Shadow Cities


I listened to “The Hidden World of Shadow Cities” by Robert Neuwirth. He discusses what he calls “the cities of the future”. These are squatter cities constructed on the outskirts of much larger cities in developing countries in continents such as Asia, Africa, and South America. He claims that these are “cities of the future” because data suggests that more than 130 people move to these squatter communities per minute! When there, housing structures are constructed using tent canvas, signs, mud, and occasionally brick. As communities grow, they must deal with issues such as water, electricity, and waste removal. Often electricity is stolen and waste fills the streets. The “rent” conditions can be brutal as landlords hold almost limitless power of eviction, and public services are non-existent. These communities, he claims, are thriving however due to their ability to provide cheap labor in more developed communities nearby.

Cities are developing worldwide as people urbanize, the focus of any presentation regarding this topic I would indulge into is the sustainability of these communities. On a per-capita basis, these cities use much less resources that an average American cities, but their living conditions are obviously quite a bit lower. I would focus on the ability of these cities to develop over time into much more sustainable communities than we have created in the US.

These cities are composed mainly of people known as “squatters” who do not buy the land they live on, rather they simply find an open area and set up their homes. These homes lack traditional necessities such as running water, electricity, bathrooms etc. rather residents must find these things in the crowded streets that are overflowing with waste and trash. To gain access to water, residents tap into established pipelines of developed communities. Electricity, similarly, is stolen from established lines using unprotected wires of various metals and conductivity. Waste disposal seems to be the largest problem, latrines are dug at homes, but there is no way to clean them. Apparently, in many of these cities human waste is simply dumped on the streets.

My question through all of this is: This is a population problem, why are these communities still producing children that will be forced to live in these poor conditions?

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4 responses to “Shadow Cities

  1. I think this is a very interesting topic that I was unaware of. I’m wondering, will this concept every come to the US once our population is as large as some other countries?

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