Sunday, 3 November 2013

A Space For Living (Part Two)

Stars Around Earth : Grafik Farm 2013
The workforce who build and maintain our cities often have to live away from home. The normal for these workers is to reside in local bed and breakfasts, caravans, or purposely built little shack accommodation like dormitories. Some will even adapt their cars to provide temporary homes to hold down the job. Anything they can do to be close to the building site for weeks, maybe months and even years as the construction project takes shape.

These people will have wives, partners, families and some will travel home at weekends or every other week, driving miles on a friday evening only to return on the sunday to that hastily built wooden house or cramped caravan.

But, great metropolitan areas need them to construct the infrastructure which will ensure the smooth operation and organisation of the urban. Without this sacrifice and dedication of these 'rush hours' many of the facilities and amenities we take for granted would not exist.

The subway train system that allows us to cross the city in 12 minutes, the flyover highways that scythe their way through our cities and allow us to drive to work in the centre of the metropolis would not be available without these men and women.

They are the very necessary, transport arteries that facilitate the operation and organisation of the urban so vital for business, leisure and quality of individual existence.  Essential services which operate on the very edge of possible given the number of people living in cities, and who have to be catered for and looked after can be staggering.

Greater Tokyo, Japan, for example, has around 36 million people ( six times the population of Scotland) encamped in and around it. Jakarta, Indonesia has 27 million souls all struggling for space within its perimeters, Seoul, South Korea, and Delhi, India, 22 million, Manila, Philippines, Karachi, Pakistan, New York, USA and Sao Paulo, all offer home to 20 million human beings. London, UK, seems, in comparison, like a small town with 8.5 million residents.

With such huge populations, pressure on living space, roads, underground transport systems, communications, sanitary works, streets and buildings is enormous. People in cities live in homes which are, on average, closer to each other and have less living space per unit than people who live outside these massive urban areas. And, today, more people than ever are pouring into our cities to try and earn a living. To try and survive within capitalism's borders on the basis of their individual qualities and skill sets.

In 2011, for the first time in history more people on Earth lived in cities than in the countryside.

Edward Glaeser, in his book 'Triumph of the City' reported that five million people migrate to cities in the developed world every month. Glaeser also noted that : "Two hundred and forty three million Americans crowd together in the 3 per cent of the country that is urban." (Edward Glaeser : The Triumph of the City, p 1, Penguin Press 2011)

It is one of the most fascinating images I have ever held in my mind, in a country as massive as the United States of America the urbanised population crowd together on a tiny sliver of land surrounded, presumably, by 97% of, more or less, open space.

Furthermore by 2050 it is estimated that around 70% of the world's population of, approaching, 10 billion will be urbanised.

Once built, cities, of course, create work for people. To start with they have to be built and maintained but around metropolitan areas a giant array of products and services are required to make these great organic formations comfortable and bearable for the masses.

Cities offer opportunities to workers, entrepreneurs and people who stand on street corners selling matches or flowers or fake wine, all desperate to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.

Cafes, burger joints and restaurants exist to feed workers during work or leisure time, bed and breakfasts and hotels to provide somewhere for workers from out of town to rest while working in the city over a prolonged period of time. Tourists, who visit cities are also catered for by an army hospitality and entertainment workers.

Work in all its exotic variations of labour and entrepreneurship is central to the operation of the city. Layered on this are the families who work and live in the city and need to be housed and catered for in terms of food, shelter, education and health, all of which then plugs into a whole host of other jobs - each career feeding off all the others and the needs and wants of individuals.

The city is interconnectivity in a very tight, small space and it often spills over into crime and punishment, law and order, heroes and villains. This in turn produces a need for police officers and a whole array of other services built around those who keep us safe.
Forensics, scene of crime, solicitors, attorneys, advocates, barristers...

What? You mean those people who serve coffee in Starbucks or Costa?
Eh no...( nervous smile at audience) That's barista , let's just shuffle off stage while we can....keep smiling

1 comment:

  1. How does the concentration of people in huge cities affect attitudes about nature and the future of Mother Earth and our capacity to shift to sustainable practices in all aspects of life?