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Discuss: Back to the Future



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1 Plowboy on Jun 23, 2011

Tell it brother.

I’ve been in the habit of reading most everything JHK has published in the last 10 years or so. (His comedic timing alone is worth that effort, BTW) I think he suffers unduly from a lack of appreciation for Southern resiliency and coping skills, but that is a small quibble.

In this article he nails it, again. If there is one thing I’ve learned in my 25+ years of courtroom advocacy it is that you should deliver your message, relentlessly, until it gets through. Mssr. Kunstler certainly gets that too. Each year a few thousand more wake up, and before too long you have an accepted wisdom that can foment change. Not that our immediate future will require our agreement. We had that chance.


2 Nikos Salingaros on Jun 23, 2011

Bravo James!

You managed to spell out in this essay what hundreds of pages of scientific research has revealed about architectural and urban trends. That goes for proposed practical solutions that will be forced upon us by circumstances, while our leaders unfortunately cling to outdated utopian practices.

It especially holds true for the dangerously seductive pie-in-the-sky phony solutions that are all in fashion today. But I’m afraid that far too many academics and critics have their careers at stake, so those silly typologies will have to play out and waste even more energy for decades. In the end they will only hasten urban collapse.

3 Paul Crabtree on Jun 23, 2011

Had dinner this evening overlooking the skyline of Rome, where centuries of civilization endure. What existing civil works in America will remain for even a few decades, much less centuries? Probably just the earthworks of the largest boondoggle in the history of the planet: the Great American freeway system. Paul Crabtree, PE

4 Steve Coyle on Jun 23, 2011

Even if one disagrees with Jim’s predictions, can we really afford to believe that the massive forces we face - deminishing oil supplies, climate change, natural resource depletion, economic malaise - will be overcome through technology, over the long term?  We’ll need every drop of petro just to repair, replace, and build the infrastructure necessary to make a partial transition to renewable energy - but we apparently intend to consume what’s left in fuel tanks or to generate power to fuel our electric cars and air conditioners, and pump water.  As a New Urbanist, living simply, but productively and graciously - with a light footprint seems - like a “best practice” or the only viable practice, necessary for more than 15% of the planet.  As a combat veteran, I also know that things can turn ugly, quickly, so I’m hoping for a a bit of grace, a “reality intervention”, an event or circumstance that will awaken the dreamers, alarm the deniers, and denude the deluded with the least harm rendered in the process.

5 Alpha Griz on Jun 23, 2011

I love eve4rything Kunstler has written and this article is no exception. Nonetheless I find it interesting that he observes how future cities are invariably less about the future and more about what is happening now.  This holds true for his cities of the future as well.  The difference is that his vision of future cities is based on the present reality, not on techno-optimistic fantasies.  I do not know what sustainable cities will actually look like, but Kunstler has a rock solid good idea what they likely will look like and I can tell you they will little resemble our contemporary cities and suburbs (good riddance!).

6 Duncan on Jun 23, 2011

That was a really brilliant, thoughtful, well articulated essay.

I’m just grateful that there are a few people out there that really get the big picture regarding our past history, our current dilemmas, and the future that is unfolding before our eyes.

We need more people like Mr. Kunstler.


7 Mark Hogan on Jun 24, 2011

Kunstler basically does exactly what he blames the futurists of the past for- he extrapolates the current situation into the future. We’re running out of oil so of course society will grind to a halt. This completely ignores all advances into solar power, alternative fuels, electric vehicles and massive improvements in building performance evidenced by the growing Passivhaus movement. His vision of the future neatly fits with his own vision of what is wrong with the world today and he’d secretly love it for society to collapse so he could prove himself correct. I don’t buy it. This isn’t to say that there aren’t MANY things wrong with the world today but this vision of the future ignores the amazing human ability to innovate. I hope that innovation starts sooner rather than later though, it’s more important now than ever before to get the government behind forward-looking energy policies that realize fossil-fuels need to be phased out as soon as possible.

8 Jean on Jun 24, 2011

The skyscrapers deemed most “innovative” by today’s standards—the ones most dependent on high-tech materials and complex internal systems—will be the greatest failures. This includes many of the new “green buildings.” What does he mean re “green buildings”

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