Planet of Slums: Chapter 1

The Urban Climacteric

Chapter one in Mike Davis’s book Planet of Slums summarizes exactly the book’s title.  Cities are popping up across the globe at a faster rate than what was ever imagined.  According to Davis, “in 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population of one million; today there are 400, and by 2015 there will be at least 550” (1). It is hard to imagine how cities of one million could appear so fast.

Cities are able to grow at such rapid rates to due to the decrease in the amount of people who want to live in rural areas.  After 2020, the rural population will begin to shrink (Davis 2). Mega cities with more than 8 million residents and hyper cities with more than 20 million residents are more and more common (Davis 5).  Davis says “in many cases rural people no longer have to migrate to the city; it migrates to them “(9). This however isn’t always a good thing. Small town businesses may be hurt by the influx of people and brand names.  Globalization is one thing that can’t be stopped.

A fair amount of these cities are not popping up in developed, urbanized nations instead they are developing in countries where poverty is common. “The size of a city’s economy, as a result, often bears surprisingly little relationship to its population’s size and vice versa” (Davis, 13).  I found this quite interesting. I had always thought that cities grew larger due to the amount of good jobs. Davis also said that “third world urbanization, moreover, continued its breakneck pace through the locust years of the 1908s and early 1990s, in spite of falling real wages, soaring prices, and skyrocketing urban unemployment “(14). Whenever I have traveled to cities in the U.S., I have found them to be expensive whether it is eating at a restaurant, going shopping, or the taxis. I’m surprised that citizens with little income could afford to try and survive in a city.  I later learned however, that cities are now becoming labor intensive and rural areas are becoming capital intensive (Davis, 16).  Cities are starting to be filled with slums instead of nice high-rises and condo buildings.  “In the Amazon, one of the world’s fastest growing frontiers, 80 percent of city growth has been in shantytowns largely unserved by established utilities and municipal transport, thus making “ urbanization” and “favelization” synonymous”(Davis 17). This trend doesn’t just show up in the Amazon, it is showing up all over the globe. Instead of moving towards the future, cities are now making a retreat backwards to a much poorer time.

The cause for the movement of slums in the cities instead of new, silver skyscrapers is not quite known yet to the reader. I’ll be interested to see what we as citizens can do to clean up our cities and get people back to good jobs.  As someone who doesn’t get so large cities often, I had no idea the abundance of slums. This chapter was quite eye opening to me and I’m interested to see what the rest of the book will hold.

Work Cited

Davis, Mike. Planet of Slums. London & New York: Verso, 2007. 1-17. Print.

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