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Satellite views of the world's largest slums
February 23, 2012 8:00 PM   Subscribe


 
If the readers of Business Insider ever want to see a slum, they will observe it through a powerful telescope.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:06 PM on February 23, 2012 [31 favorites]


These people are tired of being looked down upon.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:07 PM on February 23, 2012 [9 favorites]


Meaningless since I can't tell what I'm looking at. It would be better if they had a picture of one house or family or street to accompany each arial photo.
posted by michaelh at 8:13 PM on February 23, 2012 [8 favorites]


Those satellite pictures reveal essentially nothing—those could be the North Side of Chicago or downtown Tokyo, for all the detail and perspective.

I think ground-level would be more revealing.
posted by stargell at 8:13 PM on February 23, 2012


Honestly, without some relative scale, these photos are not very meaningful.

or, on preview, what everyone else is saying.
posted by HuronBob at 8:14 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Now here's a scary thought: rising inequality may create slums in America

Give me a fucking break.
posted by odinsdream at 8:20 PM on February 23, 2012 [15 favorites]


Yeah, I pretty much can't tell these are slums, though some of them certainly look congested.
posted by Gator at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2012


I agree with everyone that satellite photos are kind of boring, but maybe we can provide some details on these places.

I think it's kind of unfair to call Kamagasaki a "slum". The satellite pretty clearly shows it's a structured and maintained area of the city, and photos of street and living conditions show it's standard lower-class housing in Japan, albeit concentrated and segregated from nicer housing which is an unusual situation, culturally speaking. As a result it is one of the strongest concentrations of far-left activists in the country.

There is at least one slum in Japan, although it's very small. Kyoto, near Osaka, is another place where "dirty people" were traditionally kicked off of the main streets and hidden away, and today there is an bizarre but real Korean slum of about 100 people hidden behind a small dam. The Koreans neighboring the slum have hidden it from Google's street map view using artificially planted trees. The blogger who took the pictures doesn't know how this happened and I don't know either, but the situation is uniquely un-Japanese.

Much more common in Japan is for the very poor to live alongside the moderately wealthy, a situation I see regularly and experienced firsthand when I was doing Buddhist alms rounds on the Sea of Japan coast. The homes I visited alternated between rusty corrugated aluminum and modern suburban construction, but there were no walls or locked doors as we did our rounds.

Oh yeah, that's a funny story by the way. I was training with one of the strictest Zen temples in the country and wore straw sandals and flimsy traditional robes while doing this almsround in the cold in a not so great part of town. The rich sometimes turned us away but all the poor people gave about 100 or 200 yen which I found inspiring and humbling. After we finished a hard day's work (it was only about 2 hours or so) the monks drove us back to our mountain temple. But they stopped at a supermarket on the way and bought cans of hot coffee for everyone, to warm us up. Yes, they spent roughly all of our alms on that.
posted by shii at 8:21 PM on February 23, 2012 [27 favorites]


If the headline had said, "the richest cities in the world", I wouldn't have been able to tell the difference.

Also, "Now here's a scary thought: rising inequality may create slums in America"

Good thing to know we lack slums in this country.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:24 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is it really 'shocking'? I mean, you can't really see poverty at that distance. The buildings look short, the roads are dirt, I guess. The roofs aren't that colorful. Beyond that, though what can you really see?
If the readers of Business Insider ever want to see a slum, they will observe it through a powerful telescope.
That commented reminded me of this song

That said for a site called "Business Insider" they seem to end up with a lot of stuff that has a liberal bent. I don't know if that's just because of the stuff I see linked, or what. Probably.

Looking at their front page right now it seems very 'huffpo like'. Not in "having a liberal bent" but rather having lots of Linkbait kinds of articles. like "Everything You've Heard About Mardi Gras Is Wrong" or "12 Crazy Activities These CEOs Do In Their Spare Time" With a picture of Mark Zuckerburg and a chicken.

Here's one, though, that gold plated oligarchs might appreciate: "POGUE: Apple's Foxconn Factory Jobs Are Way Better Than The Alternative -- Rice Farming And Prostitution" -- which, if there are only three jobs available in China, who is hiring all the prostitutes? Foxconn employees I guess.
posted by delmoi at 8:25 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


What percentage of these types of articles rely solely on photos from Google Earth or Street View? My zip code was recently profiled on Business Insider as "America's Cheapest" (I'm pretty sure it isn't). The reporter offered this justifiction for her Street View drive-by.

