About Endlessness
Two Smart People Discuss the Disintegration of Culture


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BANANA. Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.

I'm sympathetic.


I'm not against building, or against towns. I'm against the monster urban sprawl that's one result of the place of the automobile in our society. Result of and cause of.

William Gibson used The Sprawl, capitalized, in a series of sci-fi novels to describe an urban sprawl that encompassed a big part of the U.S. (former U.S.?I don't remember).

A couple miles from where I live a large section of woodland is being cleared for some sort of development or other. Not sure yet if it's residential or commercial, but it has partially ruined what was formerly a nice country road, and it has undoubtedly driven the deer into even smaller quarters, which means that more of them will end up both in the roads and in people's gardens. I can hardly wait! /s

There are still a lot of wooded areas in this township, and a handful of parks, at least one of which operates as a sort of nature reserve, but "development" is most definitely the priority, and the place is not nearly as attractive as it was when I first moved here 30 years ago. It was still a suburb back in those days, but we were close enough to the countryside that you felt like you were "away from it all," at least partially. That's simply not the case anymore.


We live in the country, but what you are describing is what is happening on the roads we drive on to get to town. For a short time, I had a blog where I took pictures of four different areas every week to note seasonal change. Now one of them, a beautiful swampy area, has been completely demolished, and they are building a road through it.

Another field has been cleared of all its trees. A fb field that used to be planted in sunflowers is now full of identical houses.



I wasn't sure if you meant urban sprawl or a band named Sprawl.

You seem very isolated where you are, despite the fact that you are surrounded by houses.


Well, I wouldn't say "very isolated," and it's not nearly as much so as it was when we first moved here almost 30 years ago. But for being in town it's pretty secluded, and there's no through traffic.

What provoked this post was a visit up to my ancestral homeland in north Alabama. Take what you and Rob describe and multiply it by 10 or so to get the extent of the changes. The thickest sort of commercial sprawl where there once were cotton fields, country roads now five lane sprawl-fares. And in the immediate vicinity of what was the family farm there are dramatic changes from month to month, and it's industrial. A Toyota plant literally across the road (also now a five-lane highway) is the center of it and driving the rest.

I would not be at all surprised if there's a band called The Sprawl.

We don't have these issues in Wyoming LOL! Part of the reason I came here.

Wyoming is on my agenda for the weeks-long western trip I've planned for years to take. Well, maybe "planned" is overstating it. Dreamed of, maybe.

Wyoming is on my driving-to-Seattle map.

The growth of de facto Memphis neighborhoods was stopped by the 2008 recession, but it has been picking up for a few years, and is really going strong now.

That's terrible about the area where you grew up.

I was thinking if there was a band named Scrawl you would likely like it.




What do you mean by "de facto" neighborhoods?

Memphians are moving south. North Mississippi is are basically a suburb of Memphis.


Oh, I see. Same thing with Birmingham. And I guess most cities. With Bham and Montgomery it's the small towns close to the city proper that are the prestigious addresses.

I'm considering moving to east central Ohio at some point, specifically a largely rural area roughly equidistant (90 miles) from Columbus, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, Pa. The nearest "large" town would be Coshocton, which has a population of about 10,000. Not much chance for sprawl there, at least in my lifetime, while still close enough to amenities that I wouldn't feel like a pacifist version of the Unabomber.

Although there's a lot I like about Western Pa., which is where I've lived all my life except for two years in Dallas, there's not much to keep me here anymore. All of my close relatives now live elsewhere, and the only aspects in which I still feel "rooted" here are my church, where I've been an active member for 20+ years now, and, oddly enough, my local pub, where I've made some good friends over the past few years.

If you mean not much chance for sprawl because the area is not especially attractive economically, you might escape it. But my small town is sprawling horribly, and nearby little towns are worse. It seems that there's no middle ground between sprawl and death.

My maternal grandmother was from Washington, PA, and looking at a map of that area now for the first time in many years I see it's much closer to Pittsburgh than I had realized.

On American Conservative the other day someone quoted Russell Kirk as saying that the automobile is a mechanical Jacobin.

Yeah, "Little Washington," as we call it, is about 30 mi. south of here. It was originally called that not so much because it's small, but to differentiate it from Wash., D.C.

Some of the towns in east central Ohio are spreading that way while others are not. In the area that I'm considering they are far enough apart that I think you could mostly avoid it if you chose wisely.

I visited there once in my teens, some relatives who farmed, and remember the countryside being really beautiful.

Currently reading Grace Olmstead's new book Uprooted, and she has a lot to say about suburban sprawl as she witnessed its effects in her Idaho hometown. She does a good job of explaining how the economics of the thing work. A friend of mine who grew up in Bozeman, Montana, and who goes back to visit periodically tells a similar story.

Olmstead's book is an excellent primer for people who are unfamiliar with the questions raised about these sorts of issues by older writers like Berry. She takes into consideration the fact that many contemporary people, and not just younger ones, know little or nothing about farming, food production, and rural small town life. It's a great book for someone who might find writers like Berry or Allan Carlson daunting.

That sounds good but I'm not sure I want to put myself through it. I'm having enough difficulty dealing with the uprooting that's going on with my own places. The economics part would probably be both enlightening and exasperating (or worse).

"That sounds good but I'm not sure I want to put myself through it."

Understood. It's a dispiriting read at times, as almost all books of its sort are. You can almost hear the shades of the 12 Southerners whispering over your shoulder, "We told you so."

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