Death of Sprawl: Past and Future


Seems like my chapter “The Death of Sprawl” from The Post Carbon Reader is taking on a life of its own. Friday, Christopher Leinberger had an Op-ed in the New York Times, titled “Death of the Fringe Suburb,” which built upon concepts I had published (and sent Leinberger last year) namely, that the US mortgage crisis and Recession were set off by upsidedown economics of sprawl speculation in US exurbs or “Boomburbs” and we can’t ever do that again.

The site Adapturbia also recently put together a nifty visual presentation of “The Death of Sprawl” that localized my content to provide context for sprawl issues confronting Sydney, Australia.

What’s important here is that the research and the real estate sales figures are becoming ever clearer: people increasingly prefer to live in mixed-use, transit-oriented walkable and bikeable neighborhoods over drive-everywhere bedroom communities. Those preferences will not change and we will not go back, which is affirmed by the abandoned exurban housing and development that are fast becoming the nation’s newest slums: for the first time in the nation’s history, suburban poverty now outweighs urban poverty.

One need only take a look at the foreclosure heavy areas such as California’s Inland Empire: my chapter provided a case study of Victorville, CA, one of the last gasps of the residential car-centered Boomburb economy of the 1990s and early 2000s.

Leinberger’s piece hit on the changing real estate taste in demographics (retired Boomers and upcoming Millennials) while my thesis examined how cheap energy fueled nearly 100% car-dependent exurban growth. We both concluded that denser, mixed-use metro areas are the wise investments of the future because: more people want to live that way so that is where investment will occur. Developers know that strip malls, sidewalk-less mini-mansions and business parks that cater to cars only are poison in this economy. Continue reading


Korea Postscript: The Story Behind the Shamanic Shrines

I later learned who was responsible for the candle shrines I described in my previous blog on Wednesday (“Korean Cites Tour: Changwon”).

Both nights I stayed in Busan, there were candles in small sand pits and candle-lanterns placed as shrines in the rocks next to the breaking waves outside my hotel window, on Korea’s rocky Pacific Coast.

The second night, I came across some women who placed the candles there and witnessed their ceremony offering blessings to the gods/ goddesses of the sea (see photo). Now in their fifties, sixties and seventies, these are the last of Korea’s famed shellfish divers preparing for their sunrise dive the next morning.

women shell divers

Using no air tank and risking the elements whenever weather permits, the country has about 5,000 of these brave spirits left, with 3,000 of them on the southern island of Cheju Do, and the other 2,000 on the nation’s mainland.