The goal for any city should be providing the tools for its people to live healthy lives. Being “healthy” does not just mean having access to nutritional food options and being exposed to less pollution. It also means providing people with a cultural identity and purpose, as a way for them to attach themselves to where they are from. But London, the city we have focused on in the last couple of weeks seems to focus more on the superficial projects, like revolutionizing sustainable fashion, and less on physical health of their people.
Sustainable fashion and the preservation of art are just as vital to a city, specifically London, as considering solutions to tackle childhood obesity and air pollution. Focusing on all these topics provides a balanced way of analyzing a city in order for us to make a clear judgment of their core values.
From the last few classes, I have gathered that London values its reputation, fashion-heavy culture and art way more than it values to the health of its people. Obesity and finding “air pollution particles” (“Air Pollution Particles Found Inside Human Brains”) in your brain are non-communicable—meaning that they are health conditions that are non-apparent and unrecognizable unless you dig deeper. The physical health of children or trying to make a city more walkable (“The Walkable City” by Jeff Speck) is not something that people see right away. Therefore, it makes sense why they leave those issues last. This is what is hurting London and other cities like it.
The physical health issues of childhood obesity seem to be set aside, and overwhelmed by the presence of revolutionary fashion and the preservation of edgy art, like Banksy (“How to Sell a Banksy”). These are the edgy and interesting aspects are what attract tourists. These are the things that everyday people are entertained by and are willing to invest in. Growing a dress out of bacteria (“The Next Black”) is cool, but will take way too much time and energy—time and energy that must be focuses on eliminating food deserts present in London and cities like it.
All in all, I am asking for a balance. The people of London must learn how to place importance on everything, rather than the things that are superficial and protect its name. Do more to eliminate the food deserts, especially the ones near grade schools. Do more to promote a more walkable city. Do more to fix the air quality. Health starts within.
If you were a creator of a revolutionary painting or a mural in the midst of New York City, how would you feel if it was stolen from you? What would you do if someone took something you have worked hard to create, mold, and invent and sold it just to fill their pockets?
Art is property. It is just as personal as the home or vehicle you might own, if not more! The invention of art requires loads of intellect, inventiveness, innovation, and imagination. What right does that give the non-artist to make profit off of art that is not theirs?
Art should therefore be protected in the interest of the artist because they should be the ones handling their works, not others. If people would recognize the value in preserving the name of artists and respecting them, then perhaps art would be something more people would appreciate.
What makes art valuable is a mixture of the impact that the artist had on his or her audience and the effort and intricacy they put into making such a piece. People also value art in a different way: for its authenticity. In “How to Sell a Banksy”, Christopher Thompson lifts from a London bridge a piece of street art by Britain’s most famous artist, Banksy, and attempts to sell it. However, he runs into problems with “Pest Control” and the art was not able to be being authenticated. This complicated the selling process.
This shows that people want to make sure that they are buying art that is real. The fact that people have to question whether or not something is authentic or not is disrespectful to the artist! Someone recreating art that is not theirs shouldn’t even be a possibility! No one should ever try to recreate art that is so irreplaceable. There should never be a price set for a piece that was dear and special to an artist because it is unkind and unfair. All art should be valued equally and appreciated for the feelings and intents from which it was created.
Stealing art has been happening all through out history, as shown in “Raiders of Lost Art”. The Monuments Men held the vision to preserve the culture and art of Europe as the Nazis embezzled their achievements. The art they saved was worth the sacrifice of using military resources and risking lives because protecting your culture and identity is your duty. Refusing to do so is disrespectful to where you come from.
Taking art, something so irreplaceable, from its rightful place and selling it for profit is wrong. It would be one thing if that was what to artist intended. But for people like Christopher Thompson to lift street art, destroy it, and then try to sell it a violation to the artist’s mission.
"Raiders of the Lost Art" Season 1 Episode 4 (Netflix)
"How to Sell a Banksy" - Movie Documentary (Netflix)
Many people believe that living sustainably solely involves making sure to recycle, turning the light off before leaving a room, cutting your shower time in half, or driving less. Although these are daily things that one can do to become more environmentally friendly, it doesn’t stop there.
Fashion, and its means of production, is extremely harmful to the environment, but people don’t think about that when they do their weekly shopping at the mall. They walk from store to store, buying garment after garment, without even needing them! They throw away a button up shirt if a button falls off, without even thinking of repairing it (which is easy to do, may I add). This is what most people, who consider fashion as a sport, do.
Using fashion in a sustainable way must be executed on both parts: the consumers must learn how to buy more sustainably, and companies have to learn how to stop being lazy and produce more sustainably.
