August 16, 2017

SHOPPING MALLS, A NECESSITY OR A DISASTER?


Do you know that 3 of the top 10 largest malls in the world are found in the Philippines? And those 3  are owned by one of the richest man in the Philippines, Henry Sy of SM malls; SM Megamall, SM Mall of Asia and SM North Edsa. [1]    "One of the top 10", wow! Such an honourable credit for our country.  But do you think that it's really a good thing- to have a large concrete structure that covers a great portion of our natural land? Do you ever wonder, where does these large malls really came from? During our ancestors time, what do they consider as their mall? Do you think that it's a necessity in our society? What would be the effect of these malls in our environment? Let's find out.



The term "shopping center" originated in 1947 and the first fully- enclosed shopping mall was built in 1952 by Victor Gruen. Malls, are said to be the mimicking of a pedestrian street in an enclosed area. During our ancestors when there are still no malls, town halls is the structure or place that could represent malls. [2] Town Halls was the place during our ancestors in which different people meet; sometimes trade, and build a community. Just like the concept of  the malls today. When I went to Harvard University last year to attend a short program, the speakers taught us how important is building a community. There are many different ways to build a community and one structure that holds a large community to sub-communities, are the shopping malls. How? Mall is a place not only to go shopping but also a place in which different kinds of people meet and interact with each other. Wether it be in a coffee shop, or a function hall in where they hold events such as concerts, zumba classes, fairs, etc. etc. Building a community is important, so as malls. Is that it? Yes, malls have been part of our culture. Malls are part of the culture in every country. But what makes the malls in our country-Philippines, different from the other malls in other country and why I think it's not healthy anymore? Obviously, our malls are way much bigger than in other countries. Philippines is the only country that I've been to which have a super duper huge mall such as Mall of Asia. What's the essence of it? Not being a hypocrite, I've been a shopaholic way back time. And I am not today. If you will ask me 5 years ago if I am in favor in malls of course I will say yes. But as I grow old, I realize the value of the environment and for me, malls destroys the nature. Malls are one big source of air pollution. Malls are cause of traffics. In wherever mall you go in the Philippines- especially Ayala Malls, Robinsons Malls, and SM Malls, each of the mall areas are traffic. Not only that, it's a no brainer that how huge you built a mall is equal to the amount of trees that you are cutting to build that mall. Why build such big and giant structures if we a small area could already serve its purpose? And in fact, all malls are the same- every walls and every corners are advertisement flashing you a high price tags and tempting you to buy a lot of material stuff that doesn't really matters a lot when it comes to the real value of life. Capitalism indeed. I've been to some communist countries such as Vietnam and Cambodia, and I love the concept of their malls, they are just small, and no duplicates of the genres of the spaces, it's just enough to find everything that you need to find. You need a charger? Then there's a gadget hub. Fashion, there's a department store with different brands inside it. Foods, there's a food section. Small, and enough. Just a necessity. And most of their products are local! Here in our country, it's too much! We are so Americanized. Majority of the goods and restaurants and other stuff are not local. And most of the giant brands are over-placed. How many Starbucks could you find in Green Belt? How many Bench could you find in Trinoma? Do you think that's a necessity? It's a waste of space. Another thing which is common in the malls in our country is that they arrange the escalators in which you will be able to see a lot of advertisements and stuff as you goes up or down. And there are some SM Malls where the other side of the railings of the escalator is enclosed so that you are obliged to walk up to the other end of the floor to access the next floor's escalator and I believe that it's purpose is so that you will be able to see and pass by all the of shops and boutiques before you could go up or down. I don't think that it doesn't serve the purpose to build a community. Instead, it's a way to get money from people in a legal way.

It's not just that malls are misusing it's necessity- what's really alarming are the declines of malls. Malls across America(not only in America but also in the Philippines and in other parts of the world) are at risk of closing due to many reasons and one of which is the rise of online shopping. [3]   [4]Thus, these malls are now just a major waste of land and space. It didn't just destroy the nature, now, it's just a large piece of garbage and doesn't give any service to the people since they are or soon to be just an abandoned structure. Also, declining or closing of malls is just a clear sign that the structure doesn't serve its purpose. But guess what? Giant companies doesn't stop in building and creating giant malls. They are even into competition in creating the biggest malls in the world. I've even read some article that I found on my Facebook newsfeed just a few weeks ago that SM, Henry Sy, is going to build another giant and one of the biggest malls in the world, in China. That's insane.

Another thing that I am saddened about the rise of the malls are the decline of the small businesses. There are many establishments being demolished because malls are being built everywhere. One example are the public markets or wet markets. There are fewer wet markets today not only in the Philippines but in the whole world because there are now super markets like  Save More in every town. So instead that people could buy foods and support small businesses in a wet market, now, they will just opt to buy foods in mall. So yeah, it kills businesses but yes, it gives employment to people. But mall staffs salary is not enough. People's money still goes to these owners of giant companies and rich people become richer and poor people become poorer. Our world revolves around money and that's the sad part of capitalism.

Malls are not bad because it serves purpose and it builds community. But I believe that everything should be in moderation. I am not in favor of big malls. Why not just create recreational parks and open theme parks with plenty of trees and water resources that is as big as Mall of Asia? Malls should just be enough to serve consumers for their needs and should have strategies to eliminate pollution such as: "Green rating systems for buildings that will save energy and diminish pollution; Better management of wastes (especially plastic waste) involving proper collection and disposal; More efficient lightening system; Replacement of plastic bags with paper bags or fibre-based bags; Replacement of dry cleaning toxic solvents with less toxic, more environmentally friendly alternatives; Replacement of old dry cleaning equipment with modern one". [5]


Citations
1. 31 Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Philippines, Matt Ortile, BuzzFeed (August 21, 2014)
2.  America at the Mall: The Cultural Role of a Retail Utopia, Lisa Scharoun, McFarland and CompanyInc. (2012)
3. Death of Suburbia, Hayley Peterson, Business Insider (March 5, 2017)
4. Dead Malls, Wikipedia
5. Shopping Mall Pollution, Environmental Pollution Center (2017)


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I was one of the judges of the  Mapua Teknorampa 2017





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