Thursday, July 8, 2010
Americans may not have invented urban sprawl, but damnit if we didn't perfect it. Nothing says American "suckiness" like the suburban wastelands that surround our cities. There are literally hundreds of thousands of square miles in the US that look exactly the same - full of strip malls, franchise restaurants, gas stations, and Pleasantville-eerie subdivisions with completely b.s. names like "Meadow Lakes," "River Run," "Hillside Terrace," or "Beaver Dam." Of course, none of these places contain any such landscapes - no lakes, no rivers, no terraces, and they killed all the beavers when they built the shit.
How did it start, you ask? Well, I'll tell you a little story ... once upon a time America won a war. It was a great, mechanized war, fueled by a relatively new energy source called "crude oil." During the war, the early pioneers of this energy source extracted millions upon millions of barrels of this stuff and synthesized it into various fuels, which powered war machines such as tanks and planes and jeeps and crap like that. After America won this war and her soldiers returned victorious, the great oil barons were all like, "shit, now what do we do?" The answer came in the form of cooperative agreements with automobile manufacturers and various state and city governments. The deal (in simplistic language) was this: we'll make it so every American has to have a car ... no, two cars ... and that way we can all get rich.
And so, urban sprawl as we know it was born. Post-World-War-II America saw growth unmatched by any other nation in history. Suburban counties and developers created a vast marketing campaign luring returning GIs and their families with the promise of country living close enough to the industrialized urban centers (you know, where the jobs were) that these new suburban "pioneers" could drive to work or to the grocery store and whatnot. Pretty soon, this concept exploded around just about every major city in the US, the most successful being places like Los Angeles, Detroit, New York City, and Chicago. I mean, the US had tons of land, tons of oil, an eager workforce ... why the hell not.
Well, now look at us. The entire nation is a clustercuss of traffic congestion and architectural hegemony. You can't get anywhere in this damn place without a car. Excepting maybe New York and Chicago, public transit in this country is a total joke. You can't really walk anywhere because there aren't any sidewalks - well, not really - in the suburban landscape. Even if there were, who the hell would want to walk? There are no trees for shade, you have to negotiate six-lane highways full of speeding idiots driving monstrous SUVs, and everything's so spread out that you couldn't walk to anything anyway. Not to mention, we're all fat (probably because we CAN'T walk anywhere). It's just one big mess.
Here lately, people have been throwing around ideas about things like "smart growth" and "pedestrian-friendly" planning, but the majority of Americans aren't buying it. We love our cars too much and we're way lazy. Not to mention, a large demographic of Americans harbor latent prejudices against the certain groups of people and wouldn't, not for all the transfats in the world, consider living in more densely-populated urban areas inhabited by those certain groups of people. To do so would call for a significant change in the "culture" (I use that term loosely and will probably be struck dead for doing so) and we all know how Americans feel about their "traditions" and "freedoms" and "independence" and blah, blah, blah. I mean, that's commie talk.
So, we're just stuck with the sprawl and all the joys it brings. Maybe after the great "energy apocalypse" Americans will get a clue ... but, Americans suck, so probably not.