Sophie Mather, portrayed in The Next Black as the former Head of Innovation at Nike Asia, has begun working toward the revolutionary technology of dry dying, which uses 50% less energy and 50% less chemicals than traditional methods, and diminishes that amount of escape dyes that end up polluting waters. Companies like Patagonia have advertised in ways that discourages excessive buying, and have even created “repair kits” so that customers can fix their clothing rather than throwing them away and buying new ones. If only all fashion companies considered these options when running their businesses.
Most fashion companies care about making money. Because mass production would be difficult and very expensive to do in a sustainable manner, they tend to abandon the ideas of producing in ways that use less water, less energy, and produce less waste.
It is time for consumers of fashion, which is everyone, to wake up. Some people in class view fashion as a sport. A competition of who can acquire the latest fashions. I have friends who shop just to shop, because it makes them happy to constantly have new garments to wear and new heels to show off. It needs to stop. If consumers were to begin developing sustainable habits when choosing their clothing, buying better quality clothing that lasts longer rather than the cheap kind that don’t, shopping less, and being content with what they have, then companies would become more induced to producing textiles in a more environmentally friendly fashion. This is what the future of fashion is.
The Next Black - The Future of Fashion
Over-eating and the consumption of fast food has become a habit of entertainment. Once students get out of school, they want to grab a burger from the local Burger King with their friends because it’s “fun” or because it’s something to do. It is more amusing to eat out than it is to eat a home-cooked meal. It is more convenient and more satisfying, but do people think about the long term repercussions of frequently eating fast food?
The articles “Childhood Obesity Could Cost London '£111m' a Year” by BBC News and “Obesity Rates Higher Among London School Children Than Anywhere in UK” by Evening Standard have a lot to say about the statistics of obesity, but do little to propose solutions to fix the issue. One article claims that “it found 11.6% of four to five-year-olds [in London] were obese which increases to 21.8% in the 10-11 age group. Another 160,000 children are overweight” (BBC News). The article by Evening Standard proposes to “bring in signs across the Tube and train network to encourage walking between stops, including distance, time taken to walk and calories this would burn off” to remedy the obesity epidemic. However, the former article claims that “walking schemes” were least effective in promoting a healthier lifestyle for youth.
This apparent disagreement between these articles is a direct example of how difficult it would be to decrease the statistics of obesity. It is easier said than done. Pushing for the removal of fast food restaurants near schools is not something that can happen overnight. Large fast food companies capitalize on overweight and obese individuals who have had unhealthy eating habits their whole lives. Although it isn’t impossible, this solution would take an extreme amount of time and effort.
Jeff Speck talks about making cities more “walkable” in his TEDtalk “The Walkable City”. Although it is something that can happen, most of the effort to live a more active lifestyle must come from the people themselves. Just because Boston, for example, installs more walkable sidewalks and safe platforms for cycling, does not mean that obese people will walk or bike more. It will just make things more convenient for those who already have active lifestyles. This measure won’t cure laziness.
In order to decrease the percentage of people who are obese, healthy lifestyles must be established by parents from birth. Healthy living starts at home. Just as we discussed in class, children need to be taught that fitness comes from eating clean for at least most of the week, in order to prevent the bad habits like taking pills to speed up weight loss as adults. It is important for parents to demonstrate for their children the importance of eating balanced meals, drinking water, and living an active lifestyle. This can be achieved by buying wholesome foods when grocery shopping, cooking healthy meals, encouraging children to play sports, ride bikes, or at the very least, play outside. These are the most realistic measures to ensure a change in the culture surrounding healthy lifestyles.
"Childhood Obesity Could Cost London '£111m' a Year." BBC News. BBC, 14 Apr. 2011.
Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
Crerar, Pippa. "One in Five London Primary School Leavers 'very Overweight'." Evening
Standard. N.p., 04 Aug. 2015. Web. 12 Apr. 2017.
TEDtalk “The Walkable City” by Jeff Speck
Inequality in reproductive health and abortion rates.
Hendershott, Anne. "The Real Inequality in New York City." Crisis Magazine. N.p., 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Income and class inequality.
"New York, New York, A Most Unequal Town." Inequality.org. N.p., 27 Sept. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Bennett-Smith, Meredith. "New York City, Income Inequality Capital Of America, Now Also Facing Soaring Rent Prices: Report." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 30 July 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Ratner, Lizzy. "Called to Work During Superstorm Sandy, Tribeca Parking Attendant Drowned."The Nation. N.p., 29 June 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
"Racial Inequality in NYC." Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2017.
Graffiti has always been invisible to me. Growing up in Boston, graffiti just seemed like a product of boredom and aimlessness. I thought it was bad that kids spray painted for fun. However, watching the documentaries Infamy and Murals made me realize that graffiti artists use the streets as an outlet for creativity. It did not occur to me that this could be the only way the young misunderstood could express themselves or people who do not have access to education to construct their own forms of art.
