The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice of the Capital Region

James Kunstler insists suburbs are done for

Writer airs views on gas, housing during locally-produced podcast

James Kunstler during one of his "KunstlerCast" podcast."
James Kunstler during one of his "KunstlerCast" podcast."
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James Howard Kunstler isn’t shy about sharing his worldview. For years, the Saratoga County writer has been pounding out his message loud and clear: Suburbia doesn’t work. In scores of books, magazine articles and public-speaking engagements, Kunstler has decried America’s love affair with its gas-guzzling SUVs and McMansions in the ’burbs and beyond. Along the way, the 59-year-old has steadily gained a national audience for his outspoken campaign against the “tragic comedy of suburban sprawl,” ...

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July 27, 2008
7:30 a.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Thanks to the Gazette for this informative interview. I'm wondering whether the expected return to the cities will cause a new wave of "Gentrification" that is likely to push out the poor and non-rich (and, if so, where they will be able to live).

July 27, 2008
12:44 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

What Kunstler talks about re 'return to the cities' is part and parcel of what he sees as the inevitable massive re-ordering of social and economic relations that will result when the current order simply cannot function any longer. His book _The Long Emergency_ is a book-length essay on the oil-dependent character of the US and world economy and the implications of what will likely happen when cheap transportation is no longer possible.

While less the case in many parts of the Northeast, very large tracts of the US no longer have any really local economy. Most food and most manufactured goods are brought in from hundreds, thousands, and even tens of thousands of miles away. Oil scarcity means that eventually goods will not be worth the cost of transport (or, rather, that so few will be able to afford the prices necessitated by those costs that such trade cannot even pay for itself). The explosion of post-WWII suburban and exurban development surrounding many US cities have destroyed agricultural land that earlier had fed those populations.

People tend to believe that some nick-in-time super-science magic bullet will appear to salvage Life As We Know It. Kunster's view, with which I agree, is that this is magical thinking. In the very best possible scenario, it will take a couple of decades to reorder our economy and infrastructure to accommodate the realities on the horizon, and will require enormous effort, sacrifice and change of thinking at every level of society. As daunting as that is, waiting for changes to be imposed by catastrophic circumstances will be much harder and vastly uglier.

July 27, 2008
2 p.m.

[ Flag Post ]

Kudos to Kunstler for seeing so far into the future years ago. Now the media seeking him out for in-depth brain-picking. Wonderful! Although being a visionary has it's rewards, the vision requires much adjustment in thinking by government officials and local citizens. Suburbia may be a perfect location for nuclear geriatric communities that do not require commuting on a daily basis and might survive with a minimum of local goods and service distribution within each area.