Right off the bat I will happily admit I buy some staples at WalMart. If there was a CostCo nearby, that wouldn’t be the case. But my dogs grew up on Sam’s dog-food, and any dog lover will tell you what befalls the owner that abruptly changes his animal’s diet. Here’s a hint: It’s brown, (if you’re lucky) and everywhere. But I digress.
So I am there yesterday stocking up on dog food and I noticed a mini-van, parked, engine running, in the parking space adjacent to mine. I didn’t see anyone in the van. I did my shopping leisurely, (I was enjoying the AC) stealing branches of grapes and nibbling them while flipping the bird at the surveillance cameras. (some people fish, people should have hobbies) Anyway, an hour or so later, when I was wheeling out my cart, I noticed the van was still there, still running, and I could hear the compressor cycling on and off. I loaded my vehicle, and was about to take my cart back to the little cart jail they provide when I saw a woman exit the store and head toward the mini-van. She walked up to it, opened the sliding door on the side and proceeded to load her groceries. I could only conclude that she was ensuring that her vehicle would be a brisk 60 degrees upon her return. At that moment, I saw America’s impending demise.
Then I read this take on suburban sprawl, and I had to share it. Written in response to an academic’s attempt to rationalize sprawl through the use of empirical data, I found it both biting and believeable. It’s a long read, but here are a few of my favorite paragraphs:
There is a species of fatuous thinking these days in America which states, in so many words, that suburbia is fine and dandy because so many people like it. Variations on this theme range from the idea that suburbia is the highest expression of free markets, to the notion that it is the natural outcome of our democracy, to the belief that God has ordained it.
The result in American suburbia today is a set of places where private luxury is exalted and public space is grievously dishonored, damaged, and diminished, places where there are more bathrooms per inhabitant than any other society on earth, but where public space is so debased that the only place children can find to play beyond their back yards is the berm between the WalMart and the Winn Dixie.
It is necessary to insert right here that, contrary to a lot of wishful thinking and techgnostic wool-gathering rampant these days, no combination of alternative fuels or systems for using them will allow us to run America the way we currently run it, or even a substantial fraction of it. We are not going to run Wal-Mart, Walt Disney World, and the interstate highway system on hydrogen, coal synfuels, tar sand or oil shale distillates, bio-diesel, ethanol, recycled french-fry oil, solar electricity, wind power, or nuclear fission. The stark truth of the situation is that we are simply going to have to make other arrangements – and I’m sorry to have to repeat that this will be the case whether we like it or not. Suburbia will be coming off the menu. We will no longer be able to resort to the stupid argument that it is okay because we chose it.