The Wondrous, Magnificent Cities of the 21st Century

The American Conservative, which normally publishes informative and thought provoking articles and commentary, recently laid an egg. They published a misanthropic, overwrought, pessimistic – ok, apocalyptic – aggressively Malthusian screed, written by James Howard Kunstler. Might there be equal time for optimists? Isn’t optimism one of the defining qualities of conservatism?

Entitled “Why America‚Äôs Urban Dreams Went Wrong,” Kunstler’s latest essay attacks pretty much every urban amenity Americans have built since the invention of the automobile. And his reasoning, all of it, reflects a dismal lack of faith in human creativity and adaptability, paired with a certainty that the 21st century will be one of declining fortunes and devastating scarcity.

Kunstler is pushing what he calls “The Long Emergency” (also the title of a book he wrote in 2005), a “general contraction,” whereby “The urban metroplexes of the U.S. have assumed a scale and complexity of operation that cannot be sustained in the coming disposition of things. They will contract substantially.”

And what is this “coming disposition of things?” According to Kunstler, they include “population overshoot, the fossil-fuel quandary, competition over dwindling resources, an unsound banking system, climate uncertainty, and much more.”

When it comes to human habitations, especially in America, Kunstler doesn’t have a lot of nice things to say. He doesn’t like high rises, writing “Cities that are overburdened with skyscrapers and megastructures face an added degree of failure. These buildings will never be renovated in the coming era of resource and capital scarcity.” But he […] Read More