The Uncanny Valley

Notes on art, culture and preservation

Posts Tagged ‘walkability

Is American sprawl helping the terrorists win?

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Before the 20th century, obviously

On the surface, it’s an absurd correlation. And yet, as Patrick Doherty writes (and Emily Badger further analyzes), the history of real estate development over the 20th century was closely linked to pressing concerns of national defense.

The federal government paved highways across the United States in part for security purposes. Besides keeping nuclear facilities accessible while out of harm’s way, they ushered in an era of suburban housing and consumption that de-centered the nation’s urban economy and yielded the financial muscle required to hold its own against Soviet Russia.

That was then. The key to addressing today’s foreign policy threats? Walkable communities. Badger writes:

Doherty’s basic idea is that pent-up demand for such communities could help power a new American economic engine in the same way that suburban housing (and all of the consumption that came with it) made America economically and globally powerful in the Cold War era.

This idea may change how you look at the mixed-use condo on your street corner (it’s helping to make America strong again!). But it also changes how you may think about the history of suburban development.

And this is where the correlation between sustainability and defense becomes obvious. Greater walkability means less need for oil, which means, one hopes, fewer international conflicts springing from demand for the earth’s resources.

Interesting read throughout. Try suggesting that as an argument for more density and fewer parking spots in the city…just anticipate some icy stares from neighbors at the next zoning meeting.

“Walkable Urbanism as Foreign Policy” [The Atlantic Cities]

“A New U.S. Grand Strategy” [Foreign Policy]


Written by cwmote

January 31, 2013 at 2:55 pm