8 Modern Conveniences We Wouldn’t Have Without Public Works

There are a lot of things in our everyday lives that we take for granted. We go through life just expecting certain things to be there and only really notice the ways they improve our lives when they aren’t there or don’t work the way we’ve come to expect. We take for granted, for instance, that when we flip a switch, the lights will come on or that when we want a hot bath, water will gush from the tap. And since we’ve become so accustomed to these conveniences within the past couple of centuries, we often forget there’s a whole workforce of people whose job it is to keep them available to us—the many public works departments spread throughout each state. So, we invite you to stop and think for a moment about these 10 areas of public works that make our modern world the place it is.

Public Sanitation

Imagine going back to the days when you simply dumped your trash into the streets. When you ran the risk of having someone’s chamber pot emptied over your head as you went for a morning stroll. When open sewers ran down the middle of every street and simply emptied into a foul-smelling river or swamp. Yeah, public sanitation may not be glamorous, but it’s a necessity for modern life.

Public Water Systems

Imagine if all your water had to come from a well, stream, lake, or river. And you had to fetch it every time you wanted a bath or drink or to cook. And you had to wonder what sort of germs and bacteria and other microscopic creepy crawlies were swimming in it. Now go to the tap, get a nice glass of clear, safe, wonderful water. Aren’t you glad you have that water bill every month?

Public Parks

Some would argue that public parks and playgrounds are things we could certainly do without. For the city dweller, however, having that greenspace to relax, play, and gather is important. We have the Victorians to thank for the modern public park. They needed greenspaces to take their minds off the dirt and squalor that was the “modern city” at the time—and also someplace to show off their fine new hats.

Public Schools

Don’t ask your 9 year old what he thinks of free education for all, but without public education, our current world wouldn’t exist. Before the public school system came to be, children were either taught at home, sent to a very expensive private school (for the families that could afford it), or simply illiterate.

Public Libraries

Some would say that schools are more important than public libraries. Some would disagree. Once you learn to read, which you can do at most public libraries, the library can teach you everything and anything you want or need to know. The volumes of information inside its books and other materials are priceless, especially compared to the cost of paying for them.

Public Transportation

Buses, trains, and planes are often maligned for their lack of ability to stay on schedule and their rising costs, and yet the modern city (and perhaps modern society) could not function without them.

Public Roads

Potholes and eternal construction may be our idea of public streets and highways, but without them, goods couldn’t travel to markets, people couldn’t get from point A to point B, and the typical commuter would have a whole lot more to gripe about when he or she got to the office.

Public Safety

Even the Romans needed firemen and watchmen to keep an eye on their cities and citizens. Police, firefighters, and emergency medical crews are definite must-haves in order to have modern civilization. They are, in a way, part of what makes us civilized—as civilized as we can be while getting that parking citation, anyway. Open parks, clean streets, safe water to drink. All of these are courtesy of the public works that surround us and make our modern lives so wonderfully livable.

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