Taking Our Streets Back: Stripping Them of the Advertisements?

Comic by Gavin Aung Than

They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you, now it is time to take it back…

“People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are The Advertisers and they are laughing at you. You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity. Fuck that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head. You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.” -BANSKY

What a Bloody Screw-up: Venice Syndrome

 

Venice Syndrome brilliantly tells the story of a city turning to be a museum and loosing its soul by loosing its citizens.

 

What a Bloody Screw-up: Venice Syndrome

 

Director: Andreas Pichler
Release: 2012 (imdb)

From the synopsis:

Twenty million foreigners visited the city last year. That’s an average of 60,000 day. And this year it will be more still. By comparison, there are only 58,000 inhabitants, the same amount as they were after the Great Plague of 1438. And next year it will be fewer still.
For the city is becoming uninhabitable. Venice’s own urban life has almost collapsed; it scarcely still exists.

The film shows what remains of Venetian life: a subculture of tourist service industries; a port for monstrous cruisers which is waiting to be expanded; Venetians who are moving to the mainland as there are no longer affordable apartments to be found; an aged noblewoman who treats the municipal council with scorn; a realtor who is considering abandoning the sinking ship.

A Requiem for a still grand city.
An illustration of how common property becomes the prey of few.
An elegy to the last Venetians, their humour and their hearts. (venicesyndrome.com)

 

Busted: How Aid Money was Invested in Housing Enclaves and Shopping Centres

In 2014, Guardian revealed that British anti-poverty aid money was spent for gated communities, shopping centres and luxury property in poor countries.

CDC, the little-known investment arm of the British aid programme, has invested more than $260m (£154m) in 44 property and construction companies in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

At least 20 of these are hotels, shopping centres or companies that build or manage gated communities and luxury property, according to Guardian research.

CDC, formerly the Commonwealth Development Corporation, says these investments will create thousands of jobs for poor people in construction and services. But leading British NGOs questioned how supporting upmarket property could be an acceptable use of UK aid money. (Guardian)

Some examples CDC was invested in are taking attention with luxury lifestyles they offer (below):

A glossy brochure for Garden City in Nairobi, which includes 400-plus flats and townhouses, boasts: “From the aquamarine water of the heated swimming pool to the ultra-modern fitted kitchen, solid bamboo flooring and glass balcony balustrades, quality is the defining characteristic of the Garden City Village.”

A brochure for Azuri, a development for the CDC-backed Indian Ocean Real Estate Company, invites would-be residents to “Close your eyes and imagine yourself breathing in the warm Indian ocean breeze, absorbing all that the Mauritian lifestyle has to offer.”

Azuri offers “exquisite, high-quality living” with an expansive oceanfront resort, five-star hotel, yacht club and spa – “the ideal living environment to promote both bodily and spiritual happiness”.

In Nigeria investments also include two Protea hotels – part of a chain recently bought by Marriott International – including one in Lagos at which rooms booked online start at $400 a night.(Guardian)

I wonder what happened since 2014. I don’t think much has changed since the excuse is to create jobs with luxury investment. This also shows the approach to working class people: people who have nothing to do but serve the rich and accept this as a good thing to do. The framing is so obvious and hideous: we create jobs for them with our luxury lifestyles, so they should be grateful for us to live like that! Shame on you!

This is not the only case, though. TOKI-Housing Administration in Turkey-, for example, claim that by constructing luxury housing enclaves for upper-middle income groups, they are able to build affordable housing for the poor. So, the poor should be grateful to TOKI by construction houses for the rich.

Thank you, thank you sir, case closed.

Vietnam’s Housing Enclaves Where Even the Air is Cleaner!

 

Wide spread of gated communities is global with different scales, characteristics and contingencies.

 

Gated communities and vast, privately built and managed “new towns” like these have spread across southeast Asia over the last 20 years as rising levels of inequality have redefined the region’s cities. Vietnam as a whole has seen a dramatic reduction in poverty over the same period – but inequality is growing, and becoming increasingly marked in the country’s expanding urban areas. (Guardian)

 

Rise in equality is the major drive behind this spread. Check this out rent for a villa in Ciputra housing enclave is 25 times the minimum wage in Vietnam! 25 times!

