26 June 2007


Having warned us about Peak Oil, James Howard Kunstler now also declares Peak Suburbia.
It is not an accident that the housing bubble coincided with the phenomenon of Peak Oil. First of all, the housing bubble should more properly be called the suburban bubble, because most of the activity came in the form of “greenfield“ housing subdivisions, and included all the additional crap-o-la accessories required by them—strip malls, power centers, Outback steak houses, car washes, et cetera. The suburban expansion has been based entirely on cheap-and-abundant supplies of oil. Similarly, it was not an accident that the suburban project faltered briefly in the 1970s, when America's oil production entered its long decline, OPEC seized the moment, and oil prices shot up. Notice that the final suburban blowout occurred after 1990, when the North Sea and Prudhoe Bay oil strikes came into full production, disabling OPEC, and a world oil glut finally drove prices as low as ten dollars a barrel in 1999. That ushered in the climactic phase of suburbia, as represented by things like the standard 4000-square-foot Toll Brother's McMansion and the heyday of the super-gigantic SUV to go with it.

The American public has no idea how over all that is.

This is, of course, a wrenching catastrophe on many levels, but I'm in a good mood, so I'm choosing to look on the bright side of how I hate suburbs and will be happy to see them go.


Anonymous said...

:::does Snoopy dance:::

How terrible and shocking!

But seriously, this is going to have a powerful effect, hopefully good in the future, but the immediate term can't look too pretty.

d a r k c h i l d e said...

Having grown up in an old, drafty farmhouse, I'm a fan of the big, old, creaky house. Be it in an urban center, or in the middle of no where. I love houses with no heating or A/C systems where you have to "open a winder" or "stoke up a fyrre" to keep cool or warm. I like houses that were build last century of solid materials and when I drive past the McMansion developments that litter my commute to work I call them "Scissorhand-lands". They all look the same, smell the same and are built from artificial, cut-rate materials. In 30 years...THESE will be the slums that no-one wants.

Already, when I am invited into the homes of those who have fallen victim to these homes ("it's for the children, I swear") I see the cracks and warps and fissures where these poorly constructed houses are settling...and badly.

If we all make it past 2012...imagine another 20 years when there are vast, flat developments of impotent soil where hundreds of these cracked and crying homes lay empty.

And what and who will move into these abandoned squats? Hmmmm?

That...is a social experiment I can't WAIT to see...

oh...the possibilities!!!

Jonathan Korman said...

In 30 years...THESE will be the slums that no-one wants

Aye, and more rightly than when folks abandoned the downtowns.

FWIW, I posted a while ago about how Joel “Edge City Garreau argues that the 'burbs will eventually evolve into something cool. But I don't buy it; I think they're unredeemable, and our grandchildren will wonder what the hell we were thinking.