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James Howard Kunstler, prophet of doom, blogger Clusterfuck Nation , author, novelist, wrote this book way back in 1993, but it has that timeless feel Not a whole lot has changed, except apparently we ve pushed doom a little further off into the future The era of cheap gas is drawing to a close, he warned us, meaning death for the suburbs as many people would no longer be able to afford to drive Well dang it if cheap ish gas prices aren t here again, after their scary highs of 08.Kunstl James Howard Kunstler, prophet of doom, blogger Clusterfuck Nation , author, novelist, wrote this book way back in 1993, but it has that timeless feel Not a whole lot has changed, except apparently we ve pushed doom a little further off into the future The era of cheap gas is drawing to a close, he warned us, meaning death for the suburbs as many people would no longer be able to afford to drive Well dang it if cheap ish gas prices aren t here again, after their scary highs of 08.Kunstler s concern is the built environment specifically, how horrific it is The world around us is designed for cars, not people We owe our environment to the metrics of traffic engineers, the zoning boards who listen to them, to government policies that subsidized cars and interstates but allowed streetcars and trolleys to die out Even where zoning boards have tried to limit sprawl and encourage charm say, by forcing houses onto 2 acre plots they ve only encouraged sprawl by pushing dwellings further and further out from towns, in 2 acre increments And many of the most beautiful and historic homes that still stand in small town America would be illegal by current zoning standards Living in a world designed not for us, but for our cars, engenders feelings of alienation in us It s why office parks sit amid vast lagoons of cars, why split level house facades feature huge gaping garage doors, why Ramada Inns are unashamed to have loading docks and metal fire doors front onto the streetscape If you ve ever tried to walk somewhere in the suburbs, or the exurbs, where there were no sidewalks, maybe just a little grassy rut next to eight lanes of traffic, you ll want to read this book If you ve ever walked through a charming New England town with buildings on a human scale and old growth trees lining the streets, and then a fringe urban warehouse district cinderblock moonscape, and wondered why one made you feel good and the other didn t, and how they both managed to get built, this book is for you.Kunstler writes in a biting vernacular Suburban stores are shopping smarm Individual houses sit on big blobs of land And everywhere, there is crud commercial highway crud, creeping crud architecture of suburbia, the modern crudscape Our human habitat is trashy and preposterous The Swissman Charles Edouard Jeanneret took the hocus pocus name Le Corbusier Kunstler despises Modernism The Red Barn fast food restaurant is an ignoble piece of shit that degrades the community All over American suburbs there are the dreary voids we call front lawns and dull exercises in miniature vignette making known as landscaping with shrubs In a chapter devoted to the glumness of fakery, he visits Atlantic City Standing on the Boardwalk this mild October Day, one beheld the Trump Taj Mahal with that odd mixture of fascination and nausea reserved for the great blunders of human endeavor At Disney World, after paying 32.50 for admission in today s dollars a one day ticket costs 79 , you are efficiently herded onto a ferryboat for a short ride across an artificial lake to the entrance of the Kingdom This will be the first of many crowd control experiences and resulting lines that add to Disney World s air of fascism The boat ride is also a psychological device Making you enter the place by stages, the Disney imagineers emphasize the illusion of one s taking a journey to a strange land as if driving over 1500 miles from another corner of the nation was not sufficient There are moments when his judgments come a little too close to snobbery for my comfort It s not the snobbery of wealth or education but of aesthetics people whose aesthetic choices are subpar say, someone living in a ranch house with a rusty auto and a torn plastic wading pool in the yard are to be pitied You could name a housing development Forest Knoll Acres even if there was no forest and no knoll, and the customers would line up with their checkbooks open Americans were as addicted to illusion as they were to cheap petroleum Or, maybe they don t have many choices Maybe Forest Knoll Acres was affordable and close to work and its buyers were well aware that it wasn t some pastoral Eden but knowing they were participants in a developer s illusion wasn t the most dire fact of their daily life I prefer not to tie individual aesthetic choices so closely to virtue or lack of it Not everyone can live in Seaside, Florida, or on Walden Pond.He treats the built environment holistically geography is related to architecture, which is related to economics, which is related to sociology I have to admit I d never thought of ecology and economy being as closely related as their roots would indicate Ultimately it all has to do with private ownership vs public responsibility It s the story of America I d also never directly related the expenditures of the interstate highway system to anything else, but because the highways were gold plated with our national wealth, all other forms of public building were impoverished This is the reason why every town hall built after 1950 is a concrete block shedand other civic monuments are indistinguishable from