CIVILITIS ...What Cities Do to Us, And What We Do to Cities
Plain Truth Magazine
July 1971
Volume: Vol XXXVI, No.7
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CIVILITIS ...What Cities Do to Us, And What We Do to Cities
Garner Ted Armstrong & Robert L Kuhn  

Megalopolis. The mecca of madness: the sprawling agglomeration of concrete, asphalt, steel, brick, glass, traffic lights, and glaring neon; the cacophonous din of growling autos, buses, trucks and trains, the screech of sirens, the metallic staccato of jackhammers, the shrill whine of jet engines. The city. Millions live here. But is it really worth it?

   OUR PARTY has just returned from Rome.
   Four and one half hours. That's what it took from time up in the morning at the hotel to lift-off at Rome's Chiampino airport.
   Most of that time was spent in Rome's traffic snarls, with the driver alternately cursing under his breath, or leaning nearly half-way out the window to punctuate his remarks with that peculiarly Roman gesture of combined unbridled irritation and futility, the turned-up hand, with fingers lightly clenched, waving in agonized resignation.
   But if Rome's endless traffic snarls, due to entirely too many vehicles winding their way through too narrow streets between buildings too old to use and too historic to tear down, is a problem which greys the hair of tourists in a hurry, it is no more so than the problems of practically every major city on earth.

Our Vulnerable Habitat

   Traffic is what you see — what you hear — what you struggle through each day. But equal in their sluggish, barely functioning inadequacy are increasing rapid-transit systems, electrical systems, water supplies, sewage disposal systems, waste removal systems, anti-pollution systems, and practically everything else upon which normal city life depends.
   Our cities have matured.
   Now, they can simply stop.
   A massive power failure, a transport strike, a sudden winter storm — even prolonged temperature inversions and resultant death-dealing air pollution — these can all grind the massively moving operations of a city to a stop.
   "What bothers me," says W. Willard Wirtz, former U. S. Secretary of Labor "is the possibility that our population figures are such that a number of our basic systems will just stop working." A lawyer and consultant on urban life, Wirtz is vitally interested in the interrelationship of population and the environment. "It wouldn't surprise me a bit to pick up the phone someday and find the whole telephone system had just collapsed from the sheer number of people using it," Wirtz said in a 1969 AP release.
   As our cities have grown, they have become more and more complex.
   More and more people, consuming more electricity, water, goods and services, have required more and more power, streets and freeways, shops and factories, more schools, hospitals, fire stations, and more policemen.
   Today, the budgets of most major cities are strained beyond the breaking point. The operation of a city-keeping life somewhat palatable for the millions of inhabitants, each of whom expects to "do his own thing" without his neighbor (freely practicing the same compulsions) interfering — is becoming increasingly impossible.
   Like the day some two years ago the whole Montreal Police department went on strike. On this "Black Tuesday" of unbridled rioting and looting, two were killed (including one policeman) , 48 were wounded, 7 banks were held up (that's almost ten percent of the yearly total!), 17 other armed robberies took place, 1000 plate glass windows were broken, and at least $1 million worth of goods were looted from defenseless merchants. Also, over 200 burglaries were reported (the normal daily total was less than 50).

The Anatomy of a City

   What is a city?
   What keeps it going? What makes it at once terribly desirable to millions, yet obnoxious to the point of revulsion to millions more?
   A "city" is technically a political entity — an administered area, granted a charter by a state (in the United States). Its boundaries are in constant flux — determined usually by archaic and ill-defined criteria.
   Precious few attempts have been made, and even fewer have been successful, in determining what a city really is, or should be, and fewer still have successfully limited the population and area of a city.
   Only with decades-late hindsight have programs of "urban renewal" or "civic redevelopment" begun to envision master planning of a total urban complex.
   Unfortunately, these programs usually end up being as short-sighted as were the original street routes in, say, Boston.
   By the time most urban renewal programs are completed, the continual massive onslaught of more and more population, more and more automobiles, disturbing patterns of changing ethnic groups, or additional sprawling suburbs have rendered the renewal programs obsolete.
   From metropolitan centers we have grown to the modern term "urban agglomeration," which is to say, many, many smaller cities being gradually merged into one massive, urban sprawl.
   From such agglomerations, such as the Los Angeles multi-city complex, have grown terms such as "Megalopolis" and "strip city."

