Thursday, December 21, 2006

Suburbia: not only Unbearable, but Unsustainable

James Howard Kunstler gets it right in his Alternet article ( where he says that petro-dependent suburbia is just about finished.

For me, suburbia was finished decades ago when I found out you couldn't distribute anti-war leaflets at the shopping mall because it wasn't really public space--just a private shopping kingdom where there was no Bill of Rights. That, and the traffic.

Kunstler's main point is that suburbs have nearly reached the end of their effective life due to the rise in oil prices. As it gets more expensive to drive, he says, then living sixty miles from where you work and ten miles from where you shop is going to seem like a dumb idea.

Personally, I have always thought it was a dumb idea because commuting seemed like a massive loss of control over your personal time. But now the facts are starting to pile up. Kunstler refers to an inevitable oil crisis that willl make suburbs obsolete.

I am less convinced that the market won't find new ways to keep people's Beemers running but I do believe modes of living can outlive their usefulness. I have always thought American suburbs represent some of the ugliest, most stultifying landscapes I have seen anywhere in the world. If they go the way of the buffalo, I won't miss them.

Which brings up another point: the Great Plains are being depopulated at an alarming rate. Buffalo are actually returning. Many cite a lack of cheap fuel and reductions in government subsidies. But that will be another post.