Planet of Slums

Planet of Slums - mike davis PLANET OF SLUMS Urban...

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new left review 26 mar apr 2004 5 mike davis PLANET OF SLUMS Urban Involution and the Informal Proletariat S ometime in the next year, 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 innumerable pueblos jovenes. The exact event is unimportant and it will pass entirely unnoticed. Nonetheless it will constitute a watershed in human history. 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. The earth has urbanized even faster than originally predicted by the Club of Rome in its notoriously Malthusian 1972 report, Limits of Growth . In 1950 there were 86 cities in the world with a population over one million; today there are 400, and by 2015, there will be at least 550. 1 Cities, indeed, have absorbed nearly two-thirds of the global population explosion since 1950 and are currently growing by a million babies and migrants each week. 2 The present urban population (3.2 bil- lion) is larger than the total population of the world in 1960. The global country side, meanwhile, has reached its maximum population (3.2 bil- lion) and will begin to shrink after 2020. As a result, cities will account for all future world population growth, which is expected to peak at about 10 billion in 2050. 3
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6 nlr 26 1. the urban climacteric Where are the heroes, the colonisers, the victims of the Metropolis? Brecht, Diary entry, 1921 Ninety-five per cent of this final buildout of humanity will occur in the urban areas of developing countries, whose population will double to nearly 4 billion over the next generation. 4 (Indeed, the combined urban population of China, India and Brazil already roughly equals that of Europe plus North America.) The most celebrated result will be the burgeoning of new megacities with populations in excess of 8 million, and, even more spectacularly, hypercities with more than 20 million inhabitants (the estimated urban population of the world at the time of the French Revolution). 5 In 1995 only Tokyo had incontestably reached that threshold. By 2025, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review , Asia alone could have ten or eleven conurbations that large, including Jakarta (24.9 million), Dhaka (25 million) and Karachi (26.5 million). Shanghai, whose growth was frozen for decades by Maoist policies of deliberate under-urbanization, could have as many as 27 million resi- dents in its huge estuarial metro-region. 6 Mumbai (Bombay) meanwhile is projected to attain a population of 33 million, although no one knows whether such gigantic concentrations of poverty are biologically or eco- logically sustainable. 7
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Planet of Slums - mike davis PLANET OF SLUMS Urban...

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