Archive for November, 2010


a bit of own-trumpet blowing

November 9, 2010

I know I rarely post now but I just had to put up a note about a post I wrote over two years ago, Suburbia DOA. There’s been a bit of noise about Jeff Vail’s article Rescuing Suburbia in which he says much the same things I said in the aforementioned posting (from two years ago, did I say that yet?) albeit with much more detail and a lot less ranting.

Essentially what we are both saying is that a) suburbia is not going to shrivel up and die, b) it has the potential to form the basis of a post-peak society and like, c) where are all those people going to go anyway?

In case you’re wondering if I’m claiming patent on this idea then no, in my posting I reference David Holmgren as just one personwho has long seen the potential of suburbia to supply a lot of it’s own food.  Probably what’s most alarming about this however is how rarely this subject gets discussed.

My posting descended into a bitter rant about the element* of the peak oil crowd which gets a buzz out of shouting that the end is nigh and serves no useful purpose other than to cause panic.  Jeff tended to avoid my approach, probably on account of the fact that he was talking to the very people I was ranting about.

In any case I still feel that the majority of the peak oil movement causes more problems than it solves. Ran Prieur, The Archdruid and Jeff are the few people I can think of who are able to discuss the future without descending into doom mongering. Good on them.

What I suspect will happen, provided panic doesn’t set in, is that suburbia will overhaul itself without anyone having to create a ‘movement’.  For instance it was very noticeable that the first thing that happened when the economic crisis hit was that lots of people started gardening, all without prompting and without even a brief glance at a peak oil preparation website!

I think people will start growing their own stuff and learning new skills in the garage as a matter of course. I think Councils will give up on maintaining parks and the concept of using that land to feed people will suddenly become obvious to millions of people all at the same time.

Too late by then do I hear the doom-mongerers say? Well, there’s not much we can do about it because we can’t force our ideas on everyone else so take your doom elsewhere and drag someone else down. Nothing has happened in quite the rush you promised anyway.

One idea Jeff mentions that is completly knew to me, and one which has far reaching political ramifications is to do with land distribution in suburbs. He says:

Suburbia is unique because it is the most evenly distributed pattern of land ownership and settlement that has ever existed. It is by no means perfect or “pure,” but it is the most egalitarian substrate upon which to build a future civilization of our choosing, rather than as dictated to us, ever.

How Jeff ever hopes to make money being that positive about the future I’ll never know but I’m planning to keep on listening anyway.

*By ‘element’ I actually mean ‘majority’