Give me a fucking break.
Honest question: Are you saying that there are already slums in America or that there couldn't possibly be slums in America?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 8:26 PM on February 23, 2012


The photographs are useless. The numbers, however, are darn-right scary, as usual.

Odinsdream: I assume you want a fucking break because of the stupidity implied by the word 'create'--as if we have no slums here already. I did RTFA, or at least looked at it.

Has anybody ever seen such a piss poor graph as this one?
posted by BlueHorse at 8:26 PM on February 23, 2012


Now here's a scary thought: rising inequality may create slums in America

The link that led me to was ostensibly about cities in the US whose suburbs are turning into slums. But it was basically just a list of big cities in the US. Sure, it gave some numbers for how poverty is moving from cities into suburbs, and that's a noteworthy phenomenon, but it's a huge leap from "poverty in the suburbs of New York City is growing compared to poverty in New York City itself" to "NYC's suburbs are becoming slums."
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:26 PM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's kind of hard to tell the difference between a slum and any other dense urban area from straight above. I don't think this is impossible to do well with aerial imagery, better resolution and images taken at that 45° angle like Google does for many cities would help.
posted by floam at 8:27 PM on February 23, 2012


What percentage of these types of articles rely solely on photos from Google Earth or Street View? My zip code was recently profiled on Business Insider as "America's Cheapest" (I'm pretty sure it isn't). The reporter offered this justifiction for her Street View drive-by.
Yeah just looking through their articles, they are very much on the 'get clicks at any cost' style of online journalism.
posted by delmoi at 8:29 PM on February 23, 2012


I'm trying very hard not to say: "the top down perspective will make it very easy to incorporate these places into Modern Warfare 4".

So not saying that, honestly I don't think I would have guessed that these were slums from the photos. But there have been times during landing and take off when the whole world below has appeared to be made of matchbox cars and toy houses...overhead perspectives are funny.

Also, when you're learning how to parachute the first time, they tell you don't pull your final braking tug when you think you're about to hit, because generally you're still 60 feet above the ground at that point, and the sudden drop will be very bad for you.

Wasn't there some study that said that people consistently overestimate heights when looking down, and that maybe that was an evolutionary adaptation?
posted by Chekhovian at 8:38 PM on February 23, 2012


Kamagasaki, Japan. A slum in Nishinari-Ku one of 24 wards in Osaka, with a density of 30,000 people in every 2000 meter radius.

Why that's almost 6200 people/square mile. However do they survive.
posted by alexei at 8:46 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the South, at least, we have a couple of types of slum: medium density, but very low-quality, housing stock, usually urban; and medium-high density trailer parks, with about ten feet between the trailers. I guess nobody makes satellite photos of these areas.
posted by sonic meat machine at 8:51 PM on February 23, 2012


Concerning suburban slums in the US: I've had dreams where I was wandering neighborhoods made up of former McMansions in currently gated communities that had been converted into multi-family rentals and these McMansions were buit so shoddily to begin with they were falling apart under the wear of a dozen people living in them.
posted by sourwookie at 8:54 PM on February 23, 2012


The definition of 'slumming', visiting slums out of curiosity or for amusement.
posted by stbalbach at 8:54 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


In these same dreams Walmart supercenters have been divvied up into stalls where people keep booths like a third world street market.
posted by sourwookie at 8:56 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]




The whole assumption that larger slums are more noteworthy is wrong. Why aren't there more satellite photos of "The World's Nicest Slums"?
posted by twoleftfeet at 9:11 PM on February 23, 2012


.. and that was social commentary from 1973. Written for an African-American actor visiting SE China/Hong Kong.
posted by porpoise at 9:12 PM on February 23, 2012


sourwookie:
We might start by studying longstanding patterns and practices of housing adaptation in Southern California — a part of the country with no shortage of upscale real estate but with a dearth of affordable options. [8] In Los Angeles it's not unusual to find recent immigrants, young people, the elderly, poor families and sometimes even professional-class single people doubling up with relatives, or occupying illegal units such as converted garages, or sometimes even living in suburban houses converted into single-room-occupancy dwellings. City officials have estimated that in the late 1990s there were 50,000 to 100,000 people housed in illegally converted garages throughout Los Angeles County, with even more in other forms of substandard housing. [9] Informal units also serve as businesses, e.g., chiropractors' offices, seamstresses' workshops, musicians' instrument shops and schools, etc.
Link
posted by alexei at 9:14 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why that's almost 6200 people/square mile. However do they survive.