The Making of Megalopolis

   Dr. Herman Kahn, formerly head of the Hudson Institute, characterized the growing strip cities as a huge urban development, unbroken over a large land mass, eventually absorbing and overreaching even state boundaries.
   "Bosnywash" was a term he used for the massive urban development ultimately bounded by Boston to Washington, D.C., including New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and everything in between, among, and around.
   "San-San" meant a huge complex stretching from San Francisco to San Diego, with the ugliness that is Los Angeles somewhere in between. Some have joked that San-San should expand to stretch from Marysville, just north of Sacramento, to Tijuana, just south of the border in Mexico. The new strip city would be named Mari-juana, one of its chief consumer items.
   "Chipitts" was the term formed from the strip city ultimately gulping the whole territory from Chicago, and environs north to Milwaukee, and east to Pittsburgh. But this would only be the beginning.
   World population will pass four billion by 1975. Demographers and population experts estimate that world population will double within another 35 years to EIGHT billion in 2010, and DOUBLE AGAIN 35 years later!
   Most of these additional billions will flock to the cities.
   Cities grow slowly — and change slowly. Witness Rome, London, or Paris. The shuddering impact of technology upon cities originally designed around narrow cart trails, canals and footpaths is everywhere evident.
   Most urban planning envisions city growth in terms of a decade, or so. Few, if any, are remotely concerned with a period of 50 or 70 years. At a speech delivered in Los Angeles, a past President of the National Chamber of Commerce spoke glowingly of the beautiful "50-storied high-rise apartment complexes" with shopping centers, swimming pools, rooftop restaurants, and a "magnificent view of the sea." But when dozens upon dozens of such buildings are built, the only ones with such a "magnificent view" remain those crowded the closest to the ocean. The others simply stare at the balconies of other apartment dwellers.

Denseness Breeds Tenseness

   But people actually seem to desire city life — the opportunity to trade a pleasant country environment for a small apartment in a huge building. More than half of the American population lives on less than 1 percent of the land, with 70 percent of all Americans clustered together in 250 metropolitan areas. In Australia, nearly half the population lives in only 2 large metropolitan concentrations. In Britain, the most urbanized nation on earth, nearly 80 percent of the population is crowded together into cities. Judging from present trends, more than half the people on the planet will be living in and around cities of more than 100,000 population each by the late 1970's.
   Generally, the older the city, or the more poverty-stricken its various ghettos (oftentimes ethnically oriented), the more densely packed the human inhabitants are.
   In London, 30,000 people live within each square mile. In Manhattan, it's 78,000! Parts of Paris have 73,000 people per square mile, and Tokyo bulges with 80,000 Japanese for every square mile of inner city.
   If the entire American population were compacted together as are the black and Puerto Rican peoples of Harlem, the entire United States population could be housed in only 3 of the 5 boroughs of New York City.
   The only comparable example in the whole eco-system of earth of such incredible crowding would be insect colonies. Yet, there is nothing precision like about human crowding, as in the case of ants, or bees.

