End of suburbia draws nigh  

Posted by Big Gav

The Toronto Star has an article about the upcoming screening of "the end of suburbia" on Canadian TV.

Some times I think some people over dramatise car dependence - sure, life will become a lot more miserable when you can't avoid to drive everywhere buts its not world ending. It wasn't that many years ago that people made their way from the outer suburbs into the cities by bus (thats my memory of growing up in the 1970's in Australian suburbia anyway).

And anyone who has ever spent time in the third world and travelled like a local does knows you can squeeze a lot of people into a mini-bus - even cities that don't implement decent public transport systems will find small commercial bus networks springing up pretty quickly.

Maybe its time for Simmons and Kunstler to visit Nairobi for a vision of the future :-)

The one-hour special, which airs Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Vision TV, should be a wake-up call to all those denizens of sprawl. If the talking heads who appear in this compelling and deeply disturbing Canadian-made program are right — and they most assuredly are — North America had better figure out new ways of living that don't depend on cheap, plentiful oil.

Perhaps the most compelling expert on hand, Matthew Simmons, chair of the largest energy investment bank in the world, puts the case against suburbia very eloquently.

"Everything in society we cherish ended when the blackout (of August 2003) came," Simmons states. "If that wasn't a fire drill for how important energy actually is ... but people didn't get it. I don't think we actually learned a thing from it."

Indeed, as other speakers make clear, rather than deal with these issues, we simply elect politicians who aid and abet our refusal to get real.

Their argument is simple: suburbia couldn't exist without cars, and people couldn't afford to drive those cars without endless cheap gas. As they also make clear, the amount of oil pumped out of the ground is expected to peak sometime between now and 2010 at the latest. After that, every gallon of gas grows more and more expensive, rendering auto-based sprawl obsolete.

"The whole suburban project can be summarized pretty succinctly as the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world," explains author James Howard Kunstler. "America took all its post-war wealth and invested it in a living arrangement that has no future."

Of course, Kunstler is right on the money with regards to the wisdom of resource allocation - building compact european style cities would have been a smarter move for those of us in countries that consist almost entirely of swathes of suburbia.

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