Friday, December 19, 2008


Suburbia’s Future

Much as been written on the institution and physical dimensions of suburbia, and there has been a flood of commentary since people started thinking about what will happen to the suburbs as their underpinnings start breaking down in the peak oil world. Much of the commentary has been overwhelmingly negative.

I myself agree with Kunstler’s view that suburbia is a colossal misappropriation of resources. Nevertheless, I don’t think we should just write off the suburbs if for no other reason than a lot of people live there. Undoubtedly the world upheaval just starting is going to cause the deaths of millions, and probably even billions. But we can’t just throw up our hands in despair because thinking quickly and acting deliberately could save many, and make otherwise miserable existences more bearable.

Recently over at The Oil Drum Jeff Vail wrote a series of four posts (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4) which throw out some ideas about what might be done to mitigate the damage, and how suburbia might fare as a result. Readers with an interest in this topic — and I assume many suburbanites will be among them — might find some useful ideas there.

Personally, I don’t think we should have any illusions about suburbia continuing to be a nice place to live. It was conceived on assumptions that are no longer valid, and conditions are going to get very bad. But if people form communities, pull together, pool their resources, work hard, and make the best of what they have, many lives could be saved, and, in some places blessed with favorable conditions, it is even possible that thriving communities could emerge.

Here’s hoping that there are enough peak oil-aware people in the suburbs to make a difference.

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