Rats in a trap

Old petrol stations never die . . . they just refill; or so we have seen these past few years in London.

First they display their shiny yellow, green or blue and red corporate colours, and then some convert to a less well known petrol brand.

The next stage is for east Europeans to take over the forecourt and use it as a car wash.

[T]he premises then lie dormant for a period before the bulldozers move in and before the next fuel hike a shiny new block of “executive” flats will have been built with one of the ubiquitous Tesco Metro stores below. Where once stood somewhere cabbies could refuel now occupying the site are 20 flats.

Every small piece of land is now ripe for high density development and in so doing increasing London’s population exponentially. In my area small blocks of disused garages – which its local residents would prefer to leave full of junk while putting their cars in the road – the local authority has sold to developers to well . . . develop.

All over London there is evidence of its burgeoning population growth. Utility companies have to upgrade their networks to accommodate demand; new traffic management systems created trying to reduce congestion; and a public transport system unable to cope.

In a study many years ago rats, which are social creatures and like to live together, were put in an enclosure sufficient for their needs. Over time this enclosure was reduced in size forcing the rats to live closer to each other than would have been natural in the wild. At first the rats were happy in their environment, but as their conditions became more cramped they started to fight and eventually killed each other.

Everyone wants a piece of the action that London can offer. Graduates migrate towards the capital for that elusive top job, European workers know that their best chance of seeking employment is here, and of course the foolhardy still believe that our streets really are paved with gold. With London’s population now above 12 million, and growing, population density can only increase.

That is our problem, with such a diverse population we don’t have shared values. Andrew Marr’s recent three part documentary Megacities identified 21 cities in the world with more than 10 million inhabitants and predicted that by 2050 over 70 per cent of the world’s population will live in a city. I’m not a lover of London’s rickshaws so how would I cope in Dakar were people leaving rural areas are attracted to the Indian city and their first job is as a rickshaw rider – there are over 800,000 of them there.

Tokyo for instance has mostly an indigenous population with little immigration, with their shared cultural manners friction was kept to a minimum, while in the melting pot that is London and most other Megacities, as in the rat experiment, our aggression lies just below the surface.

Overcrowding, poor public transport, unemployment, with this combustible mix one day it might be more than a traffic jam that we have to contend with.

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