The Tragic Effects of Crowding

   To obtain some data on what the simple pressure of "too many" can do, Dr. John Calhoun of the National Institute of Mental Health pioneered what is called "experimental overpopulation." In one experiment, Calhoun confined thirty Norway rats in a ten-by-fourteen foot room, partitioned into four interconnected pens. The nests resembled modern boarding houses. The rats were left alone for sixteen months, while researchers watched.
   Soon, the thirty rats multiplied to eighty, and a "rat slum" came into being. As the population kept rising, with no controls, all instinctive patterns of behavior disintegrated.
   Mothers began neglecting nests, and abandoning their young. Many rats wandered about in dazed, random, senseless pattern. Some rats even developed aberrant sexual habits, such as homosexuality. Others became cannibalistic. The death rate of the rat metropolis soared to overwhelming proportions, surpassing 90 percent of all live births in the more congested pens. It is probable that had the experiment continued, the total population would have perished.
   All this took place in just sixteen months.
   In 1968, Calhoun and his staff built several mouse "universes" (little pens of tin, of varying sizes) inside a barn-like building on the NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health) animal research farm. Four males and four females were placed in each one — and soon the populations began doubling, and redoubling. Behavioral changes were again carefully noted.
   In the largest "universe," which was intended for 100 mice, 2,000 animals struggled to survive.
   The whole social order disintegrated. Pointless physical attacks became the order of the day. Groups mauled "innocent" passersby for no apparent reason. Mothers neglected their young. Most males lay listlessly about, gnawing on others' tails. Females developed aggressive, masculine tendencies. What little sexual activity remained was usually abusive, and degenerative in character.
   The males became too defeated to attempt procreation. The females became too self -assertive to allow it — normal roles became completely reversed.
   An unexpected result of the study was the emergence of a new class of creatures who obviously withdrew into some inner sanctum of their own, and became somewhat oblivious to their intolerable surroundings. These mice devoted themselves to an excessive degree of washing — working for hours on keeping their skins clean.
   The behavior of crowded rats was not an isolated phenomenon. Consider two further experiments in crowding.

Deer, Cats, and — Men

   Some fifty years ago, five deer were released on a 280-acre island in Chesapeake Bay on the East Coast of the United States.
   They flourished, until there were almost 300 of them. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, they began dying. Soon, there were only half of them left.
   Yet, food supply was abundant, and no infection could be found.
   But the deer kept dying — until there were only 80 remaining. Postmortem examinations brought to light a strange fact: Striking changes had occurred in vital organs which suggested great emotional stress.
   Whether we find it a palatable truth or not, medical authorities believe up to one half of the ailments experienced by humans are psychosomatic, induced by psychological pressures, and not actual physiological illness. This simply means that many humans are experiencing the symptoms of overcrowding, of an annoying, enervating, confusing, chaotic way of things which can result in a whole host of effects, commonly diagnosed as various "illnesses."
   Nor are cats any different. Crowding them together, similar to the rat experiment, resulted in what was half humorously called a "Fascist transformation ... with a despot at the top, pariahs at the bottom, and a general malaise in the community where the cats . . . seldom relax, they never look at ease, and there is continuous hissing, growling, and even fighting" (Saturday Review, November 8, 1969, quoting P. Leyhausen).
   Sounds like New York, Tokyo, London, or Rome! Humans are no different.
   Will the earth duplicate the pen? Will man go the route of the overcrowded rats, cats, deer, and mice? That's merely a rhetorical question. He already has. The only question remaining is: Will man go the ultimate route, and populate himself out of existence?
   "I think we have 15 years to decide" answered Dr. Calhoun, lead scientist in the rat experiments. "If we don't make up our minds in this time to reverse our population course, I'm pessimistic about the future of man."

Psychological Deterioration

   We have separated "psychological deterioration" from "physiological deterioration." That is an oversimplification — the two are very much related.
   Psychological stress (the main mental response of a human being to life in the 20th century) directly causes a host of physiological problems — high blood pressure, atheriosclerosis, heart trouble, liver disease, ulcers, digestive disorders, exhaustion, asthma, insomnia, night sweats, headaches, reduced resistance to infectious diseases endocrine (glandular) malfunctions of all kinds, and other hallmarks of urban living.
   Many recognized physicians feel that a very large percentage (40, 60, or, some say, 90 percent!) of all physiological problems can be traced back to psychological stress, with urban areas the main culprits, as the following study demonstrates.
   An exhaustive eight-year examination of 1,660 midtown Manhattan residents and workers, conducted by a five-man team based at the New York Hospital — Cornell Medical Center, found that less than one out of five (18 1/2 %) could be classified mentally well! A full four out of five New Yorkers had some symptoms of psychological disorders, and roughly one out of four suffered from neuroses sufficiently severe to disrupt his daily life. For the city as a whole, that would measure out to about 2 million seriously ill in their minds, with another 4 1/2 million not well mentally, and only 1 1/2 million mentally sound!
   The Cornell-New York Hospital team could not find any evidence to support the idea that these illnesses resulted from a singular traumatic event which "snapped the string" or acted as the proverbial "straw which broke the camel's back." Rather, a lifetime of stress — a continuous piling up of mental constrictions, pressures, shocks, and impairments (which is to say a life of urban living) — is the more logical culprit.

