Geography 101 Lab Series: #10

Yay! The final paper before “The Big One”.

Boo! Hiss! The topic wants me to write about how rich countries can help poor countries (again).

Being tired of this topic, I refuse to answer.

The Assignments: Squatter Settlements & The Causes of Poverty

Rural-to-urban migration in Latin American cities often results in large squatter settlements surrounding the city. Where did the residents of these slums come from, and why did they move? Who owns the land they move onto? When did this phenomenon begin, and for what reasons? At what rate are these squatter settlements still growing?

Many work in the informal economy and live in informal housing. What does this actually mean, in practical terms? Are the urban poor better off or worse off compared to their rural counterparts?

When one city is much larger than any other, it tends to attract more migrants. How successful are governmental attempts to create second big cities, and do these secondary cities reduce the migration pressure on the largest city?

What other programs have governments implemented to address the problems of the peripheral poor, or what programs or policies might be helpful? Mention as many ideas as you can, keeping in mind the limited capital resources.

However simplistic, unfair, and wrong it may be to divide the world into the rich and the poor, it would be just as unreasonable to deny the stark differences between what we call the first world and what we call the third world. Why is the developing world—most of Central and South America, Africa, and Asia—poor?

Your answer should incorporate many of the themes from preceding chapters: Topography, natural resources, relative location, climate, weather, and soils, population, culture, religion, language, political system, regional organizations, economic system, colonial history, foreign policy, and global trade.

Comment meaningfully on as many of these as possible and suggest, if you can, which, if any, are more important than others.


Lab #10

The “phenomenon” of squatter settlements is in no way a symptom of modern society. Since before the Bronze Age, people clustered around towns and cities wherever life amongst their fellows would prove beneficial. In its heyday, Rome was surrounded by “informal developments”. In medieval Europe, people would transform open spaces in the shadow of the abode of the “Lord of the Land” into small settlements that often grew into large settlements.

Similarly, today’s squatters migrate to cities looking for work and/or charity because of a lack of sustainability in the nation’s agricultural areas. They camp where others in similar straits are, most commonly on land owned by the government.

Nearly one billion people live in these “informal developments” and most sources agree that that number will double in the next twenty years. The living structures are built of secondhand or found materials; wood, metal sheeting, or even tarpaulin or thatch.

Depending upon the measuring stick, this squalid living could be considered better or worse that the lives they left behind. They are closer to necessities such as hospitals and charitable organizations and places of possible employment. However, the conditions in these settlements create an environment where disease and fire can wipe out thousands in a very short amount of time, and where criminal activity is rampant.

Some nations have attempted to plan the growth of urban areas apart from the large cities, with some success. However, if the “second city” is too far from the primary city, it is deemed to be too far for the settlers to move. If it is too close, the shanty will simply shift its shape and extend towards the second city until the settlements between the two cities become connected.

There are a number of reasons or causes for this poverty. Some are cultural: India’s infamous caste system being the most horrid modern day example (though, urbanization has helped alleviate some of this).

Some are environmental and/or geographical: Certain locations on Earth are unsuitable for farming or have had their soil degraded to the point where nothing will grow. Other locations have few natural resources.

However, I believe that largest cause of long lasting poverty is politics and corruption, both local and global.

If the governments of third world countries are honestly analyzed, you’ll far more often than not find a tyrant or a corrupt parliament full of people “appointed” by the ruling party. If there are elections, they are irregular and rigged for a set result. These so-called “governments” generally rule by force instead of the will of the people, and “the people” are usually at the lowest end of their list of priorities.

Other third world nations don’t even have it that good. Their day to day lives are endangered by regional warlords who only “gift” essential items like water or food to those whom they decide have given them the proper amount of respect.

To ad further instability, both the corrupt national governments and the warlords stand very high risks of being ousted, and only rarely by someone more altruistic.

Yes, investment monies will flow into unstable areas, but those have little change of going farther than the ruling party’s or warlord’s vaults. Also, the amounts that flow into unstable areas are a pittance compared to those that the first world is willing to invest into stable nations.

No amount of “Foreign Aid” money can create stability as it gets treated like the aforementioned badly investment money. Military intervention has worked in the past, but only after near complete devastation of the nation, its people and its industry.

It takes a carefully blended trifecta of stability, education and small scale agriculture to alleviate poverty. These take time, sometimes quite a long time, to get the right. Call it “Societal Evolution” if you choose, but we must hope that it speeds up before Malthus is proven correct on a humongous scale.

Grade: 100%

Again, no notes from the Professor on this one. I’ll take the grade and not worry about any compliments.

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5 Responses to Geography 101 Lab Series: #10

  1. Rivrdog says:

    After reading your Geography Lab assignments, Phil, I can only conclude that you are a prisoner of war. Your SERE skills WILL come into play, but I can’t, for the life of me, think of how you are going to put up with enough of this to gain a 4-year degree.

    BTW, by no stretch of the imagination is this Physical Geography you’re learning. It is, to be charitable, Geo-Politics, but that should be in a PolySci major, not a Geography major.

    The one scientific paper you did, the one on earthquakes, is geo-physical in orientation, but your Commissars even managed to make THAT one into a political lesson.

    Your path, and that of Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn, are converging, separated only by time, less by circumstances.

    I know that you are trying to fulfill a dream, Phil, but at what mental cost?

  2. Mollbot says:

    He’s tough. He can take it.

  3. Gerry N. says:

    One does not learn waste water management by standing up to one’s neck in shit.

    Gerry N.

  4. Mollbot says:

    Maybe not… but having stood (not by my own choice) in some pretty unpleasant things, I am a large fan of waste water management, anyway.

  5. Phil says:

    That which does not kill me will only serve to make me stronger, RD.

    College isn’t as lethal as I am. Thank you for your concern though.

Comments are closed.