Monday, June 9, 2008

End of Suburbia

It's the name of a bracing and prescient documentary made in 2004. Get a copy and watch it.

It's also happening, as this Bloomberg article details. It was all foreseeable, but still we built it, and continued to build it even as the warning signs gathered. David Brooks wrote a book in praise of "exurbia," a book that rightly - if he had any foresight - should have been an obituary, not a paean (Its opening line - "let's take a drive" - seems now to be a threat to our livelihood rather than an invitation). As a nation we engaged in a profligate waste of finite resources even as we paved over good, arable land - farmland we should have known we would need, if we had any sense. Yes, restricting the building of the exurbs would have constituted constraints on our liberty. And what do we call it now? We call it "the market," but only dogma could have blinded us to our inability to see that our liberty is always subject to the constraints of nature. We were willfully blind to limits, but they are being imposed nonetheless.

The consequence, according to one analyst: "we are going to see a large amount of wealth destroyed." True enough: but only if you can believe our profligacy actually constituted "wealth," and not waste, in the first place. After a period of painful adjustment - some of it severe - we may actually build communities where actual wealth - built upon human relationships and a revival of culture - will flourish. If we are lucky and don't screw it up.


Erin said...

I was especially disturbed when I spoke to a friend in construction who was working on a house for a retired couple...3500 square feet. Part of the problem with the suburbs is the size of the houses too. And then I spoke to a realtor who said the homes he is seeing in the suburbs are being build in a hurry and not very well. It is a mess all around.

brierrabbit said...

I talked to a friend of mine at church yesterday. He's building a 3000 square ft house for him, his wife, and his 3 small children. Whats all that space needed for? I don't want make the monthly payments. this is a fairly young guy, too. I grew up with the same size family. We got along just fine, in rather smaller house. what's with this American urge to grow everything to cosmic size? whether it's a business, house, farm, etc, americans always think it has to be huge.

Anonymous said...

thats what she said mark, thats what she said