"Life" in New York

   A look at the typical New Yorker bears this out.
   The blanched faces of subway commuters seem indicative of an extremely enervating day — but it's only 8:30 in the morning! The mail doesn't come on time, the cabs are filled, the phone circuits are overloaded. One hundred decibels of noise is a common punctuation in the day. In the words of Felix Riesenberg, describing the New York of a few years back:
   "City of carpenters without wood, of plumbers without mercy. City of uncomfortable comfort stations. City of clanging radiators, of supine superintendents. City wherein there is no room to die....
   "City wrought in flame. City of arguments unending. City of terminals, city of endings, city of the last attempt. City wherein no one knows whether he is coming or going."
   The metabolism of New York City — the comings and goings, the ins and outs of commerce, the commuting of dull warm bodies — all represent a logistical problem which would baffle the best of generals. But it happens twice a day, five or six days a week, in bustling New York City.
   During an average working day, over 2.2 million employees choke the offices, retail shops, factories, and government buildings in the central business district (CBD) of lower Manhattan. One estimate states that 3 million workers gorge that part of Manhattan south of 61st street every working day. This works out to about 250,000 people per square mile, 400 per acre, or the equivalent of a 10-by-l0-foot block for each person.
   Of course they aren't in adjacent cubicles, they are stacked in multi-story office skyscrapers. A mere 500 city blocks hold half of all the wage and salary workers on Manhattan.
   This tidal wave of humanity rolls in during the morning and rolls out during the late afternoon through an utterly constipated transit system. Those 300-horsepower monsters which devour oxygen and vomit smog while massaging our egos are lucky if they can crawl across Manhattan at six miles per hour in 1971. Compare this to a near double 11.5 miles per hour on one horsepower (a living one attached to a buggy) in 1907. This one fact alone, humorous as it is, makes a mockery of "Fun City."
   But the inconveniences of traffic and deteriorating city services are really only minor compared to the deeper social cancers of crime, drugs, poverty, rat infested "Welfare Hotels" and a government powerless to touch any of these problems.

New York's Deeper Problems

   The "other half" — some sections in Harlem, Brownsville, or Bedford Stuyvesant — also crowds into a density of 200,000 people per square mile in some sections, but they don't have the benefit of skyscrapers to divert their density upwards. Oppressed by the most inhuman living conditions, these Blacks, Puerto Ricans and representatives of virtually every ethnic group on earth, more often than not, are fighting and robbing each other — while venereal disease, infant mortality, tuberculosis, illiteracy, drugs, alcoholism, and crime are many times the rate of any other section of the city ... or the nation ... or the globe.
   What's wrong?
   For openers, New York is a political anachronism, governmentally structured much like the small, bickering, pre-World War I Balkan states, or the feudal city states of medieval Europe. Nearly 1,500 competing municipal government bodies and special districts compete for funds and power. And New York's budget, second in the nation only to the Federal Government, buys nothing but steadily deteriorating services. While New York's population has remained steadily at 8 million for 30 years, the city budget has mushroomed from 1 billion to over 8 billion dollars. There are many causes for this, as a future PLAIN TRUTH article will explain, but suffice it to say here that the cost per person of hospital services is 10 times greater in New York than in a moderately sized city (100,000 to 300,000), and police services are three times as great, per person.
   New York's annual budget, presently around $8 billion, exceeds the combined budget of the next largest 25 cities in the nation. Costs expand geometrically with the size of a city and New York has clearly grown beyond a manageable size.
   Since an overview of massive New York City stretches our comprehension, let's focus down to one lone New Yorker. By going through a day with him, we can barely imagine how a giant city works.