At first read, 30,000 sounded like a big number. Then I gave it some thought. Turns out my own slum town of Santa Monica, CA has a pop density of 10,662.5/sq mi. Come to think of it, there are a couple apartment buildings a few blocks away that can really use some new paint.

Eat that, Osaka!
posted by 2N2222 at 9:21 PM on February 23, 2012


Look these up on Google Maps, then click 'photos' for geo-tagged photos taken in the slums (there are a few here and there). Then click on the photos to get a better idea of what the slums look like up close.

Then you get the idea that the satellite photo is just showing some scrunched up blurs that could be anything, and is very different than what it looks like up close.
posted by eye of newt at 9:23 PM on February 23, 2012


What? no Adelaide?
posted by mattoxic at 9:27 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


But they stopped at a supermarket on the way and bought cans of hot coffee for everyone, to warm us up. Yes, they spent roughly all of our alms on that.

See? Beggars just spend it on drugs.
posted by telstar at 9:33 PM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]


Kibera, Kenya. A slum in the city of Nairobi with approximately 170,000 - 250,000 people.
Petare, Venezuela. A slum in Caracas with approximately 600,000 - 1 million people.
Orangi town, Pakistan. A slum in Karachi with approximately 700,000 - 2.5 million people.


Do these ranges indicate fluctuations in population, or are these guesstimates?
posted by vidur at 10:04 PM on February 23, 2012


There has been a theory, probably as long as I have been alive, that people from New York's "Inner City" are going to burst forth and turn once respectable suburban neighborhoods into slums. Good too see Business Insider is keeping that stupid bit of common wisdom alive.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:28 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


The article links to another article about how in many American cities, the slums are in (or moving to?) the suburbs, while in past recessions the cities were the "centers of poverty and crime." Nothing shocking, but it's an interesting difference.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:32 PM on February 23, 2012


Do these ranges indicate fluctuations in population, or are these guesstimates?

I'm sitting 3 miles away from Kibera, and I can confirm that 170,000-250,000 is on the extremely low end of most estimates. 170,000 is fairly in line with the low end of the most recent widely accepted studies, but that was 2009, and estimates in recent years have ranged as high as 1 million. Its estimated that up to 2.5 million people in Nairobi live in slums, and its certain that the vast majority of them are in Kibera. In any case, 170k - 1m+ is a pretty broad dartboard to be throwing at, and if you ever see it up close - from a hill across the valley rather than a satellite, you'll understand why 170k is probably ridiculously low.

The reality is that its simply not that easy to really closely estimate population levels, which are in any case pretty fluid, in such insecure environments. Its not like you can just send census takers with clipboards door-to-door. Even if there were doors for them to go between, the people who are there have many reasons (good and bad) to fear some official looking person standing outside their shack which contains all that they have in the world. You have to remember that any access to running water or electricity in these places is both illegal - that is, stolen, and managed - that is, sold to the population, by local gangs (in Kibera it's the Mungiki).

Without the clear separations and segregations that basic things like free-standing homes or apartment buildings offer (let alone data like addresses, SSN, phone numbers, etc.), you're never really going to figure out who lives where. So the closest thing experts have figured out how to do, to date, is take a few samplings of people-per-square-mile (or km, if its anyone non-US conducting the study), then take the averages of the PPSM and multiply that be the square mileage of the slum. This of course is going to vary WIDELY for every slum to which it is applied.

At the end of the day the fact of the matter is we simply don't know how many people are living in these kind of conditions, but personally I feel its a pretty safe assumption that our estimates generally error grossly on the low side, if only to salve our own consciousness.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:40 PM on February 23, 2012 [7 favorites]


sourwookie, your dreams made me think of the "Tower of David" in Caracas.
posted by eegphalanges at 12:55 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Concerning suburban slums in the US: I've had dreams where I was wandering neighborhoods made up of former McMansions in currently gated communities that had been converted into multi-family rentals and these McMansions were buit so shoddily to begin with they were falling apart under the wear of a dozen people living in them.

