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Friday, August 23, 2013


As a rule I don't hold well with ambiguity. I like precise things, cataloging things so that I know where I stand in relation to them. I suppose I've always understood this about myself, but reading Walter Isaacson's amazing biography of Steve Jobs lately has made me realize that for all the millions of differences between me and Apple's mercurial CEO, one of our similarities is this penchant for making everything in our lives binary; either good or bad, amazing or shit, etc.

This need to categorize everything has lead me to some confusion about what to do with this blog. I originally intended this blog to be an outlet for my writing that did not specifically fit into another publishable category, and for a way for me to celebrate the outstanding achievements of my alt-lit colleagues.Yet over the last year I've found myself less interested in creating other worlds so much as finding a way to positively influence the one that we live in right now. This has lead me to read a lot less fiction and a lot more news and non-fiction books--specifically those about urban planning, climate change, and resource scarcity. As the saying goes, writers must be readers, and a possible corollary to that is that writers can't help but start to write what they read. I have begun to do just that.

With leaks from the upcoming report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change beginning to surface showing the latest projections to be far gloomier than those from the last report, and more and more experts wringing their hands about looming scarcity of everything from oil to copper to water, I have come to the realization that spending whatever talents I've been given to write fictional stories is perhaps a slight waste of a potentially valuable resource. I say this not to belittle my friends and colleagues who would rather pursue fiction--I believe strongly that we should all do what makes us the happiest--but I feel that the time has come for me to stop worrying about the future and start doing as much as I can to shape the contours of that future.

I believe that there is a simple and elegant solution to most of the existential crises that we now face, and that is to organize--or reorganize--our cities around a more classical model, basing all urban planning decisions on what works best for the human, not human tools like cars. By building cities shorter, denser, with narrower streets and good public transportation, and little accommodation for personal vehicle use, we can simultaneously reduce carbon emissions, ease resource scarcity, combat the obesity/health epidemic, and once again create beautiful and edifying public places for people from all walks of life to enjoy, not just the wealthiest. Classical urbanism (which is how nearly every civilized human being lived until 1900) is a sort of silver bullet for nearly all of the illnesses now ailing civilization, and to a certain degree those under 40 are starting to understand this, if not overtly then intuitively. Story after story over the last few years has highlighted a Millennial desire to live in walkable urban places, free from car ownership and many of the hyper-consumptive patterns that have been the hallmark of the Boomers' tenure on this planet. I believe that this is the future and we will head there whether we like it or not, since our entire way of living is based on cheap resources, which will necessarily not be the norm in the future. Therefore, it seems to me that the only rational solution is to anticipate this future and make our cities the nicest possible places they can be while resources are still relatively cheap, capital formation is possible, and we are not yet in the grips of panic and the sort of short-sighted thinking that nearly always accompanies it.

I don't say all of this to intimate that this blog is now going to be solely about classical urbanism and architecture, climate change, and resource scarcity, but to give y'all a deeper insight into the meaning of the previous blog post, and to let you know that the content of this blog will likely change over time, as it has for much of its four year history. I am not giving up on fiction, but I am much more interested in exploring issues of political and social import right now and that will be reflected in the content of this blog.

Given my relative lack of experience in urban planning and development, I have very little idea of how I am going to make a dent, but I am convinced that I will find a way.