Monday, June 25, 2007

The Vast Availability of Land

Joel Kotkin announces that Houston, Texas is the pinnacle of modern civilization, and a beacon lighting our way into the future:

When speaking on urban issues, one reliable way to draw derisive comments is to mention Houston. Perhaps no major city in America has a worse reputation among planners, urban aesthetes and smart growth advocates.

Yet, to a remarkable extent, Houston may well defy its critics — not only by continuing to expand, but by constructing a new and dynamic model of American urbanism that transcends all the worn cliches about ''sprawl''....
Houston will defy its critics by continuing to grow. And what’s more, this process will be dynamic. There’s some paradigm-shattering wisdom for you!

In Kotkinland - a colonial outpost of Cockaigne - growth is unlimited and illimitable, thanks to “the vast availability of land” and the convenience of the automobile. Water availability, drainage, oil prices, and the cost and availability of raw materials don’t enter into his calculations; like Althusserian interpellation and triple-ribbed vibrating buttplugs, these are fashionable preoccupations of the “chattering classes.” Affluence breeds growth, and growth affluence; that’s all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Rather than impositions by government fiat, Houston's myriad master-planned communities are largely creations of the planners' nightmare — the marketplace. They reflect a typically pragmatic, market-oriented, Houston-style approach: building the kinds of housing that people demand….
Damn straight. To hell with urban planners and their pompous talk of “congestion” and “nonpermeable surfaces” and “fossil water.” It’s time to elbow these tweed-clad, chardonnay-addled academics aside and give the people what they want, like they’re doing in Galveston:
Leaders of this fast-eroding barrier island — the scene of the deadliest hurricane in American history — are about to approve nearly 4,000 new homes and two midrise hotels despite geologists' warnings that the massive development would sever a ridge that serves as the island's natural storm shield….

Scientists estimate that Galveston is moving about a quarter-inch closer to the water every year because of rising sea levels and a slow sinking of the surface caused by oil extraction.
Galveston’s quite correct to ignore these geologists; they may have memorized a few obscure facts about rocks and dirt, but that doesn’t make them experts on urban planning, let alone consumer empowerment.

In other news, the Eastern Garbage Patch is currently twice the size of Texas. Three cheers for consumer choice!

(Illustration: “The Land of Cockaigne” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1567.)

No comments: