Monday, June 27, 2011

The future of cities?

Here is James Howard Kunstler writing about the future of cities. As readers of this blog can easily see, there is nothing here that I can agree with.  Kunstler sees doomsday and substantial contraction in our future.  We will be retreating to dense small cities in the face of global warming, energy shortages, etc.  You've heard it all before, but here are some of Kunstler's expectations (H/T Planetizen)

But I think the general theme going forward, certainly in the U.S., will be the comprehensive contraction of just about everything.
I see our cities getting smaller and denser, with fewer people. Skyscrapers will be obsolete, travel greatly reduced, and the rural edge more distinct. The energy inputs to our economies will decrease a lot, and probably in ways that prove destabilizing. The first manifestations of climate change will be food shortages, one of the reasons I think super slum cities will be short-lived. The growth of urban megaslums in the past one hundred years has been predicated on turning oil into food, and the failure of that equation is aggravating weather-related crop failures around the world. Food shortages will quickly bend the arc of world population growth downward from the poorer margins and inward to the “developed” center—with stark implications for politics and even civil order. The crisis of money is already hampering the operation of cities and will soon critically impede the repair of water systems, paved streets, electric service, and other vital infrastructure. We are heading into a major reset of daily life, a phase of history I call The Long Emergency. Tomorrow will be a lot more like a distant yesteryear in terms of reduced comforts, commerce, and the scale of things.
In sharp contrast, here is a recent report re natural gas finds and "fracking" which has on more than one occasion been referred to as a game-changer.  There have been quite a few positive game-changers in the past and I expect their arrival to accelerate.

So which way?  We know that the resource doomsayers have always been wrong.  But we also know why.  They ignored the ideas of Adam Smith, Joseph Schumpeter, Julian Simon, Paul Romer and many others.  The facts of our improved material well being and the theories to explain it match up very well.  How can anyone ignore all this?