Take away the "gated" aspect, and you're describing many areas of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Orange County.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:38 AM on February 24, 2012


Goddamn Mexico City must be crazy / awesome.
posted by nathancaswell at 5:25 AM on February 24, 2012


Do these ranges indicate fluctuations in population, or are these guesstimates?

Like allkindsoftime says, they are guesstimates, and enormously inaccurate ones. Because the legality of both the places and the people in them tends to fluctuate, there are usually political and/or economic reasons for both low and high population numbers, over and above the difficulties of making an accurate guess in the first place.
posted by Forktine at 6:26 AM on February 24, 2012



What I was expecting to see was some kind of profound difference between slums and cities. What I got was about what you see from the airplane window as you fly over any metropolitain area.

Thanks for nothing Business Insider.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:32 AM on February 24, 2012


This post about Annawadi in Mumbai is much more enlightening than these photos.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:35 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone else notice the containment pool of blood in the Sadr city photo?
posted by obscurator at 7:28 AM on February 24, 2012


I'd agree that many of those satellite photos reveal very little of the conditions on the ground. But that's not true for all of them.

In several of the linked photos, structured neighborhoods or busy highways flank a large, brown swath of what looks like rubble, with no clear roads or outlines of buildings. And no green at all.

Those images painted a pretty clear picture for me.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 7:39 AM on February 24, 2012


Meaningless since I can't tell what I'm looking at. It would be better if they had a picture of one house or family or street to accompany each arial photo.

Today's Big Picture post is well-timed, then:
One Billion Slum Dwellers

One billion people worldwide live in slums, a number that will likely double by 2030. The characteristics of slum life vary greatly between geographic regions, but they are generally inhabited by the very poor or socially disadvantaged.  Slum buildings can be simple shacks or permanent and well-maintained structures but lack clean water, electricity, sanitation and other basic services.  In this post, I've included images from several slums including Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya, the second largest slum in Africa (and the third largest in the world); New Building slum in central Malabo, Equatorial Guinea; Pinheirinho slum - where residents recently resisted police efforts to forcibly evict them; and slum dwellers from Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi, India.  India has about 93 million slum dwellers and as much as 50% of New Delhi's population is thought to live in slums, 60% of Mumbai.  -- Paula Nelson (55 photos total)
posted by Rhaomi at 8:26 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Honestly, without some relative scale, these photos are not very meaningful. (and other comments by other folks along the same lines...)

Personally, there are two takeaways from the pictures, for me: first, that the boundaries of so many slums are so large as to require viewing from a satellite in order to see it all, and second, that they look (from this distance) just like cities elsewhere. Not exactly a concept that can blow you away, but certainly food for thought.
posted by davejay at 8:31 AM on February 24, 2012


We are following the US, which seems to want to model its cities on the South American model, with barrios all around (for now they are just tent cities). The tories have capped housing benefit for some people which essentially means there are places they can now no longer afford to live in, so are moving to the edges of the cities. We call this process Gentrification.

The tories lied that landlords would bring rents down. hahahaha.
posted by marienbad at 9:21 AM on February 24, 2012


Awhile back I was cruising around Google street view and thought this view of Tembisi, South Africa was striking as a slum with very low population density.
posted by desjardins at 10:43 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Awhile back I was cruising around Google street view and thought this view of Tembisi, South Africa was striking as a slum with very low population density.

"Slum" gets used as a catch-all word to encompass things that maybe don't really belong together. That photo is of what is almost certainly a public housing development; the residents would be buying the houses at subsidized rates/prices and might be anything from fairly poor to middle-class. It might have been built on empty land, or perhaps an informal settlement was bulldozed to allow it. Those developments always look incredibly sparse when they are new (and it's easy to find examples of them staying empty for decades, because it was built so far out of town or priced too high, such that people turned their backs on it), but the idea is that with time people will add on extra rooms, plant trees and gardens, and meanwhile public infrastructure (eg paved streets, street lights, etc) gets added.

My memory is that there is a sequence of this near the beginning of City of God, but I won't swear to it; the end of Central Station takes place in a newly-built community like this. John Turner's Housing by People is a classic critique of these kinds of developments, but they work well sometimes, too.
posted by Forktine at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2012


Hit "post" too fast. That's a great photo, and really shows how diverse these peri-urban cityscapes are at the ground level.
posted by Forktine at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2012


Hey sourwookie, are the skies in your dreams the color or a television, tuned to a dead channel?
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:47 PM on February 24, 2012


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