Building urban space

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For these men, it’s the end of a job. They’re putting the final touches on a wall they’ve been building for several weeks, and they’re doing their best to make it smooth, clean work.

They don’t get paid much. What they earn is barely enough to feed them and their families. Any call-center representative probably makes twice as much. Even so, they taking pride in what they do, for their own satisfaction.

There are certainly more important projects going on in Dumaguete at the moment. There are preparations for concerts, poetry readings, annual alumni meetings at major Universities. This is a University town, after all.

While these men work, many environmental concerns are being addressed. There is serious concern about the air quality in the city and plans are being written to isolate and correct the problem.

And, of course, as the typhoon season approaches, projects to improve street drainage and prevent river flooding are being considered. And then the effect of long term climate change must be taken into account.

The people who are involved in all these things talk about then endlessly with each other, in their offices, at lunch, in coffee shops after work. And eventually they say goodbye, and head for home.

And on their way home they pass through the streets of the city; in their cars, on bicycles, or even on foot. And if they look around on their way, what they see is not always pleasing to the eye.

Even on main streets there are signs of neglect. Abandoned buildings, littered empty lots, cracked concrete, peeling paint, torn and fading posters from long gone promotions- all the standard signs of urban decay.

None of these things affect the quality of the air, or flood the rivers, or contribute to global warming. But they undermine the environment nonetheless. People who pass on these streets feel diminished by them.

It’s as though the streets were saying to them: “This is your place, your city, tired, unkempt, unattractive. This is who you are.” How much concern can you feel for the future of a city that seems uncared for?

These men are not urban planners- They’re just finishing a wall. But it’s a new, clean, well designed wall, a piece of urban space that pleases the eyes of those who pass it by. In their own way, they have also done their part to improve the environment.

___________________________________________

Author’s email:
[email protected]

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