Climate change meets sprawl at the synthetic waterline along the Gulf of Mexico. Perilous developments these days for the Houston Ship Channel and places like Rockport, Texas, seen in the image above from a Google Maps screen shot. Turning away from the spectacle of Hurricane Harvey’s wet trek into Texas is just about impossible.
A changing world asks questions about the way we build communities and operate their economies. America’s fourth largest city is also a source of the fossil fuels that helped make sprawl and climate change possible. Business as usual this time next year?
Boom town, flood town. Climate change will bring more frequent and fierce rainstorms to cities like Houston. But unchecked development remains a priority in the famously un-zoned city, creating short-term economic gains for some while increasing flood risks for everyone
Hell and high water
propublica.org – this is a map/graphics rich feature from March 2016
Mississauga is tough for us to figure out at times, even though the suburban-poverty.com office complex has been located in this sprawlalicious place for some five full years now. Surrey, BC? Never been. Both places are mentioned right away in this sensible article asking that we consider framing where most of us find ourselves living a little differently.
Forget downtowns and suburbs: the “in-between cities” are where it’s at
cbc.ca The 180 with Jim Brown
Reconnecting the in-between city
image: Surrey, BC by Waferboard via Flickr/CC
Two strong features from the US that show us car-dependent sprawl is configured quite deeply against those with low incomes.
No Driver’s License, No Job? Conservative policymakers urge those in need to get work. But for those without driver’s licenses—who are by and large people of color—that’s not such an easy task
Poor people pay for parking even when they can’t afford a car
Image: alden Jewell via Flickr/CC
A fresh angle on the effect of built form on workers in this essay from Shelterforce.
Sprawl vs. unions. The three very different stories of the building trades in Atlanta, Denver, and Portland, Ore., show just how much urban development patterns affect workers
image: Andrei Dragusanu/Flickr
Sitting thinking about physical health and the general quality of life in the sprawl and what do we come across on Fast Company’s site but this article with its catchy title. The links in it take you through to a University of Utah study associating denser metropolitan areas with higher rates of personal well-being and success.
Social mobility for poor children is held back by suburban sprawl according to a new report. If we want to see people of modest means and their kids go somewhere in life we better make sure they enjoy access to good, cheap public transit. This item from Al-Jazeera links you through to the report which comes from Smart Growth America and the University of Utah’s Metropolitan Urban Center:
image: USDA via Wikimedia Commons
Hit by ice storms, high winds and heavy snow this winter Atlanta was seen to nearly grind to a halt at times. The exceptional weather highlighted some worrisome things about life in that massively sprawled southern city: indicators of human risk built right into the general living arrangements there. Low density, car-centric living in Atlanta doesn’t function particularly well for the poor on a sunny day. Add in northern winter conditions and things get ugly. Weak choices that overemphasize fast food and long treks for food in extreme weather are commonplace for low income Atlantans year round. As the bad weather recedes the underlying vulnerability doesn’t and extremes of heat are also difficult. A huge component of vulnerability year round is the area’s food deserts which are the subject of the Guardian piece linked below (which appears also in Atlanta Magazine).
Atlanta’s food deserts leave its poorest citizens stranded and struggling. It seems unthinkable but in a major US city, thousands cannot get to places where fresh, affordable food is available Guardian
The day we lost Atlanta. How 2 lousy inches of snow paralyzed a metro area of 6 million
Politico provided an excellent and widely read feature on the effect of January’s Icepocalypse on Atlanta’s vast sprawl
See also: (421) Let it snow
image: breakfast cereal by Zanastardust via Wikimedia Commons
Sounds like Santa needs a break. In fact, if Santa can’t hack it, who can? “This is kickin’ the shit outta me,” Santa told the New York Times last year. “Deliverin’ to all these spread out communities is wrecking the reindeer, the turnover on ’em is unbelievable nowadays,” he told an interviewer from the Times while in a physiotherapist’s office.
This year looks to be a repeat in a now familiar trend toward difficult, long ranging missions to spread Christmas joy to every girl and boy across the landscape of a massively altered continent.
“You’d think with an aging population I’d have gotten a break over the last few years,” Santa told suburban-poverty.com in an email this week. “But nope, now I know why the post office is throwing in the friggin’ towel. All that distance I gotta cover to drop a handful of toys. Complete bullshit. I could do all of Montreal back in the forties in about the same time it takes me to maybe do half of Brampton now. And Alberta, forget it.”
Santa found early post-war suburbs relatively easy to accommodate. “The extra space was actually handy,” he said of trips to south Etobicoke in the early 1950s. “But sweet sufferin’ crap, the sleigh took fifteen rounds from an AK-47 in Rexdale last year. I ain’t no spring chicken.”
“Is a reindeer gonna have to die?” asked an animal rights activist speaking to suburban-poverty.com anonymously about the logistics of the holiday season. “It’s not just the violence, lack of social services and slow 911 response times out there. Traffic is murder on top of everything else, both day and night.” The source went on to describe exhausted reindeer forced to work triple shifts without breaks covering massive distances and barely able to cope. “It’s just a matter of time,” claimed the source.
“Something better change,” said Santa. “Cause I can’t hack this shit anymore. All these huge roads, spread out subdivisions and everything built willy nilly all over hell’s half acre. What were people thinking? There used to be beautiful fields out there, farmland with moonlight sparkling magically over it, the glow of Rudolph’s nose guiding me over dark pine woods and shimmering rivers. Now there’s nothing but worn out strip malls and garbage everywhere. What the hell were people thinking?”
Sprawl repair remains a somewhat controversial subject. North Americans should probably be further down the path of working out how to make better suburbs than they are. In America the economy has clearly held back experimentation with built forms that would represent a more mature kind of urbanism. Nonetheless, approaches to bettering the sprawl before it’s too late are on the books. This piece from 2010 acts as a primer on the topic and we read it with some interest. Counter-arguments appear in the comments after the article and they represent some practical issues. It seems also that there is a bit of an emotional backlash against the kind of improvements on offer by New Urbanists as too expensive, fake, unworkable, pseudo-European, top-down impositions. The YouTube clip in the second link transposes a sprawl repair effort over locations in Charlotte, NC. After watching, ask yourself where you would rather live, work and invest. As far as we can see, the problem with sprawl repair for North Amerca is only the vastness of the undertaking, not the concept itself. The adherents of sprawl repair better get busy and do a good job of selling what they’ve got.
Sprawl repair: what it is and why we need it Planetizen
image by suburban poverty using NARA photo of Phoenix via Wikimedia Commons