The Externalities of Urban Development: Four Things I Hate

Should urbanization and development always be greeted with open arms? Here’s a personal account of the externalities of urban development.

Early this morning, as I try to enjoy the refreshing light of dawn on our porch and wait for the sun to shine, I expected to breathe the fresh air to fill my lungs and get ready to face another day.

Instead, I was greeted by the putrid smell of methane, presumably coming from a neighbor’s pig business, a block away from home. They buy and hold many pigs and cows for slaughter in nearby markets that supply the increasing meat demand of a growing population in the city.

Occasionally, someone surreptitiously leaves a herd of goats to graze at the vacant lot next to our house, taking advantage of the fresh grass shoots that spring up whenever I have somebody mow down the tall cogon grasses that quickly burn when withered and dry. I have to frantically douse the grass fire that poses a hazard to our house in the past.

Somehow, the buffer of the mowed area of about five meters lessens the risk. But then again, this herd of goats adds stench to the already foul air because of their excrements. Their persistent, irritating calls to each other are a distraction to my writing mood.

The Price of Urban Development

The scenario is quite different from when we settled in our current residence 15 years ago. The place was quiet and generally rural. I can breathe fresh air and have a good sleep in the sleepy afternoon – deep slumber in a calm environment. Only the sweet sound of chirping birds are audible.

I long for the kind of atmosphere before, but here I am, suffering the negative externalities of so-called urban development. An externality is a side effect of industrial or commercial activities, the so-called “urban development,” that affects other parties.

Urban development is fine as long as it is well planned and adheres to aesthetics.

Indeed, now we have piped-in water, the electricity that powers up different appliances that provide information and entertainment. We can now easily access a mall where I spend a large sum of hard-earned money.

Technology has changed the way we live. Modern communication gadgets that rapidly get outmoded as new, more pricey ones arrive with better designs or more ringtones than the previous one. A washing machine replaced the manual clothes washing, an air conditioner to cool off hot, humid days in a concrete house.

All these “conveniences” become desired targets of what I call the “active scavengers” – people who come to your house and pick anything they want when you’re away. Once, these guys were rarely a complaint.


Externalities of Urban Development

As more people came in and populated the city, the more inferior the quality of life had become for me. I, therefore, list down the price of increased urbanization to the general environment below based on this musing:

4 Urban Development Problems

Poor air quality

The quality of the surrounding air has gone foul. The once fresh smell of grasses alongside the highway is gone. Neighbors disregard the law and rear pigs in their homes, contributing to the degrading air quality.

Noise pollution

I can hear all the banging of so-called “music” in the nearby restaurant. My sensitive ears used to the peace that once was could not tolerate such noise.

Why has it become a practice for restaurant owners to play such disturbing music when everyone is getting ready to sleep? Are they not supposed to have soundproofed rooms to play those loud rock music? I wonder.

More expenses to keep up with the demands of modern living

Things have become more expensive as tourists started to come in. We have to compete with the buying capacity of these visitors. The price of the once inexpensive fish in the abounding waters have suddenly soared.

We could no longer buy fresh fish in the public market. The fish vendors have sold them to hotels and sprouting restaurants that cater to the guests. We have to keep up and find other ways to earn more. The rat race has commenced.

Increased threat to life and property

Thieves and opportunists started to roam our streets and threatened the once peaceful neighborhood. I just had had my salary when a thief made a hole in our room’s screen to steal my hard-earned money. My simple Swiss knife of 13 years is gone, too.

This intrusion happened not only once but thrice. At one point, I even saw the thief cloaked in a T-shirt, so I could not recognize him. I tried to give chase, but he’s as quick as a cheetah.

I can think of more externalities about urban development, but just to put the point across, these things greatly impacted the way we live. Are there things I could do to mitigate these externalities’ effects that lower the quality of life in the once peaceful place I used to live?

As a thinking animal, adaptation takes the form of fight or flight. I can do something actively to change the environment or escape an undesirable situation.

4 Solutions to Mitigate the Externalities of Urban Development

I list the corresponding steps to neutralize the ill effects of externalities due to urban development listed above, thus:

Complain the Erring Neighbors

I sought the city government’s attention on the rearing of swine and poultry next to our lot. It so happened I have a student working in that department taking charge of enforcing the city’s regulations on domesticated animals. He dropped by and informed the erring neighbors that their livelihood activity does not comply with city zoning. I was glad they complied. The stench has gone away.

While I understand people need to have their livelihood activities, these activities should not negatively impact a residential area. The livestock holding station had to be located somewhere else, away from where people reside.

Sound proof my room

I bought blockout curtains that keep intense light from the room. It helped me sleep better and blocked irritating noise, especially at night. I contemplate building a soundproofed room to do my writing and studying without disturbance soon.

Live simply

My response to the ever-increasing prices of goods is to buy what I need only. Living simply or minimally not only saves money but also is friendly to the environment. Less trash is produced.

Fence my lot

Security becomes a concern because of the many instances where burglars come to take things from other people because of their laziness. If this shady group of opportunistic people is given a chance to do their thing, they will do so without respect to other people’s property. I secured the property area with burglar-proof fences to discourage them from coming.

Would I arm myself to the teeth? This idea hunkers in my brain. I am a peaceful person, and I don’t want to engage in a confrontational situation.

Anyhow, I believe defense is better than offense. Fencing as a security measure appears to be enough to serve my needs.

Hindsight on Urban Development

Once, a professor from a British university visited our university. He talked about pollution.

What caught my attention was when he said that in many cities in England, they would like to step back in their development because of the high levels of lead found in young children’s hair. They were exposed to massive levels of lead from petrol in the air because of a busy thoroughfare.

Where does this take us?

The externalities of urban development I have just discussed mean that urban planners must see that optimal conditions, not maximal, are maintained for the citizen’s greatest benefit. Caution and good planning ensure sustainable urban development.

© 2013 December 15 P. A. Regoniel
Updated: 29 October 2020