3 comments on “the slum and the high rise

  1. One contrast that is striking to me is the presence and extent of vegetation. Plants, symbolic for nutrition and water, also represent clean air and the health benefits associated with it. Also, the facilities (pool, tennis court) are ways that the rich can keep themselves strong and healthy while the poor likely have little means of staying fit except a soccer ball and their own bodies. The amount of open water that constantly evaporates in this arid land probably causes the price of water to rise for EVERYONE, but of course those with pools will not go thirsty. The poorest of the poor on the other hand may run out of money water and pay the cost of it.

    Maybe it is simplifying to point out the dualistic, confrontational aspects and create a rigid and judgmental dichotomy, but I would personally feel “uncomfortable” (to put it gently) living in such luxury while neighbors strive to keep their loved ones fed, hydrated, and healthy. My real problem with this type of opulence is that if the money was more evenly distributed, the wealthy and the poor could be living side-by-side with more “middle class” and less extremes (poverty and extravagant riches). Living comfortably would be possible and the third world problems like child death, malnutrition, and disease would decrease. Of course there would be relative wealth, but that is natural as some jobs necessitate more education, more upfront cost, are more essential and require higher income. This is essentially the transformation that has been experienced in developed nations like our own, though obviously the wealth gap here is still large.

    Regardless of the situation, unequal distribution of the resources that allow us to stay healthy and progress (both in crafts/trades and intellectually) causes a barrier against social mobility. It is easy to say “anyone can work hard and move up” if you’ve never known scarcity of a necessity for a single day in your life.

    Sorry if I’m ranting politically, just my thoughts based on the photo.

    -Adam

  2. This photo is fascinating! There are so many contrasting uses of space and resources. Definitely the use of water is a drastic difference, and the difference in green space. And I agree that it is interesting what Adam said about the wealthy being given the means to stay healthy and prosper while the poor struggle to survive.

    I am currently in a geographical statistics class and we recently discussed inclusionary vs. exclusionary policies and urban planning. I had never realized the long list of techniques that are used to exclude certain demographics from a given area. It can be something as simple as a sign, or something as complex as road structures and property codes. In this photo the wall and lack of accessibility clearly acts as a way to exclude the slum community from the wealthy one.

    Here is a link to a podcast with a great example: http://99percentinvisible.org/ If you scroll down, Episode 51 is the example.

    There are other places where lot size is restricted, which therefore keeps housing prices up and a certain demographic in. An example that is especially relevant to our class is beach accessibility. Some states (like Hawai’i) have made shorelines public property. In Hawai’i all the area from the shoreline and ten feet up is public property. This is an attempted inclusionary policy that aims to make beaches accessible to everyone. Private homes located on the coast have to provide a public means of accessing the water, and can be fined $2000+ if they do not.

    I think it would be interesting to further explore inclusionary and exclusionary policies relating to water. It is can certainly be an issue of political ecology.

  3. Striking. The image initially evokes feeling of confusion for me. I wonder to myself how such massive disparities with regards to standards of living can exist within such close proximity to one another. The simple unfairness of the situation is outrageous.

    A cynical part of me isn’t surprised. While the image perhaps illustrates the process in a very colorful fashion, such income and resource inequality is nothing new. It would seem that recent booms in urban development have simply allowed us to see such differences in a more plain light. I would argue that high rises vs. slums is simply the modern manifestation of income inequality throughout the world. As technology has developed, we as a society have gained the ability to display our opulence in the form of massive structures, artificially lush gardens, and pools hundreds of feet above the ground. Meanwhile, such innovations have clearly had little effect on the urban poor, as the picture aptly illustrates.

    The truly sad fact is that such development is being wasted when it could be a powerful force of change in low income communities. The manpower and funds needed to build extravagant high rises could revolutionize living standards in slum communities. Small improvements in infrastructure in such areas would yield massive benefit for the poor. Proper irrigation and drainage systems would increase overall community health massively. Instead, another balcony pool will be built. The potential benefit for the poor is increased much more than for the rich.

    This redistribution of resource spending illustrates a key concept in macroeconomics applied to a single community: the catch-up effect. The concept is that developing areas benefit much more than developed ones with the addition of extra capital – that is to say, poor areas’ standard of living will increase more than that of the rich. This concept directly applies here. What would do more good, a new high rise for the community on the right, or a clean water system for the community on the left? The idea is worth mulling over.

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