the United Nations, slum children in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to die from water-borne and respiratory illnesses than rural children, while women living in slums are more likely to contract HIV than women in the rural areas. In countries including Egypt, Bangladesh and Guatemala, slum children are less likely to be enrolled in primary school than their urban counterparts.

Still, the dream of a better life in the city persists. Overall, the world’s urban population is expected to grow at an annual rate of 1.78% until 2030, while rural communities shrink.

Planet of Slums

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