He Says Cities Aren’t Smart, Just Trendy
I grew up in a small town so I’ve always been fascinated by big cities, and I almost certainly fall into the category of clueless snobs identified by a I guy I just talked to.
The guy is named Michael Lind and he just wrote an article for Salon that zeroed in on the needs for future infrastructure. Basically, he thinks fossil fuels are going to continue to energize the world for generations and fixed rail transportation will soon be a thing of the past.
Trains, see, are kept going only thanks to sentimentality and because a few people think they’re cool.
I called Lind to draw him out on the subject of robocars, which he sees as being the future of coordinated (though not really mass) transportation. And I decided his ideas are founded on the belief that the only people who like trains, mass transportation and dense cities belong to a small, crabby collection of liberal elites.
He believes that car-dependent, point to point transportation is the only kind of travel people in developed countries will accept. The ability to mine shale gas means we have a virtually endless supply of fossil fuels so we might as well get used to it and forget about the windmills and solar panels. The only “alternative” energy that makes sense to him is nuclear.
He believes building dense communities and giving up cars only makes sense if they free market tells us they make sense, and it doesn’t… according to Lind.
I won’t waste much time saying why I disagree with him, though I WILL say this guy seems to ignore the huge expense in energy, cash, roads and sewer pipes that it takes to build and maintain sprawling suburbs. But he has a point when he says urban liberals turn their lifestyles into a moral issue.
Lots of people on bikes have an attitude which says, “I am riding a bike and you are driving a car, therefore I am morally superior so get out of my way even if I’m running red lights and riding in one lane, three-abreast.” I know this because I used to ride a bike and had a similar attitude.
I once read that Hummer drivers joked that the car I drive should be called the Toyota Pious. Funny.
But even before being whacked by a car, which put an end to my cycling, I think I realized that the microscopic reduction I was making in greenhouse gas emissions was not a worthy motivation for mounting a bike, nor was the mistaken belief that I really was being a better person than you.
So let me say this: I live in what is (locally) considered an urban neighborhood because I like old houses. I walk to work sometimes, and to the grocery store most of the time, because I like the exercise, it’s relaxing to not be in a hurry and it causes me to run into neighbors and ask them what’s going on.
Am I being a snob? At some point you have to stop worrying about that, otherwise you’re just way too self-conscious. But to those who live in the distant ‘burbs, please enjoy it because I believe in freedom. But I also believe, unlike Mr. Lind, that the gravy train we’ve enjoyed thanks to oil and gas will not last forever because it will either run out, or do intolerable damage to our environment.
On the other hand… I could be wrong.