Beginning of the end for suburbs in North America (I hope) / El principio del fin para los suburbios en América del Norte

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Image:Suburbia by David Shankbone.jpg
If you're a follower of Canadian politics you may have heard of the member of parliament Garth Turner. He was originally a Progressive Conservative MP, then became a Conservative MP when the PC party and the Canadian Alliance formed the Conservative Party, but then later was kicked out of the caucus for speaking his mind too much and he eventually joined the Liberal Party and since then has been a member there.

He also writes a blog pretty much every day, which often gets him in the news whenever the media picks up on anything they deem to be controversial. The blog is generally devoted to why he doesn't like the current prime minister Stephen Harper, but he also writes on other issues from time to time such as the economy, animal rights, and today there was an interesting piece on the status of suburbs in Canada.

(He never writes about space though from what I can tell. I always leave comments on the blog asking him to write an article on that subject but I've yet to see one. Feel free to leave a comment on his blog asking him to write a post on space development and Canada's role.)

Back to the post of his on suburbia, here's part of what he wrote that I found particularly interesting:

Futurist James Kunstler has called them the greatest waste of infrastructure in human history, and may well be correct. After all, the burbs only work when there are cars, and the energy needed to make them run is now becoming precious. Second, the urban sprawl which the suburbs by definition create has given society a problem akin to that faced by the Roman Empire – millions of people now live far from services and supplies, and bringing those lines closer is bankrupting everyone. Third, the suburbs, populated with wasteful single-family homes left empty too often and only partially occupied the rest of the time, sitting on land which once produced crops, sucking endless energy and water through miles of pipes and tubes, where residents burn a litre of gas to get a litre of milk in a distant, centralized shopping area to avoid lower property values through neighbourhood commercialization, are an environmental nightmare. Fourth, demographics and growing need for Boomers to convert homes into cash dooms the kind of homes most of them now own. Fifth, suburbs are about to suffer the greatest blow – falling out of fashion.
It's true - suburbs are unsustainable, and they are falling out of fashion. They're dry and boring, there's nowhere to walk at night so you always have to take the car out to go anywhere, even the nature you find there is quite boring compared to the small parks and hidden areas you can usually find in a downtown.

On a related note, there seems to be a documentary called The End of Suburbia. Looking at the preview it doesn't seem to be that stellar a production, but I know nothing about it so I'm willing to be proven wrong. Here's the preview:

Edit: oh, here's the whole thing. The makers of the movie put up the whole thing on YouTube a year after the preview. It's 52 minutes long. Enjoy.


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