James Howard Kunstler at Lehigh on September 16
If you ask someone with an interest in urbanism to name three books that were the most influential to her/him, chances are the reply will be Jane Jacobs’s Death and Life of Great American Cities plus two others.
For me, one of these “others” would have to be James Howard Kunstler’s Geography of Nowhere. This book provides a sweeping history of the built environment United States that shows how a confluence of social and cultural factors, along with poor government policy, contributed to patterns of development that–in many areas–siphoned growth and investment away from the urban core.
More than a decade since Geography first appeared, Kunstler’s insights seem especially apt, especially in light of the growing interest in greening our national and regional economies. This is from the chapter entitled “Better Places”:
There are some things we can predict about the physical arrangement of life in the coming decades. The most obvious is that we will have to rebuild our towns and cities in order to have any kind of advanced economy at all. In fact, this enterprise may turn out to be the engine that powers our economy for years to come, much the same way that the suburban build-out did–with results, one hopes, of more lasting value. To accomplish it, we will have to reacquire the lost art of town planning and radically revise the rules of building, especially the zoning codes that impoverish our present townscapes.
In his most recent nonfiction book, Kunstler focuses on the vast implications of end of the era of cheap oil. He will be at Lehigh University later this month to discuss this and related issues. This free public event will be Wednesday, September 16, at 7:00 p.m., in Lewis Lab 270. For additional information, call 610-758-2553.