At Risk Environments

The United States uses different technologies to collect information from its citizens every year, and some of that information is used to distinguish what parts of the population are considered to be at risk. These environments typically must be watched and controlled more than the rest of the population, so further action and surveillance is typically taken to control the area. While Jane Jacob’s novel The Death and Life of Great American Cities explains her ideas as to what should be done to create the ideal environment of a city, Dashiell Hammett’s novel Red Harvest depicts the perfect example of a city that would be considered at risk.  


In Jacobs novel, she focuses on the planning of major cities in our country. One of the main points she makes in her introduction is how she believes the current problems in our cities could be solved. Jacobs believes that this would require officials to “…decentralize great cities, thin them out, and disperse their enterprises and populations into smaller, separated cities, or better yet, towns. (Jacobs 20). If these issues were solved, the amount of at risk environments in our country would significantly decrease.
Hammett's novel attempts to comment on the sexism that existed during the time of many popular pulp fiction novels and films. Sexism has recently become a major issue in many cities with efforts being made to eliminate cat calling by men on city streets. This ties to this style of writing in that most of the characters had power were men, but Red Harvest is unique in that the character Dinah was respected by many of the men even though she was a woman because she is smart. She expresses this when she is talking to Op and says, "That's the kind of girl I am. If I like a person I'll tell them anything they want to know (37)." However, at the end of the conversation she says to him, "Keep it to yourself–and try to figure out which part of what I told you in the truth (40). This shows how well she can play people, and how is not afraid to manipulate people event though she is a woman and the consequences may be different than if she were a man.
One of the more interesting parts of Jacobs novel is that she focuses on children and how the environment they grow up in can have a major effect on them. Children that grow up in cities tend to grow up differently than children in the suburbs, especially children that grow up in high risk environments because these environments are typically poorer areas with high crime rates. In the novel, Jacobs discusses how sidewalks are important to a city because they allow children many opportunities to play, exercise, and add to their physical skills. She also believes that sidewalks are a “…unspecialized outdoor home base from which to play, to hang around in, and to help form their notions of the world (81)."
Hammett's novel can be confusing at times because of the amount of characters and the power struggle among them. Many parts of our world have this same struggle for power, and it causes many issues in our world. In the novel, Elihu Wilsson, also known as the Czar of Poisonville, is a local industrialist whose control of the city is threatened by other competing gangs. This is unique in that the book does not seem to have a distinct form of government and the gangs solely run it. When gangs were prominent in our country, areas of New York were exclusively run by their abuse of power and violence that caused those areas to become at risk environments that called for surplus police surveillance.
An aged building can create two very different environments in an area. If the building is older and kept up, it creates a very pleasant and usually wealthy feel to an area, but if the building is older and essentially falling apart, it causes an area to look very poor. Jacobs discusses how important older buildings are to a city in her novel, and she reinforces this when she says, “If a city area only has new buildings, the enterprises that can exist there are automatically limited to those that can support the high costs of new construction (187)."
The way the characters of Red Harvest talk about their town talk is a perfect example of the topic of environmental justice and at risk environments. Environmental justice is the idea that there should be a fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens. In Red Harvest, Willsson’s wife talks to Op about the town and says "You'll find it a dreary place...I suppose all mining towns are like this (5)." Environmental justice says that Personville should not be viewed as "dreary" just because it is a mining town, and that the placement of the mining center should not have an affect on the surrounding environment. Because the government usually ignores environmental justice, it becomes an issue of environmental racism, which is where environmentally hazardous or degraded environments are placed within the proximity of low-income or minority communities.
If one looked at the history of gangs through the years, one would find that the members of a specific gang are all kept between a few specific families. The phrase "keeping it in the family" comes into play with gangs, especially because specific gangs run specific areas, and those families have a presence in the area that others do not. As these families grow, the newest family members are essentially "baptized" into the life of being affiliated with a gang. In Red Harvest, this is shown when Elihu Wilsson's son is killed because of his involvement in the gang.
Jacobs chapter on slumming and unslumming of a city is important to whether an area is considered at risk or not. Many efforts are made in cities to help areas that are considered to be the "ghetto", but Jacobs believes that the reason that slums remain slums is because there is an unstable population of residents there that try to move away as soon as they can. Jacobs believes that if the people living in the slums had the desire to stay and develop rather than move away, the other methods of unslumming, such as the use of forms of planning and the projects, it would fix the problem and allow the environment to fully develop. The use of these methods "...destroys neighborhoods where constructive and improving communities exist and where the situation calls for encouragement rather than destruction (271)."
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Translate with Google