Sharing space

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

This week on Earth Beat, sharing space in an overcrowded world. From a Mumbai slum to a tiny Beijing apartment, and from communal living in Vancouver to the open expanse of Foula island in Scotland, we ask how much space people need and how they respond when forced to share.

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How much space do we need?
With an ever growing population, certain parts of the planet are getting pretty crowded. So in this week’s programme, we’re looking at sharing space, and asking how much space do we need, or rather, how little space can we live with? Marnie visits the Amsterdam office of Professor Isa Baud, an expert in urban space.
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Living with little in Delhi
To get an idea of how little space one can live with, we spoke to Bal Kishan. He’s the secretary of the Shankar Gardens Slum Association in Delhi. His home is 14 by 12 feet or 15 square meters, which doesn’t sound like a lot of space for a large family with a small business.
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Crowding breeds efficiency
Rohan Shivkumar is an architect in Mumbai and he’s fascinated by how people in slums use the little space they have. He says on the whole, they are very efficient.
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Listen to the response from Professor Isa Baud.

Different cultures of space
Marnie asks Professor Isa Baud if people in different countries have different needs for and interpretations of space.
Listen to the professor

Living capsule in Beijing
Now we go to China, a country with 1.3 billion people competing for space. If you are on the first rung of the employment ladder and you want to avoid communal bunk-bed living, you might be looking at a capsule of just two square metres. Marije Vlaskamp reports from Beijing, where she met the landlord and a tenant of what she calls a coffin-like apartment.
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Listen to the response from Professor Isa Baud about the trade-off between space and privacy in dense urban settings

Communal living
While most of us have shared space at some point, getting our own place is a right of passage, a mark of independence and freedom. But reporter Meribeth Deen visited a house in Vancouver, Canada, filled with people dedicated to the idea of living with others, for the long haul.
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Listen to the response from Professor Isa Baud

Back to the slums
Bal Kishan returns to talk about how people in Delhi's Shankar Gardens slum share space.
Listen to Bal Kishan
Listen to architect Rohan Shivkumar talk about the ability of slums to adapt to changing needs
Listen to the response from Professor Isa Baud - can cities like London learn from slums?

Not a soul in sight
So far we’ve been to a slum dwelling in Mumbai, a shared house in Vancouver, and a minute apartment in Beijing. But we also wanted to hear from someone living with loads of space, more than anyone would ever need. Isobel Holbourn lives on one of Scotlands’s most remote inhabited islands with only 28 other people, no shops, and a 20-mile boat ride to the mainland.
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Sharing space with salmon
We don’t only share space with people, we share it with animals too. Martha Baskin reports from Seattle, where people are hoping to give Northern Pacific salmon a home… and a meal… along the inhospitable concrete walls of the Seattle seafront.
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Pigeons on the pill
One creature we’re not thrilled about sharing space with is the pigeon. In many places there are just too many, so we poison them, shoot them, trap them, or put up spikes or nets so they can’t land. And yet they don’t seem to go away. We spoke to Erick Wolf, co-founder of Innolytics, the company that’s just got the go-ahead to sell Ovocontrol – a birth control pill for pigeons – in the US.
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