bottling plants and cold storage warehouses This is an utterly harsh indictment of the way we live, and the manner in which we ve surrendered decision making unthinkingly It s a plea to heal our spiritual deformities yes, it really is that bad by maintaining and building better communities and actually caring about them The Geography of Nowhere tends towards the polemic, but through most of the book I found myself agreeing with Kunstler s ideas His basic premise is that the fundamental American bias towards private property rights has created a culture weak in community and this bias has combined with an over reliance on the automobile to produce nowhere places suburbias with no center, endless highways of stripmalls, and millions of units of crap housing He s not optimistic about the future of this civ The Geography of Nowhere tends towards the polemic, but through most of the book I found myself agreeing with Kunstler s ideas His basic premise is that the fundamental American bias towards private property rights has created a culture weak in community and this bias has combined with an over reliance on the automobile to produce nowhere places suburbias with no center, endless highways of stripmalls, and millions of units of crap housing He s not optimistic about the future of this civilization we ve created once the oil runs out, or the environment goes bad, or we go insane from spending weeks every year in our cars, he believes we re going to be somewhere beyond fucked His writing is at its best when he s describing specific places in America cities that he feels have failed, like Detroit or LA, towns that he feels are broken, like Woodstock, Vermont, or weird capitals of illusion like Disneyworld He s less good when he s giving a compressed history of architecture and urban planning in America that part felt like a blizzard of names and styles, and with no pictures, I had to do a lot of Google image searching to understand his references And I felt the ending of the book was pretty weak his proposed solutions for the problem of suburbia all felt kind of half assed, like building new, denser cores into the suburban wasteland, rather than just knocking it all down One other thing that bothered me about the book was the absence of any mention of Jane Jacobs or her ideas I think that reflects Kunstler s fundamental bias towards small town living he s lived upstate in Saratoga Spring for most of his adult life But the problems he describes are really only solved in cities, and Jane Jacobs ideas about what makes cities work are key to understanding what makes suburbs not work I could imagine Jane Jacobs dismissing a lot of what he has to say about saving suburbia as meaningless and besides the point I don t think she d find anything there worth saving There is nothing like a little James Howard Kunstler to make you feel like a complete asshole and Capitalist whore His newest prophesy is that the American suburb is dead, but this book only predicts that with its strangely plausible sounding doomsday warnings and vehement attacks against anyone so blind enough to want the myth that is the American Dream The book takes a fascinating look at the forces that drove the rise of individual landownership and the suburb as currently accepted in moder There is nothing like a little James Howard Kunstler to make you feel like a complete asshole and Capitalist whore His newest prophesy is that the American suburb is dead, but this book only predicts that with its strangely plausible sounding doomsday warnings and vehement attacks against anyone so blind enough to want the myth that is the American Dream The book takes a fascinating look at the forces that drove the rise of individual landownership and the suburb as currently accepted in modern society his examinations of human psychological and anthropological tendencies are depressing, but spot on as far as this non psychological anthropologically challenged reader can tell.While I can heartily agree with him on the bulk of his logical reasoning, I just don t like that I put the book down feeling guilty about growing up in suburbia and being raised with the virtues of typical suburban life instilled in my brain I m trying to break free, but the concept of a backyard keeps sucking me in don t look at me, I m hideousI highly recommend this book to anyone who happily lives alone in a house in the suburbs and commutes to work alone in an automobile every day prepare for your world to be rocked This is book is largely a rant well researched and eloquent but a rant nonetheless Overwrought with cynicism, it is hard to distinguish Kunstler s reasonable concerns from his own sense of nostalgia He draws some erroneous parallels e.g holding Disney World to the standard of anything but an amusement park but does make an effective point regarding how U.S citizens were ill prepared for the after effects of the heyday of the automobile.Fundamentally, Kunstler s cynicism aside, he s an ad This is book is largely a rant well researched and eloquent but a rant nonetheless Overwrought with cynicism, it is hard to distinguish Kunstler s reasonable concerns from his own sense of nostalgia He draws some erroneous parallels e.g holding Disney World to the standard of anything but an amusement park but does make an effective point regarding how U.S citizens were ill prepared for the after effects of the heyday of the automobile.Fundamentally, Kunstler s cynicism aside, he s an advocate for renewed interest in civic planning, decreased dependency on fossil fuels, and models of sustainability He presents Portland, OR as the best model for a city and the