Jim Kunstler on The Triumph Of The City: Dream On


Image Credit Modern Mechanix

Edward Glaeser in Triumph of the City and David Owen in Green Metropolis both posit that the greenest place to live is the big city, and the bigger the better. I have disagreed:

I think that one can have too much density and rely on supply chains for food and water that are too long and too complex. There is a Goldilocks density that is "just right"- dense enough for transit, but not too dense that if the power goes out you are stuck 30 stories in the air without water.

Now James Howard Kunstler weighs in at Orion Magazine, with a much more dire projection.

I see our cities getting smaller and denser, with fewer people. Skyscrapers will be obsolete, travel greatly reduced, and the rural edge more distinct. The energy inputs to our economies will decrease a lot, and probably in ways that prove destabilizing. The first manifestations of climate change will be food shortages, one of the reasons I think super slum cities will be short-lived. The growth of urban megaslums in the past one hundred years has been predicated on turning oil into food, and the failure of that equation is aggravating weather-related crop failures around the world. Food shortages will quickly bend the arc of world population growth downward from the poorer margins and inward to the "developed" center--with stark implications for politics and even civil order.


If You Really Want To Get Off Oil, Move To Buffalo

Kunstler sees a reversion to dependence on water and rail for transport, and a rebirth of the cities that have these resources.

The decline of cheap fuels will lead to the demise of the trucking system and commercial aviation. Forget about biodiesel, algae oil, and similar fantasies. They don't scale up beyond the science-project level. We'll have to move more stuff (and people) by rail and boat. Waterfronts and harbors will once again become important in daily life. In North America, this applies especially to our inland waterways, including the linked Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio Rivers (one of the most extensive such networks in the world), the St. Lawrence River, the Hudson-Erie Canal system, and the Great Lakes. In terms of climate change, the inland waterways will be less threatened by changes in sea level than our saltwater ports. As the global economy withers, economic activity is likely to become more internally focused anyway.

More in Orion
More on a world after oil:
If You Really Want To Get Off Oil, Move To Buffalo
Do We Really All Have To Live Like New Yorkers? Does Density Matter?
Minus Oil: Forget Hybrids And Solar Panels, We Need Active, Exciting and Vibrant Cities

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Tags: Urban Life