 

Beyond Ciputra’s walls, villas painted shades of beige are set amid lush private gardens – with price-tags of as much as £3,000 a month to rent (25 times the minimum wage). A world unto itself, the complex is a land of Greek revival architecture, tennis courts and amenities including a beauty salon and a post office. The United Nations International School moved there in 2004, followed by two other private schools, and a private kindergarten. Under construction still are a mega-shopping mall and a private hospital. (Guardian)

 

Well take a deep breath, or not! The most disgraceful part of the story of Vietnam’s housing enclaves is the commodification of air!

 

While security concerns and a fear of urban crime are typically among the motives driving the elite behind walls in cities in South America and sub-Saharan Africa, in Hanoi developments are increasingly being marketed as exclusive enclaves of convenience and clean air, away from the air pollution and traffic congestion of the city. (Guardian)

 

Traffic in Hanoi, Vietnam         Image Credit: Guardian

But, not everything is smooth, thanks to ordinary folk 🙂

Locals protesting development of a housing enclave Image Credit: Guardian

For the full story check Inside Hanoi’s gated communities

Meet Nigeria’s Private City: Same Story, Extreme Location

Eko Atlantic is where you can begin to see a possible future – a vision of privatized green enclaves for the ultra rich ringed by slums lacking water or electricity, in which a surplus population scramble for depleting resources and shelter to fend off the coming floods and storms. Protected by guards, guns, and an insurmountable gully – real estate prices – the rich will shield themselves from the rising tides of poverty and a sea that is literally rising. A world in which the rich and powerful exploit the global ecological crisis to widen and entrench already extreme inequalities and seal themselves off from its impacts – this is climate apartheid. (Guardian)

 

Eco Atlantic is one of the mushrooming private cities all around the world. The pattern shows us an extreme version of rising inequalities. While the rest of the society struggles with the lack of urban services, this private island provides upper – middle classes all the services privately and exclusively. As it is argued in this Guardian article, this is a form of apartheid.

Unless accessing the key urban infrastructure is considered as a human right, we will see these extreme versions of ultra-exclusive spaces.

Hold Your Breath: It is the Commodification of Air!

It is no news that growth in capitalism based on the expansion of commodity realm. Nature plays an important role in this expansion. Call it accumulation by dispossession as Harvey conceptualised on primitive accumulation or not, recently we see the extreme attempt of commodification.

The last one is the commodification of air, fresh air. In recent commodification practice, one important thing is using the recent problems capitalist urbanisation is creating is the reason for these new commodification attempts, and commodification of fresh is one extreme example for this.

A Canadian start-up company bottling fresh air from the Rocky Mountains has seen sales to China soar because of rising pollution levels. Vitality Air was founded last year in the western Canadian city of Edmonton but began selling in China less than two months ago. (Telegraph)

 

Vitality Air sells bottled fresh air and oxygen across North America, to India and the Middle East. But China remains its biggest overseas market. (Telegraph

China’s polluted air is a known fact. Selling air to Chinese people who cannot breathe as a result of mass manufacturing is pretty much like selling pricey organic food.

“In China fresh air is a luxury, something so precious,” says Mr Wang. (Telegraph)

If the fresh air, which is naturally our right as human beings, has been turning to a luxury, then Huston we have a huge problem.

(Image: Banff National Park, Canada Image Credit: Telegraph)

“You are, in your daily life, in the centre of the conflict”

Vous etes, dans votre vie quotidienne, au centre du conflit.

This is a slogan chanted during the protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas in 2001 in Quebec, Canada. We are in our daily life in the centre of the conflict.

Reineke Otten, a designer working in visual sociology, documents daily life all around the world for some time.

