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The future of cities, some reflections on reflections from Kunstler

James Kunstler’s first book, The Geography of Nowhere, was a strong force in exciting my interest in city planning. But the more I learned about the nature of cities and their dynamics, the more I saw through his journalistic view of the world. His ideas are persuasively presented, but typically barren of justifications and evidence. That is fine. He is a journalist and I am an academic.

This more recent essay from Kunstler (now two years old) is not all bad, however. He weaves together a variety of drivers on which to base a coherent and persuasive vision for the future of cities. I appreciate where he ends up. Though, there are more than a few outstanding questions:

-Are skyscrapers really not environmental?

-What about the semi-reliable predictions that the future of global population growth will reside in the equivalent of 10 new megacities of 10 million inhabitants each year for the next 20 years.

-Is there available real estate to develop at only the suggested 6 story level for such gargantuan growth? I have not run the numbers but I suggest not.

-A central premise of his arguments rests on the decline of cheap oil and water. Will this really be the case in 30 years? Have we not been hearing of such for the past 30 years? And, if it does become more scarce, who is to say that government subsidies–or lack of taxes–won’t diminish the impact.

-And, I certainly don’t get the impression that Harvard GSD is anti-new urbanism. Maybe I am missing something (again).

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