08 January 2007

Detroit is the future

Via Bruce Sterling I learn of a post on Detroitblog about the “wilderness” reclaiming unwanted parts of the city.

A lot of America is going to start to look like this in another couple of decades. James Howard Kunstler is a critic of how we build cities now, and forsees a coming end to America's endless fields of suburbs, office parks, and strip malls.

Much of the suburban real estate produced by this process is destined to lose its supposed value, both in practical and monetary terms as energy scarcities get traction. So, on top of the sheer distortions and perversities of the glut in bad mortgage paper, America will be faced with the accelerating worthlessness of the collateral—the houses, Jiffy Lubes, and office parks—as gasoline prices go up, and long commutes become untenable, and jobs along with incomes are lost, and the cost of heating houses larger than 1500 square feet becomes an insuperable burden.

All this is to say that the suburban rings of our cities have poor prospects in the future. They therefore represent a massive tragic misinvestment, perhaps the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It is hard to say how this stuff might be reused or retrofitted, if at all, but some of it, perhaps a lot, may end up as a combined salvage yard and sheer ruin.

Since America's endless concrete wastelands start out with no charm or grandeur, I expect that they won't even be interesting as ruins.

1 comment:

Kate said...

That house could have belonged to your great aunt Anne and great uncle Harry. They lived in one that looked quite a bit like it in Detroit.

The city of my birth and of Indri's has truly become a wasteland. Such a pity. Your cousin Julie still lives there and I wonder how much longer they will stay since her husband is with the auto industry.