City Required Reading
posted by August 13 at 16:42 PMon
James Kunstler’s contribution to a conversation at the NYT’s Freakonomics blog about the future of suburbia:
These days, an awful lot of people—the production builders, the realtors—are waiting for the “bottom” in the real-estate industry with hopes that the suburban house-building orgy will resume. They are waiting in vain. The project of suburbia is over. We will build no more of it. Now we’re stuck with what’s there. Sometimes whole societies make unfortunate decisions or go down tragic pathways. Suburbia was ours.
Kunstler’s predictions for the future of big cities—like Chicago and New York, Slog’s favorite big cities—are equally bleak, however:
We face an epochal demographic shift, but not the one that is commonly expected: from suburbs to big cities. Rather, we are in for a reversal of the 200-year-long trend of people moving from the farms and small towns to the big cities. People will be moving to the smaller towns and smaller cities because they are more appropriately scaled to the limited energy diet of the future. I believe our big cities will contract substantially — even if they densify back around their old cores and waterfronts. They are products, largely, of the 20th-century cheap energy fiesta and they will be starved in the decades ahead.
Kunstler is the author of The Geography of Nowhere, a fascinating book about how we got into this mess—how we saddled ourselves with all those identical suburbs, big-box stores, six lane “roads” lined with fast-food outlets—in the first place.