Reineke practices ‘streetology’, an intuitive method of classifying and visually analyzing patterns of urban daily life. To understand the delicate relationships among places, she collects images of mundane but unique details that are so often overlooked, lost, or forgotten in the development of cities. (urbandailylife.com)

Although I am quite critical about this classification efforts, Reineke’s work is fascinating in terms of documenting the daily life in different context and situations. It provides a visual database for an urban researcher and for whom interested in the daily life of people. This is an ever expanding database, can be found online urbandailylife.com.

Picture100

(Image Credit: Reineke Otten)

 

How Much Is Your Neighbourhood Worth?

We pay not for the neighborhood itself, but for the access the neighborhood affords us to other people, as well as jobs and or amenities. (cityLab)

New study exemines the willingness to pay the amount of the paycheck for rent and its relationship with the characteristics of the neighbourhoods and amenities provided in those in US.

Driving to Opportunity: Local Rents, Wages, Commuting, and Sub-Metropolitan Quality of Life by David Albouya and Bert Lueb

The study reveals many important aspects which people are taking into consideration while prefering to live in a neighbourhood.

According to the research, people are willing to pay the most for three things:

People will pay more for better, well-funded schools.
People will pay more to live in less dangerous places.
People will pay for access to more bars and restaurants. (cityLab)

The research provides important clues regarding commodification of urban space and access right to urban spatial infrastructure. Details of the researach can be found here.

However, the study does an audacious move by identifying the “willingness-to-pay” with “quality of life” by calling their index as quality of life index.

We combine the rent, wage, and commuting differentials to estimate average local willingness-to-pay – or, “quality of life” – from Eq. (Albouya and Lueb)

Athough it is very true that the access right to urban infrastructure is a part of the quality of life, it is also very controversial to call the index of willingness-to-pay as the index of quality of life .

(Image Credit: CityLab)

Wall of Films

From all the documentaries above, it’s evident that our society needs a new story to belong to. The old story of empire and dominion over the earth has to be looked at in the full light of day – all of our ambient cultural stories and values that we take for granted and which remain invisible must become visible. (filmsforaction)

Films For Action provides a massive archive of 500 films free to watch, share and distribute!

Enjoy the Wall of Films!

 

 

Commodification of the Pillars of Life: The Water

As Aristotle pointed out a long time ago, when two equal rights meet, power decides. Indeed, under the current neo-liberal hegemony, water rights are increasingly articulated via dynamics of commodification of water, private appropriation of water resources, dispossession tactics, and the like (Bakker 2003). (Swyngedouw)

As Erik Swyngedouw argues, in the age of commodification of everything, a.k.a. neoliberalization, water has been a pioneering issue via which neoliberal policies of privatisation have been rolled out and tested.

By the effect of climate change, the condition has become even more severe.

cityLab’s recent article, Class Warfare and the California Drought, highlights the inequality of access to water and the risk of normalisation of the commodification of vital aspects like water.

Steve Yuhas, a conservative talk-show host and part-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, explained in a Washington Post hate-read this weekend: “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he said. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.” (cityLab)

People “should not be forced to live on property with brown lawns, golf on brown courses or apologize for wanting their gardens to be beautiful,” Yuhas fumed recently on social media. (The Washington Post)

“You could put 20 houses on my property, and they’d have families of at least four. In my house, there is only two of us,” Butler says. “[T]hey’d be using a hell of a lot more water than we’re using.” (cityLab)

Wow, these guys are absolutely right. Why people wouldn’t think such solution?!

Ordinary people, please stop using water, so more-equal-people can water their multi-acre gardens comfortably and use as much water as they want.

Although the issue is prone to many questions, the main breaking point is water as a human right or a market commodity.

Water and oil are both highly limited resources. Yet water, unlike oil, is a human right—for Californians and for the 750 million who live without access to clean water worldwide. The attitude that money can, and should, buy any quantity of water isn’t common yet in California, but as droughts become longer and more dire all over the planet, it will likely spread. And the gap between who can drink freely and who cannot will grow. (cityLab)

(Image Credit: The Washington Post)