Graffiti and street art bring color, meaning, and life to sometimes dim and gloomy cities. They allow people, especially youth, to express themselves in unique and imaginative ways. However, there is an ethical difference between graffiti art and vandalism (Mural, NYC Arts Cypher 6:04). The former is meant to passionately influence people, but gang and tagger graffiti bring no inspiration or constructive incentive for youth. The latter merely supports the roles of gang violence in unsafe neighborhoods and incite children and teenagers to believe that gang related art is okay to have and appreciate. Toomer in Infamy, who creates murals himself, views them as beautiful and people appreciate the radiance and emotion behind such effort. The photos below highlight the key difference between beautiful art and unpleasant tagging:
But tagging mailboxes, signs, and doors solely for people to know you were there or just to spite police is pointless, obnoxious, and inane. For example, in the documentary Infamy, Earsnot saw tagging as a “signature”, staking his claim on mailboxes and other random places because he thought it was fun. People like him, egotistical and big-headed bring bad reputations to true and dedicated graffiti artists because people will always associate street art with vandalism, as the public would consider both as being acts of delinquency.
In the first documentary, everyone but Earsnot had an ethical and empowering incentive to their graffiti art creations. Claw did it for women empowerment and they truly wanted to influence the community’s thoughts on women’s worth. Saber took time into creating his designs and portraying his message through his art, and that is something that I also appreciate. On the other hand, Earsnot, who’s a thief and a criminal, tagged mailboxes, doors, and other objects just to be malicious and vindictive. Most people can’t even read the signatures! So what is the point of this mindless and childish behavior? He vandalized because he saw it as an entertaining game of cat and mouse with the police.
This is why it makes sense why people like Joe Connolly, the Graffiti Guerrilla, make substantial efforts to remove vandalism off of street signs, walls, and other parts of the city. Meaningless and illiterate scribbles just ruin property, unlike artistic and creative murals that become sources of admiration and guidance for people who pass by them every single day.
Infamy Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3WUXA3V7nY
Mural Documentary - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVFQidPEw8c
Having grown up in the poorest part of Dorchester, Massachusetts, I have definitely witnessed the negative repercussions of living in poverty. I have witnessed my family, friends, and neighbors suffer, as living in a food desert and in unsanitary conditions not only harmed their health, but also their spirit.
I am lucky enough to have parents who were knowledgeable about the effects of the awful physical and environmental conditions we lived in. My brother and I were therefore protected from the harmful effects of the uncleanly and dangerous environment of our neighborhood. I have heard of homes being infested with bugs, rodents, mold, and other harmful substances. But these people have little to no resources to deal with it!
Come to think of it, they probably don't even know how harmful the state in which they live is. The people living in these conditions often ignore it because they have more “important” things to worry about, such as paying bills and making sure there is food on the table. I believe that many people who lack quality education, like many people from my neighborhood and others like it, lack the awareness of doing their research and considering things other than rent price.
They disregard “the concepts of place and environment [that] are essential to understanding the physical and mental health outcomes in society [and that] they are broad, multidimensional constructs” (Unhealthy Cities, Fitzpatrick & LaGory 7). They are unaware of the importance of doing research on the quality of schools in the vicinity, on local crime rates, the availability of healthy food, or the safety of their new neighborhood because their minds are solely overtaken by how much the rent would cost. This is what it ultimately comes down to for minorities who live in poor urban areas.
There are many factors that contribute to the poor health of Dorchester that are pointed out in the article “Urban Versus Rural Health”. Under the “Urban Context”, we learn that the physical environment is densely populated, which increases the facilitation of spread of diseases. There are little recreational opportunities for children, which in turn increases the rate of high-risk behavior amongst young people.
This is what accelerates crime rates, and compromises the safety of people who live in poor and densely populated areas. The lack of sanitation could increase the likelihood of people developing sicknesses such as Asthma from homes that are dusty and moldy. These conditions are life-threatening to people who possess such health problems. My neighbors often have to rely on home remedies and over-the-counter medication instead of going to an actual hospital because they either don’t have health insurance or can’t afford the medical bill. These factors put the health, safety, and overall happiness of city-dwellers in danger. Ultimately, their socioeconomic status prevents them from having access to truly healthy lives.
In order to combat the predisposed quality of life that poor people are born into, there must be a spread of awareness. This awareness would then create the incentive for a call to action. There could then be more access to affordable organic food rather than only a McDonald’s or Burger King. Civilians could have the chance to live in sanitary homes and walk on clean sidewalks. Children could have access to more parks, community centers, and other programs that foster their physical and mental growth. If everyone was born with the same chance to live a healthy, wholesome, and nourishing life, the world would be a much better place.