Cities of the Future, the Coming End of the Car Age and Suburbia's Demise: James Kunstler Talks
I don't know about you, but I can never get enough of TreeHugger's favorite eco-crank: the one and only James Howard Kunstler. Whether it's listening to his provocative podcast, appropriately titled "KunstlerCast," or reading his latest op-ed/essay/book, there are, thankfully, more than enough ways to get your daily fill of suburbia's loudest critic.
As luck would have it, The Sunday Gazette featured a great interview with him today. Suburban sprawl (duh), renewable energy, walkable cities and the mortgage crisis were among the topics Kunstler discussed with Miles Reed.The future of housing and our "suburban project"
Here's what he had to say in response to a question about the impact the mortgage crisis would have on the housing market:
A lot of people (Realtors, builders, bankers) are waiting for the "bottom" of the housing crash, with the idea that we'll re-enter an up-cycle. I see it differently. There won't be a resumption of "growth" as we've known it, certainly not in suburban residential and commercial real estate. The suburban project is over. We're done with that. (I know people find this unbelievable.) The existing stuff will represent a huge liability for us for decades to come as it loses value and utility and falls apart.
What will the successful city of the future look like?
The successful cities of the future would need to be smaller, have walkable neighborhoods and be close to reliable food and water supplies. He ticked off the names of a few cities that he thought wouldn't survive in this new climate, including Phoenix and Las Vegas. I'd also be inclined to add Los Angeles (which fails on at least two counts) to that list, though I'm sure many people could contribute their own entries.
In describing the Northeast's most walkable cities, he highlights Providence as being a "hidden gem" and close to his vision for what the ideal city of the future will look like. A few of the other names you'd expect to see on this list, such as New York City and Boston, are also mentioned -- though he calls most only "agreeable places scaled to a lower energy future."
Cars and ethanol: "exorbitant" and a "fiasco"
He goes on to call our national obsession with cars "exorbitant," warning that sustaining the motoring system could "exhaust and bankrupt our society," while (rightly) labeling the ethanol craze a massive "fiasco." Given his options, it's probably not too surprising that Kunstler is choosing to support Obama:
I voted for Mr. Obama in the New York primary and continue to support him. The Republican party will be hugely discredited by the circumstances we face. In fact, they will be regarded as the party that wrecked the nation. I feel sorry for whoever occupies the White House in January 2009. He'll have to find a gentle way to tell the truth to the people who elected him, people who will be suffering mightily, and who will be very sore about their losses. He'll have to tell them that the previous "release" of the American Dream software is obsolete, and the new version will require a whole lot more of them in the way of earnest effort, delayed gratification and revised expectations.
The best tidbit of news (at least for fans of his writing)? Kunstler ended the interview by saying he was working on a sequel to "World Made by Hand" which will be set in the "post-oil future." It's slated for release around Halloween.
Via ::The Sunday Gazette: James Kunstler insists suburbs are done for (news website)