Tuesday, August 19, 2008

When things get really bad, Flint may get better

James Howard Kunstler, the author and social critic who wrote The Geography of Nowhere, a history of suburbia and urban development in the United States, is often very pessimistic, to put it mildly, about America's post-oil future.

But in an interview with Grist, his vision doesn't sound quite so grim for smaller places like — dare I say it — Flint.

"I see it differently from many commentators, who just assume that cities are going to get bigger and that people will flee the suburbs for the cities. I think we're going to see something completely different -- I think we'll see a reversal of the 200-year-long trend of people leaving rural places and small towns for big cities and metroplexes. I think that the big cities of America -- Houston, Atlanta, Dallas, Washington, D.C., Boston -- these places have attained a scale that is simply not suited for the energy diet of the future, and in my opinion they are going to contract substantially, even while they densify at their centers and around their waterfronts, if they have them.

"If there is a huge demographic movement — and I think there will be — out of suburbia, eventually it will resolve into people moving into smaller towns, smaller cities, that are scaled appropriately to our energy diet -- and to places that exist in a meaningful relationship with productive land. We're simply going to have to do agriculture differently, no question about it, and the places where this is impossible, like Tucson and Las Vegas, are really going to dry up and blow away. In the Northeast, where I live, many of the small towns and cities have about reached their nadir — but they have many virtues that are going to become apparent in the years ahead, not least that they have a relationship with water, both for navigation and for drinking."

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Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at www.teardownbook.com.