community of Seaside, FL as the model for a smaller town He sees urban planning as the opportunity to develop while respecting the present landscape and enriching sense of community and public space.The weakness of the book lies in the author s bitterness, which disguises his very real passion for the topic The saving grace is that given most of his likely readership, he is preaching to the choir who understands his anger This choir will understand that Kunstler embeds important lessons in his bleak diatribe lessons worth embracing Sometimes people tell me I m humorless, that I over intellectualize, that I need to chill out Well, in that regard, James Howard Kunstler makes me look like fucking Vinny from Jersey Shore.The Geography of Nowhere, is, above all else, a rant A very entertainingly angry rant, but a rant While I enjoyed reading much of it, it doesn t exactly have an academic basis the foundations for his claims are shaky at best, and when he makes claims about the nature of building and space, he doesn t just Sometimes people tell me I m humorless, that I over intellectualize, that I need to chill out Well, in that regard, James Howard Kunstler makes me look like fucking Vinny from Jersey Shore.The Geography of Nowhere, is, above all else, a rant A very entertainingly angry rant, but a rant While I enjoyed reading much of it, it doesn t exactly have an academic basis the foundations for his claims are shaky at best, and when he makes claims about the nature of building and space, he doesn t justify them.To a certain extent, I agree with him America s suburban spaces are awful, dehumanizing, and hideous, and I would like to see them eradicated from the face of the planet But rather than anything productive or even really very thought provoking, he just offers us an anti modernist screed, and promotes a wishy washy sort of new urbanism as an antidote something that really, I feel, doesn t work Kunstler s analysis of the sad suburban situation is mainly right on Unbridled private enterprise has destroyed public transit Roads and buildings designed predominantly for private car access create problems for the human inhabitants of that environment, making it impossible to do without a car for the simplest of tasks in many places Local zoning laws are often inane and archaic Ditto building codes Sprawl and congestion go uncontrolled because city planners are blind to the big picture.T Kunstler s analysis of the sad suburban situation is mainly right on Unbridled private enterprise has destroyed public transit Roads and buildings designed predominantly for private car access create problems for the human inhabitants of that environment, making it impossible to do without a car for the simplest of tasks in many places Local zoning laws are often inane and archaic Ditto building codes Sprawl and congestion go uncontrolled because city planners are blind to the big picture.Thus, it s very unfortunate that Kunstler stuffs this book with such bombast and sanctimoniousness occasionally segueing into moist eyed sentimentalism that it s often difficult to take him seriously His failure to divorce personal preferences from factual arguments hurts his analyses tremendously, rendering them shallow, inconsistent, and incomplete The resulting proposed solutions are largely simplistic, and even oddly idiosyncratic, in some places In other places, things descend into outright WTF territory speaking of the advantages of mixed income neighborhoods The children of the poor saw how sober and responsible citizens lived Seriously.Thankfully, Kunstler just reads like a very angry Mr Mackey Modernism and cars are baaad, mmmmkay most of the time His anger is understandable, however you d be pissed too, if you lived in a town where people beautify their front yards with large plywood cutouts of urinating children and butt cracks.In the end, this book is still a worthwhile read It outlines a very important but unsexy problem, lays out some interesting ideas, and hints at a way forward It s depressing to see how little the North American transit planning landscape has changed since the 90s, when this book was published, that despite our growing energy woes, the toll of lengthening commutes, and the increasing fetishization of the private to the detriment of the public Read it with a hefty lump of salt, and be prepared to roll your eyes a lot In this book, Kunstler covers the history and development of town planning and suburbification with a definite chip on his shoulder Starting with colonial times, he examines how we have used and misused land for individual, rather than group purposes The great expanse of America was ours for the taking, and take it we did, throwing aside the concepts of villages and civic harmony He vilifies the automobile industry, blaming it for the banality of suburbia and the destruction of community, g In this book, Kunstler covers the history and development of town planning and suburbification with a definite chip on his shoulder Starting with colonial times, he examines how we have used and misused land for individual, rather than group purposes The great expanse of America was ours for the taking, and take it we did, throwing aside the concepts of villages and civic harmony He vilifies the automobile industry, blaming it for the banality of suburbia and the destruction of community, gobbling up farmland in the name of urban sprawl Examples of exploitation include Detroit, Saratoga Springs and Atlantic City Las Vegas and Disney World were other obvious targets, of course Only rarely does he point out who s doing it right Portland Oregon, and Seaside, Florida are two of