I’ve been watching with interest the discussions in real estate news of the suburbs drying up, with vast numbers projected for empty homes and developments going into the future, and little market to fill them. This will be called overbuilding, and there is that, but I think it’s something else.
Similar news for rural communities goes something like this: “This family was spending $800/mo in gasoline to commute to the city for their jobs, while living in a sprawling house in this idyllic rural community, with schools they like, and a down home feeling. Now they’re spending $1600/mo in gas, and are having to abandon their home and move to the city to be closer to their jobs.”
The first question I have is: you were spending what?!? $800/mo on gasoline? And you were OK with that? How can you justify something like that? That’s just decadent, and morally wrong.
The mortgage and gasoline issues tend to get overblown to make news or underblown because of people’s unbelief about change, but what’s not being talked about is the level of decadence we were comfortable with until now. Living an hour or more from our jobs in the country, or 45min in the suburbs, consuming vast amounts of fuel to compensate, living in gymnasium-sized homes in a sedentary, fast-food, big-box store, media-entertainment culture.
And now the chickens are coming home to roost, and everyone’s sad.
In a hundred years, we’ll look more like India.You can’t live this way forever – it’s not sustainable. It’s silly to live long distances from the place you work. It’s silly to demand so much space that you have to drive until dark to get there. It’s silly to create “communities” out in the middle of nowhere that aren’t sustained by industry or a purpose. And they’re NOT communities, not really – they’re recreational leisure villas.
An associate whose ideas I admire says that the future of how people will live is concentrated urban environments. Other countries already evidence the model – we’re twisting and turning and whining about it because we think we’re special. But just the type of industry that’s growing in the US tells you that work will be centered around large facilities or large urban communities, where the critical mass of brains (the workforce) and the easy flow of money (facilities and finance) are. The days of settling in Nowhere, Idaho are as gone as the farming industry, which isn’t exactly multiplying. In a hundred years, says my friend, we’ll look more like India.
So what we’re seeing is the ‘karmic’ outcome of ideology over rationality, and priviledge over ethics, and the tendency of systems to seek balance — like the human body, striving to repair itself, and deal with excess, foolishness, and abuse.
What does this have to do with a blog about work? Well, work isn’t an isolated part of the system; it’s an integral organ. What we’re seeing is that it affects where and how we live, even if we play the rebel for a long time. And interestingly enough, it holds us by the balls of our economy. Mess with it, and it starts to squeeze.