The documentary, “The End of Suburbia”, described the impact of keeping the American Dream in the form of continuous building of suburban communities. I had always assumed that suburbs grew simply due to a growing population. There were flaws with the system, but there was not much we could have done to prevent this. However, this is not the case. After WWII, America had a lot of soldiers coming home, tired of war and tightly packed cities. To house these soldiers and the population that would soon swell, many neighborhoods were built surrounding cities with clusters of houses with their own yards. The automobile became the main transportation unit, making the distance from the cities and work not a problem due to new road construction. Resources could now be brought into these areas without production in the same area.
Clearly, suburbs did not just “happen”. Through conscious effort of making these inefficient areas thrive, we have now been wasting space and energy for quite some time. Almost everyone owns or at least uses a car today. Cars use gasoline, polluting the air with each commute. Getting food from large organizations has become the norm as they can transport huge quantities of food into an area (which has even MORE problems that I have ranted about in past blogs).
What was great about the documentary was that it showed the issues about suburban life that people may not have thought about. Seeing the causes gets me more interested because it shows that sometimes we make mistakes and not everything that bad that happens, or will happen, is out of our control. This movie did not motivate me to change my everyday life, but it did change my outlook on the future.
The solution to suburban life is living in areas that promote “new urbanism”. Taking urban-like designs for multi-family living while promoting walking and public transportation is a more efficient approach to how we live in neighborhoods. Communities become closer and we might use less energy as these areas develop. Some parts of the U.S. are creating these environments, but in areas that are already established, it is difficult to make this change. Around long strips of road we can put in bushes and trees. As large corporations move out of an area, chunks of land fall into disuse, so that will be the perfect time to transform those areas into new urbanism living environments.
If you want to see more about new urbanism, this is an interesting site: http://www.newurbanism.org/
Though not too many new urbanism sites are near the Massachusetts south coast, perhaps in time we can make that happen.