• Apr 26th 2008 at 1:29PM
  • 4
We can green up cars all we want, it's still going to require a lot of energy to move heavy vehicles down the street. Also, driving all the time feeds into a certain kind of life. While many places in the U.S. have been built in such a way that they require driving as a part of everyday life, not everyone is in favor of such a lifestyle. One of them is James Howard Kunstler, author of "The Geography of Nowhere", who recently started a 15-minute weekly podcast that covers "the coming end of suburbia and cheap oil." His general take is that no matter what the alternative fuel, the only real solution is to rethink what it means to be mobile and how we get around.

If you want a flavor of what Kunstler's 'cast is all about, here's a snippet from episode 7, called "Fate of Flagstaff & Hydrogen Cars":

The problem in America is not that we're driving the wrong kind of cars, per se.The trouble in the United States is we're driving incessantly. We're driving every kind of car there is, incessantly. And we've got to find a way out of the incessant motoring and a way to live without it, and a happy way to live without it-not a punishment way to live without it, but a way to be happy and do it. And it means, really, a completely different paradigm for everyday life.

My kind of guy. If Kunstler sounds like someone you'd like to hear more from, check out the website and/or sign up in iTunes. Read more after the jump. Thanks to show host and producer Duncan Crary for the tip!

Press Release:

Top Suburban Sprawl Critic Launches Podcast
James Howard Kunstler, Author of "The Geography of Nowhere", Features Weekly on Talk Show

TROY, N.Y. -- One of the world's loudest and funniest critics of suburban sprawl is now podcasting.

The KunstlerCast is a weekly talk show about "the tragic comedy of suburban sprawl," featuring James Howard Kunstler. Updated Thursdays, each 15-minute program tackles the coming end of suburbia and cheap oil.

"Suburbia is a living arrangement with no future," Kunstler said. "I believe a lot of people share my feelings about the tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside that makes up the everyday environment where most Americans live and work."

A former staff writer for Rolling Stone Magazine, Kunstler is best known as the author of "The Geography of Nowhere," a landmark anti-sprawl book that gave people a vocabulary and syntax to articulate their growing disgust with the American suburban landscape. Kunstler's own language is peppered with snarky descriptions, like "parking lagoons", "one-story UFOs", "Nature Band-Aids", "patriotic totems", "fry pits", "starchitecture" and "yesterday's tomorrow."

Duncan Crary, 29, the show's host and producer, approached Kunstler, 59, with the idea of podcasting to expose a new generation of Americans to these ideas.

"As a teenager growing up on a cul-de-sac in the burbs, I knew there was something wrong with the place where I lived. But I couldn't quite say what it was until I read 'The Geography of Nowhere.' Then I figured it out," Crary said. "Do you know what a cul-de-sac is, really? It's a dead-end circle."

Although Kunstler's books have become standard reading in urban planning courses, he has no formal training in planning or design. In college he majored in theater, which perhaps provided a foundation for his mainstream appeal and humor.

"It's sort of evolved into a comedy act," Kunstler said of his approach to critiquing life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. "Samuel Beckett put it well when he said 'Nothing is funnier than unhappiness.' These environments cause us so much unhappiness, so much distress, that they're a source of comedy."

Show topics on the KunstlerCast have included the overabundance of chain drugstores, dismal downtown parking garages, European car clubs and the future of small cities. Listeners from across North America have called with questions about hideous architecture, the fate of various cities and alternative fuels.

Kunstler dismisses the quest to find an alternative fuel to replace oil as a wish to keep the American automobile fleet running at all costs. But, he notes, you can't run 200 million vehicles, WalMart and Disney World on used French fried potato oil.

"The one thing that Americans are never talking about is building walkable cities or walkable neighborhoods. It doesn't require any heroic new technologies or new discoveries to create walkable environments, which are absolutely the most pleasant places to live in and get around," Kunstler said. "Sure we all have our own cars at our disposal all the time. But because of that there's almost no place in America that's worth being in or driving to!"

Kunstler's post-oil novel, "World Made By Hand", was published this month by Atlantic Monthly Press. His nonfiction books include "The City in Mind," "Home from Nowhere" and "The Long Emergency."

The KunstlerCast is available for listening anytime for free on the Internet.

The show also airs twice a week on KAYO-LP 92.9 FM & 94.3 FM Northwest Indy Radio in Washington State. Crary said he hopes other independent community radio stations will carry the show soon.

For information, visit: KunstlerCast.com

[Source: KunstlerCast]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      Making walkable cities is going to take massive redevelopment of existing cities, which means displacing a lot of people, on the scale of the "urban renewal" of the 50s and 60s.

      Zoning laws need to go away. Cities that existed pre-automobile grew rather organically. And in fact, the first real suburbs appeared along rail lines.

      I don't know what it's going to take to get us off oil for transportation. This is one way out, though.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Ya, zoning is a big problem. The zoning boards want houses in one area, with no businesses, and 5 or 8 miles away, all businesses with no housing. Many of these places are only linked with highways which are extremely unfriendly to walking or biking. Even NEVs are not really an option in most places.

      After decades of sprawl, there has finally started to be a change to this trend. In the Washington DC area where I live there are several new developments with a much better/denser mix of housing/businesses with actual town centers were walking is once again a viable alternative.

      But, I still think it is imperative to come up with alternative vehicles. We are not going to reverse decades of sprawl overnight, and lots of people like the suburbs. You can't expect everyone to change to denser living environments, just because somebody says they need to.

      I agree with the argument that we probably can't grow enough crops to produce all the fuel we need. Hydrogen is very inefficient and has huge infrastructure issues, so that leave BEVs as the best alternative for the foreseeable future.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Unless you are very high income, moving to high-density inner city residences means exposing yourself to high crime areas.

      Here even moving only a few miles away from public housing projects drastically cuts the crime rate.

      Sell me one of the new high-mileage "clean enough" diesels that start arriving back in the U.S. this fall, and I can easily store enough fuel for a year of driving at my suburban home.
      • 8 Months Ago
      I guess he has never been to rural America. Walkable cities sound good in theory, will there be enough jobs to go around?
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