Facing suburban reality

Are we blindly heading to disaster….distracted by the toys of modern-day living and charmed by politicians who tell us what we want to hear rather than what we need to hear?   After watching “The End of Suburbia” at our team meeting, I was disturbed because nothing much has changed since the documentary was released a decade ago.   Has “The American Dream” become a noose around our collective necks rather than a call for collective action representing the best qualities of American life…stubborn determination, inventiveness and a sense of “e pluribus unum (one of many one)”.  At times, I fear for the future of our country and our planet; at other times, I am hopeful that, despite our self-destructive ways, we will eventually do the right thing.   In some ways, I cannot blame ordinary Americans; they want a better life for themselves and future generations.   They looked to nature as a balm for the dirty, crowded cities where they felt like captives.  Unfortunately, the bucolic idyll that they envisioned when they moved to the suburban subdivisions that sprouted like invasive weeds after World War II was a false promise.   The only thing bucolic was the name of the suburban neighborhood — Peaceful Meadows, Fox Run, etc. — and the result was more dependence on cars and clogged highways..   This car-centric lifestyle is no longer sustainable; we have reached the tipping point for energy production and must consume less.   A world of less energy resources and severe climate change is scary — extreme weather, geopolitical unrest, food and water shortages, etc. — and it is very hard to tell the American public that they must change their way of life.   How do you tell them that there will be less money to go around and that they will need to pay more for food, energy and all of life’s essentials?  Life is tough enough; don’t tell me that is going to get worse.    What’s the point of trying if we are doomed.   Politicians, especially those who want to get elected and re-elected, know they need to tell the American public what it wants to hear — and deliver bad news in an upbeat manner.   Even though smart politicians — those who have read the environmental briefings –  know we are facing disaster unless we alter the American way of life, they have peddled the mythology of boundless abundance for so long that it is very hard to start singing a different tune.   Yes, we are facing environment and financial disaster unless we change and consume less – but change may be scary but it may lead the way to a more pleasing future.   Rather than sitting in endless traffic jams, imagine walkable communities where we work and live and are closer to our food sources.   We may have less money but we may be happier in the long run with neighbors helping neighbors in a more balanced and cooperative lifestyle.

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