A Day in the Life of a New Yorker

   Some 140 million Americans wake up each morning in a Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area, the census definition for the nearly 250 urban agglomerations with more than 50,000 residents. About 50 million Britons, 10 million Australians or Canadians also inhabit such urban regions, but let's examine only one person, a New Yorker.
   What's his average day like?
   First he splashes cold water on his face, showers, flushes the commode, and brushes his teeth. There go approximately thirty gallons, or eighty pounds, of water. Simultaneously, eight million other New Yorkers make the total, between 6 and 9 a.m., about 240 million gallons of water for merely personal use!
   A word on water. Each person uses approximately 50 gallons a day for personal use only: one gallon to drink, six to wash clothes, five for personal washing, 25 for a shower or bath, and three gallons for each flushing of the "water closet." But this is a microscopic percentage of our per-capita water consumption in cities. Direct consumption of water in cities is four times as much, about 200 gallons per person. But if you consider the vast amount of water necessary for every step in the scale of food consumption, per capita water use in the U.S. is somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 gallons per day.
   For instance, to produce a slice of bread requires 35 gallons of water; an ounce of vegetables requires 200 to 300 gallons, a cup of milk 5,000 gallons, and a pound of meat up to 50,000 gallons of water (Georg Borgstrom, The Hungry Planet, page 414). Of course, these totals include all the necessary rains to grow enough grass to feed and water cattle, refrigerate the product, ship, process, and store it.
   So much for water in the morning. Next, Mr. Average Citizen shaves, most likely using electrical power. It's impossible to know precisely how many electric alarm clocks. electric toothbrushes, electric ovens, and electric shavers drain power each morning at precisely 8 a.m., but the peak daily electric demand in cities has doubled every decade since 1930, now standing at 314 million kilowatts.
   After expending those gallons of water and watts of electricity, Mr. Average Citizen eats breakfast — orange juice, two eggs, bread and butter. All made possible by a massive system of food commerce and gas heating. Take a look behind the scenes in your city's food and fuel systems.

The City — a Well-Stocked Ship

   Each morning, shortly after 4 a.m., while the first light of dawn invades the sleeping city, the freeways are alive — not with commuters, but with hundreds of semitrailer trucks careening into city center with the day's supply of fresh food and drink. They converge in wholesale centers, then whisk to markets, distributing their day's load well before the morning shoppers leave their doorstep.
   The metabolism of a city is much like the well-planned stocking of a cruise ship. The Princess Italia, for instance, will stock away about 75,000 pounds of food for a 14-day cruise containing 420 passengers and 250 crew, a total of just under 10,000 passenger-days.
   Imagine what a megalopolis of 10 million must "ship in" each day — approximately a thousand times what the Princess Italia ship loads for a 14- day cruise!
   On an average day, Mr. Average Citizen wants this varied shopping list filled:
   5 ounces of beef
   3 ounces of pork, lamb, and veal
   1/2 ounce of fish
   2 ounces of poultry
   1 egg
   1/2 ounce cheese
   16 ounces (2 cups) milk
   2 1/2 ounces butter and other fats and oils
   6 ounces fresh fruit, juices, and processed fruit
   7 ounces vegetables, excluding home grown vegetables
   6 ounces potatoes
   1 ounce melon
   4 ounces refined sugar
   5 ounces wheat products
   2 ounces other grain products
   6 ounces beer
   2 ounces wine and other spirits
   8 cigarettes or cigars, and
   1 cup of coffee, tea, or cocoa
   Even discounting the coffee, cigarettes, and beer, that's an average of 4 pounds per person per day (one full pound being milk, the other three pounds being solids). This is the average consumption per person (all ages considered) In the United States, according to the Agriculture Department's quarterly publication, National Food Situation.
   Multiply this by a family of five, and you have 20 pounds of food to be transported, marketed, bought, prepared, and eaten daily. Multiply to the size of New York City, and the number reaches an astronomical 16,000 tons of food daily!
   Just to provide every New Yorker (or Southern Californian, for that matter) with his 5 ounces of beef and 2 ounces of poultry, requires a daily slaughtering, cleaning, dressing, freezing, and delivering of 4,000 head of cattle and 300,000 chickens!
   Some estimates say New York City has a week's surplus of food at best. A transportation strike, or any similar breakdown in commerce, and the city could die. Few consider how vulnerable we urbanites actually are.

