Summer Vacation, Planet of Slums

August 28th, 2008 at 6:02 am

I am sure you have all been asking yourself “What happened to Scott?”

“Where is that Authwhore contributor that showed up for a few genius posts and then vanished?” must be on all of your lips, right after “What is up the Authwhore’s butt about the New Yorker?”


Well, perhaps I have been on summer vacation.  No, that is not true though I could damned well use about a week in a sensory deprivation chamber.  It is election season, which sends my away from the books ,typically, and on to obsessively reading newspapers and periodicals.  I suppose I could have come by here to spout off about some of that, but anyway…


I think I have become obsessed with macro-economics.  Not in any professional sense, but as a hobby, I suppose.  I went back to reread “Planet of Slums” by Mike Davis recently.  Oh man, I am pretty sure this was the book that sent me on my sabatical from Authwhore.  “Planet of Slums” may be the most depressing thing I have ever read.

Davis does a fine job of providing an overview of the mass movement of global populations into urban environments, the associated population growth and economic decline – as well as doling out a fairly detailed statistical analysis demonstrating that we are all pretty well screwed.  I don’t mean screwed like a slight-decline-in-financial-indicators – I mean screwed like Blade Runner-multiplied-by-Mad Max-but-without-the-humorous-parts-plus-some-Grapes of Wrath-screwed.  That kind of screwed, and with greater numbers of minorities than are included in any of those stories.


We all heard about China, thanks to the Olympic games.  There was some slight reportage on Beijing’s bit of super-slummage relocation, extreme polution and so on.  Beijing is a fine example of the economic and environmental factors that are driving folks, worldwide, into what Davis describes as “super-slums.”  Davis examines the motives of families in Africa abandoning rural communities to live on the fringes of cities, in the hopes of being able to pick enough string from the garbage heap their shacks get built upon so that they might resell it to other slum dwellers and feed the kids.


“Planet of Slums” is not a collection of grim and depressing anecdotes, though you do get plenty of those.  Rather, it is compelling examination of the varied machinations that are generating booming, unsupported, unregulated, masses of urban poverty around the globe.  Davis also explores the few possible, unlikely solutions to the crisis and details the causality that will prevent our pulling out of the nose dive.  Big, heavy, grim stuff.  Wildly depressing.


So, go read it.

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One Response to “Summer Vacation, Planet of Slums”

  1. Yes, I wouldn’t really recommend reading to anyone. Truth and reality can be quite depressing.

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