American's Suburban Experiment

Charles Marohn, writing for Strong Towns:

Concurrent with the advent of the automobile came many other technological and social changes that allowed modern humans to dream big. Cheap fossil fuels. Advanced communication technology. Centralization of decision-making. Proactive management of the national economy. We attacked the problems of the traditional city with the fervor of a great nation empowered to think differently.

We developed different building types. Different building styles. We came up with different ways of arranging things on the landscape and different ways of connecting these places. We developed an entirely new system of regulation to rapidly replicate this new pattern along with the financing mechanisms and economic incentives to make it happen.

This all seems normal to us today – for most of us, it is all we have ever known – but it is critical to understand that, in the course of human history, the American development pattern is one of the greatest social, cultural and financial experiments ever attempted. The knowledge we apply daily in this experiment wasn’t developed by trial and error over the slow grind of centuries.

If into a social experiment you go without adapting, only pain will result when the experiment becomes unsustainable. Then the dark side will cloud everything.