More Input: Fuels, Minerals, and Natural Resources

   After polishing off a quick breakfast and reading a few pages of the Times (the all-night vigil of producing a morning newspaper is another story in itself), Mr. Average Citizen turns the ignition key in his car. The engine responds. Fuel power.
   Where does that fuel come from? If Mr. A. C. drives 12 miles to work (a conservative estimate), he burns about one gallon of gasoline; on the return trip, a second gallon. His wife burns a like amount on her daily errands.
   On an average day, each citizen burns 2 pounds of motor fuel, 5 1/2 pounds of natural gas, 5 1/2 pounds of oil, and 6 pounds of coal. Total: 19 pounds, most of it consumed by the industries of the city, not Mr. Average Citizen himself. But nevertheless, his share is 19 pounds. (Scientific American, "The Metabolism of Cities," Sept. 1965, p. 180.)
   But where does all this fuel come from? Nearly 100 pounds for a family of five. The motor fuel and much of the oil comes in the oil vans from local refineries. The coal comes in endless coal cars speeding across the nation's rails. (It takes a string of 240 full coal cars daily just to power the city of New York for a day.) New York's total daily fuel needs — 76,000 tons of fuels.
   That's not all the resources Mr. Average Citizen consumes daily. Included on this list of industrial minerals are items he probably never directly uses, but is nevertheless responsible for.
   50 pounds of sand, gravel, and stone
   10 pounds of clay, lime, cement, gypsum, salt, etc.
   5 pounds of iron ore and ferrous alloy ores
   2 pounds of wood, paper, and natural fibers
   1/2 pound of non-ferrous ores and metals.
   The total of such minerals runs at 67 1/2 pounds per day, a barely liftable quantity. But New York City's total share runs 270,000 tons daily, a herculean task for local commerce and industry.
   The total daily input for Mr. Average Citizen, in just these four basic areas, is: 4 pounds food, 19 pounds fuel, 67 pounds minerals, and about 1250 pounds of water (direct city use only). For New York City in a day? 16,000 tons of food, 76,000 tons of fuels, 270,000 tons of minerals, and 5,000,000 tons of water! A good day's work for the many hundreds of thousands employed in New York's service industries.

Garbage In — Garbage Out

   The city is a vast maw into which a country's life blood is reverently poured. And such gargantuan consumption habits have a shuddering, enormous impact on the environment, and the country as a whole.
   We've seen what goes into a city each day. Now look at what is poured out. In Los Angeles, it's obvious (smog can be seen 200 miles away), but most of the city effluence is quite invisible, including most air pollution.
   The 1250 pounds of water used by Mr. Average Citizen is quickly transformed into about 1000 pounds of sewage. The discarded packaging of his food and other items produces 4 pounds of solid waste daily. And his burning of fuels produces one pound of carbon monoxide, and one additional pound of the four other major air pollutants.
   New York City produces slightly more than the national average of all these pollutants: 1280 pounds of sewage per person, 5 pounds of solid trash, and slightly over 2 pounds of air pollution. The daily totals for "Fume City"? Over 5 million tons of sewage, 20,000 tons of solid wastes, and 16,000 tons of smog. And the sanitation workers want to strike?
   But effluents are not the only output of man's modern metropolis. Look at the literature, newspapers, magazines, and books published each day (with some pornography under each of those categories) in a huge center of learning like New York City. How about the knowledge (or boredom?) disseminated in hundreds of schools by thousands of teachers to a million students, in New York City.
   The plans, concepts, hopes, dreams, governmental squabbles, attempts to rule, the endless speeches. All these are part of the "software" of cities.
   Then there is the alienated majority, the dissatisfied masses, those who go through a day with nothing to do, and those who grovel, sweat, and toil to barely make ends meet. What does all their output mean — to themselves and to a nation? In many cases, misery, stress, loneliness; a job that has nothing to do with life; a life that has nothing to do with joy, love, success, peace. Today we have crime unrestrained, poverty around the corner, insecurity, slow poisons in the air, water, food, and even in literature, sickness, stress and an early death.
   Are cities really civilized?
   Cities represent, on a global scale, the total achievement of man in all his history. This, then, is surely what man has striven for during his entire experience on earth. Cities have produced some very wonderful inventions, works of art, buildings, and people. And vastly more destructive inventions, absurd art, slums, and criminals of every sort.
   Can they survive?
   Should they?

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Plain Truth MagazineJuly 1971Vol XXXVI, No.7