his examples While Kunstler has many valid points and does an excellent job of bringing together disparate elements of our history to show how they shaped our idea of neighborhoods and communities, he does so with such negativity and smugness that I found it difficult to take him seriously at times The repetition of such slangy phrases as scary places , jive plastic and crap also detracted from the gravity of the discussion I d be interested in seeing the same material covered a littledispassionately, and withsuggestions on how to make small changes in the right direction Recommended to those interested in community planning from the viewpoint of everything that we ve done wrong *Download ⇨ The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape ☟ The Geography of Nowhere traces America s evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, where the cities are dead zones and the countryside is a wasteland of cartoon architecture and parking lotsIn elegant and often hilarious prose, Kunstler depicts our nation s evolution from the Pilgrim settlements to the modern auto suburb in all its ghastliness The Geography of Nowhere tallies up the huge economic, social, and spiritual costs that America is paying for its car crazed lifestyle It is also a wake up call for citizens to reinvent the places where we live and work, to build communities that are once again worthy of our affection Kunstler proposes that by reviving civic art and civic life, we will rediscover public virtue and a new vision of the common good The future will require us to build better places, Kunstler says, or the future will belong to other people in other societies The Geography of Nowhere has become a touchstone work in the two decades since its initial publication, its incisive commentary giving language to the feeling of millions of Americans that our nation s suburban environments were ceasing to be credible human habitats Since that time, the work has inspired city planners, architects, legislators, designers and citizens everywhere In this special th Anniversary edition, dozens of authors and experts in various fields share their perspective on James Howard Kunstler s brave and seminal work This was a drab book about a bleak subject using bland language Somebody or something peed on the author s cornflakes as he got up on the wrong side of the bed And it was the automobile Instead of harping on the negative consequences of vehicular life I would have like to have some visionary solutions to get us out of the abscess One chapter would have beenthan enough to point out how a lifestyle dependent on automobiles is detrimental There were two good chapters 6 Joyride and 11 This was a drab book about a bleak subject using bland language Somebody or something peed on the author s cornflakes as he got up on the wrong side of the bed And it was the automobile Instead of harping on the negative consequences of vehicular life I would have like to have some visionary solutions to get us out of the abscess One chapter would have beenthan enough to point out how a lifestyle dependent on automobiles is detrimental There were two good chapters 6 Joyride and 11 Three Cities, which gave a few accomplishments For instance citing Portland as a positive city.Being a quarter of century since the book came out it might have been insightful or just discouraging on how things got worse I wonder what the author might have thought of the Detroit RecCen now being a GM complex from Ford roots , or big box stores in many communities being the same so there is little community identity, or kids no longer walk to school as they are dropped off and picked up.Mentioning how porches used to be useful or how balconies need to bethan six feet in depth is not going to attain the kind of turn around we need How about cities with huge complexes void of automobile traffic or just communities of a score of homes not needing a driveway to each residence What would they look like What needs to drive their development Kunstler does note that developers need could be the driving force to overcome restrictive requirements For instance in Calgary they overcame the requirement to have to provide parking for a downtown complex as people downtown didn t need cars reducing the construction costs and thus reducing the rents.Things could be better but how do we get out of the faulty cycle of vehicular obsession The bonus would be less CO2 emissions Kunstler Born in 1948, I have lived my entire life in America s high imperial moment During this epoch of stupendous wealth and power, we have managed to ruin our greatest cities, throw away our small towns, and impose over the countryside a joyless junk habitat which we can no longer afford to support Indulging in a fetish of commercialized individualism, we did away with the public realm, and with nothing left but our private life in our private homes and private cars, we wonder what happen Kunstler Born in 1948, I have lived my entire life in America s high imperial moment During this epoch of stupendous wealth and power, we have managed to ruin our greatest cities, throw away our small towns, and impose over the countryside a joyless junk habitat which we can no longer afford to support Indulging in a fetish of commercialized individualism, we did away with the public realm, and with nothing left but our private life in our private homes and private cars, we wonder what happened to the spirit of community We created a landscape of scary places and became a nation of scary people Try to read this book and have any love for this country Though I now have a deeper love for livable pockets like the IC