Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Kunstler v. Kotkin

One believes the suburbs will be rendered useless by the disappearance of cheap oil. The other says the suburbs are the future and need only be fine-tuned. Both have new books out. James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Long Emergency" (Atlantic Monthly Press), explains how the auto-dependent, spread-out development pattern is the most ill-suited system imagineable for the coming fossil-fuel crunch, which he argues will be the death of suburbia (Interview in Grist magazine: http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2005/05/25/little-kunstler/). Joel Kotkin, author of "The City: A Global History" (Modern Library / Random House), says, quite correctly, that the suburbs rule and are America's choice, for convenience, jobs and affordability; America's cities, Kotkin says, are enjoying very narrowly defined comebacks and aren't properly planning for the future (essay in The New Republic online: http://tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=w050523&s=kotkin052305). Town and country has never been so polarized.


Blogger Carol said...

The answer is something in between: The village. A city is often a conglomerate of villages and the suburb is either a village or a sprawling village. When I first moved to New England, the hot town was Concord because it still had an active village center. Today, that center is more a tourist stop and no longer a place for townies to congregate.

Certainly as people look to buy into some "there" and lonely empty nesters help create a market for villages (witness Pine Hills in Plymouth), we may see a revival of the village.

A village should have a cafe/coffee shop, a pub, a restaurant, a food store, a plaza or common, a place to buy socks, a hardware store, a pharmacy, a few professionals (dentist, doctor), tailor/cobbler, some schools, town offices, a library, and ideally a community center. Extra points for an inn, local agencies, public transportation, a 5&10 (West Concord offers all of this--I'm surprised that developers haven't descended on it, including the ones I've tipped off), a bike shop, and some odd stores and village fixtures (etc.). I remember being laid off and having my car die in December of 1989. Living in Concord, I was able to walk to my temporary new job (store clerk for Xmas season) and wait awhile to buy a new car. I rarely left Concord for two months, and I met many, many Concordians. That's not so much the reality of Concord today, but it's still doable.

It takes a village.

2:34 PM  

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