Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Reflecting on Malaga

'Back from a wonderful few days in the South of Spain and Portugal. There weren't many Internet connections along the way, so it was a real vacation, disconnected from the office and the social network. The travel loop led through the mountains near Ronda, around Seville, and across the Algarve: weather was temperate and very windy.

I had originally planned to drive the Costa del Sol from Malaga to Gibraltar, up to Cadiz, and then around into Portugal, but I very quickly tired of the coastline. DSC04454There is absolutely rampant construction everywhere, with cranes dotting the horizon and white condominium developments crawling up every hillside. The agents are asking well over 100,000 euros for units: who is buying bits of these vast tracts of new construction? There are lots of British in Spain, Germans in Portugal, but do they all have enough disposable income to buy in these volumes? And to stay?

I also wonder at the impact of the changes on the local economy, culture, and environment. DSC03938 The people that I talked with in cafe's and grocery stores were happy for the jobs and money, but resentful of the overwhelming number of visitors and the escalation of prices. The land seems fragile and arid, and unlikely to be able to sustain the cumulative pressure of people that is being placed upon it. The small towns already look more like strip malls, sterile and empty much of the day.

Somehow, Globalization should be more respectful of local scale.

At the moment, once the world economy identifies what an area is good for, it overwhelmingly exploits that single aspect. The Costa del Sol isDSC03936 good for vacation homes, so thousands are built, erasing towns, agriculture, and coastal wilderness. I don't think that the resulting monoculture can be viable or adaptable over the long term. Thus, the short term elevation in living standards would seem to be only a temporary benefit. Like Algernon's mouse, it has the potential to leave the region in worse condition when the boom ends, having lost the historic culture that lived from and supported the region.


TextualHealing said...

Demographically its the fastest growing region in Europe - and almost certainly the fastest aging. Ecologically its on the fringe of the Sahara and faces a huge potential water crisis with the demand from golf courses, gardens and the huge intensive agricultural industry further east (round Almeira). Obviously such intense development is a mixed bag - but it does give locals the opportunities that their parents never had. There are few young people in the hinterland villages anymore!

Glad you enjoyed your holiday - and stayed away from global communications - how addictive they can be. We have actually had five days of sunny spring like weather here.

Dave Hampton said...

I drove back into the mountains and you're right: there were a lot of abandoned houses and vast areas that have been brought under cultivation. The most intense development ends once you get inland a few miles, but if there's a hill with an ocean view, there's a condo.

People who I talked with talked about being priced out of living in the coastal communities. If they don't go to the villages, do they go to the cities?

Americans would take a second on their first home to buy a second: how do the British buy in?

TextualHealing said...

I've not done a survey but I think its the same story as retiring to Florida. People cash in their equity and head for a place in the sun. They are able to do because of the UK's grossly inflated property prices.