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The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and…

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made… (1993)

by James Howard Kunstler

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Terrific read. Kunstler writes very well and pulls no punches. This was the best book I've read in years and an excellent invitation to delving into the tradeoffs in both architecture and the public spaces where it lives. ( )
  randcraw | Nov 22, 2014 |
This Author gets very high marks for his politics and vision on this important subject, but loses points for his tendency to belabour the obvious. This is a work which, paradoxically, I would like all my friends to read -- and then put aside forever in favout of further, more sophisticated studies. ( )
  HarryMacDonald | Mar 6, 2013 |
An old (1993) but still important book decrying our suburban mall culture and the consequent loss of community, and advocating for new thinking about zoning and land-use laws. ( )
  sallysvenson | Mar 15, 2012 |
The author presents a picture of the urban landscape as a homogenous, unchanging blur, with cities running into each other and virtually unrecognizable. I think this is a bit of a stretch, though he does make a good case that there has been a standardization of the landscape occurring over the past half century. Mostly, he just takes his thesis too far. ( )
  quantum_flapdoodle | Apr 17, 2011 |
James Howard Kunstler brings up very thoughtful points in this book. It made me observe my world a little differently, from the buildings I see every day to the infrastructure on which I rely, to my complete inability (and everyone else's as well) to do without an automobile in this crazy, silly little world we call ours. Kunstler addresses the problem of the loss of community as a symptom of urban sprawl, and he's right.

Of course, there are many people to blame for this mess we've created, most of them long dead, and therefore excused from punishment. On the other hand, the mess they've helped create just tumbles along in the name of profit and growth.

I was assigned chapters from this book for a college course on Cities and Suburbs. I've always meant to read it in its entirety and I'm glad I did. I remember reading an article of Kunstler's (an excerpt from a book, actually) from The Long Emergency, which is a bit scary and alarmist, but also very good.

If only we could reverse time's hand by about 200 years, perhaps we'd have an entirely different place to observe. Then again, maybe not. The last chapter, "Better Places," was especially moving for me. He described the plight of farmers in Vermont in the 1980s and '90s. It's almost exactly what happened to my grandparents, who were dairy farmers their whole lives. Lacking understanding about what a "land trust" means, they sold to a developer and were completely swindled. Though there are undoubtedly some who want to continue farming, land prices and property taxes make it nearly impossible to continue a family tradition. It is really too sad.

"Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of a cancer cell." - Edward Abbey ( )
  carrieprice78 | Feb 3, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0671888250, Paperback)

The Geography of Nowhere traces America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where every place is like no place in particular, where the cities are dead zones and the countryside is a wasteland of cartoon architecture and parking lots.

In elegant and often hilarious prose, Kunstler depicts our nation's evolution from the Pilgrim settlements to the modern auto suburb in all its ghastliness. The Geography of Nowhere tallies up the huge economic, social, and spiritual costs that America is paying for its car-crazed lifestyle. It is also a wake-up call for citizens to reinvent the places where we live and work, to build communities that are once again worthy of our affection. Kunstler proposes that by reviving civic art and civic life, we will rediscover public virtue and a new vision of the common good. "The future will require us to build better places," Kunstler says, "or the future will belong to other people in other societies."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:46 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Eighty percent of everything ever built in America has been built since the end of World War II. This tragic landscape of highway strips, parking lots, housing tracts, mega-malls, junked cities, and ravaged countryside is not simply an expression of our economic predicament, but in large part a cause. It is the everyday environment where most Americans live and work, and it represents a gathering calamity whose effects we have hardly begun to measure." "In The Geography of Nowhere, James Howard Kunstler traces America's evolution from a nation of Main Streets and coherent communities to a land where everyplace is like noplace in particular, where the city is a dead zone and the countryside a wasteland of cars and blacktop. Now that the great suburban build-out is over, Kunstler argues, we are stuck with the consequences: a national living arrangement that destroys civic life while imposing enormous social costs and economic burdens. Kunstler explains how our present zoning laws impoverish the life of our communities, and how all our efforts to make automobiles happy have resulted in making human beings miserable. He shows how common building regulations have led to a crisis in affordable housing, and why street crime is directly related to our traditional disregard for the public realm." "Kunstler takes the reader on a historical journey to understand how Americans came to view their landscape as a commodity for exploitation rather than a social resource. He explains why our towns and cities came to be wounded by the abstract dogmas of Modernism, and reveals the paradox of a people who yearn for places worthy of their affection, yet bend their efforts in an economic enterprise of destruction that degrades and defaces what they most deeply desire." "Kunstler proposes sensible remedies for this American crisis of landscape and townscape: a return to sound principles of planning and the lost art of good place-making, an end to the tyranny of compulsive commuting, the unreality of the suburb, the alienation and violence of downtown, the vulgarity of the highway strip, and the destruction of our countryside. The Geography of Nowhere puts the issue of how we actually live squarely at the center of our ongoing debate about the nation's economy and America's future.… (more)

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