The orchard-laden foothills of North Central Washington’s Wenatchee Valley are resplendent at this time of year. The apple and pear harvest is in full swing. The warm golden hues, the crisp mountain air and the bustle of trucks carrying produce to markets near and far provide a stark and welcome contrast to the daily barrage of bad news about the downward spiral of the nation’s financial markets. read more »
I entered the field of futures research in 1981. No, not futures – contracts to deliver a certain commodity at a certain price at a date certain (God, I wish I had) – futures research, as in scenarios, trends, strategic planning and market planning. Unfortunately the place was soon lousy with what I call “futurism”: extrapolations of the unsustainable to make the improbable look inevitable.
A current example: suburbs are doomed because of high energy prices (peak oil!), the housing bubble, the obsolescence of the internal combustion engine, and yes, global warming (and what hasn’t been blamed on global warming?). Besides, the urban renaissance is underway; people want to live in the city for the culture, food, music and hipness, don’tchaknow. read more »
My eldest child tells me that when she arrived at an East Coast college her classmates—many of whom had never visited LA—would ask, “Does your family live in the city, or outside of it?” Her answer, she says, was always long — really long — and of eye-glazing complexity.
Anyone who has raised kids in the middle-class neighborhoods of multipolar LA might chuckle at the thought of trying to define urban or suburban. read more »
As gas prices play in the range of four dollars, lots of people are looking for ways to save fuel as part of their work commute or regular household travel. There are some no-brainers like parking the SUV and using the fuel efficient vehicles in the household fleet. read more »
The rapid spike in energy prices has led politicians, urban theorists and pundits to pontificate about how Americans will be living and working in new ways. A favorite story line is that Americans will start trading in their suburban homes, move back to the city centers and opt to change everything they have wanted for a half-century --- from big backyards to quiet streets to privacy --- to live a more carbon-lite urban lifestyle.
Yet, there has been little talk about what could be the best way for families and individuals to cut energy use: telecommuting. read more »
Tourists, journalists and urban planners are often smitten with what might be called the "Louvre Café Syndrome." This occurs when Americans sit at Paris cafes in view of the Louvre and imagine why it is that the United States does not look like this. In fact, most of Paris doesn't even look like this, nor do other European urban areas. Like their US counterparts, European urban areas rely principally on cars for mobility (though to a somewhat lesser degree) and their residents live in suburbs that have been built since World War II. read more »
I have been attacked as a defender of ‘sprawl’ although I consider myself a man of the left, with a political-economy philosophy that is ‘social democratic – far to the left of the contemporary Democratic party. I view global warming as very serious, but consider continuing global warfare over resources, land and religion, and increasing national and global economic and political inequality as even more critical. read more »
One of the most enduring urban myths suggests that most jobs are in the core of metropolitan areas, making commuting from the far suburbs more difficult. Thus, as fuel prices have increased, many have expected that people will begin moving from farther out in the suburbs to locations closer to the cores. Indeed, in some countries, such as Australia, much of the urban planning regime of the last decade has been based upon the assumption that urban areas must not be constrained because the residents on the fringe won’t be able to get to work. read more »
Volkswagen’s announcement last week that it will build a new assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN is the latest sign of triumph for the South’s growing auto industry. The new plant will sit within close proximity to one Toyota is building north of Tupelo, MS (where the popular Prius will be manufactured), and another that Kia broke ground for last year in West Point, GA on the Alabama border. This joins existing plants such as those operated by Nissan in Nashville and Smyrna, GA, BMW’s plant in Spartanburg, SC and three assembly plants in Alabama. read more »
As gas prices inch up toward $5 per gallon, many environmentalists and elected officials are looking to public transit as a solution to higher transportation costs and rising fuel consumption. A closer look at the numbers, however, warrants more than a little skepticism that public transit can fulfill the nation’s energy conservation goals. read more »