Urban Density

I’ve lived most of my life in dense urban environments, mostly in apartments and flats. I like and prefer it. The brief times I lived in the country or suburbia I didn’t like it. A decade or so ago, for about fifteen years, I lived in a huge old house, right in the middle of Seattle, and it was beautiful but, it was also larger than we needed and hard to maintain as well. Large houses, with yards or gardens, give you privacy and beauty, even in the city, but sometimes I wonder if they’re more trouble than they’re worth.

And don’t even get me started on suburbia or rural areas. I can’t stand them. The physical isolation, the fact that I need a vehicle to get anywhere, is singularly annoying to me. The cheap shoddiness of suburbia also annoys me–no sidewalks, no grid pattern streets, cheap houses with no basements. You see kids playing in the streets, maybe under the watchful eyes of adults but mostly the adults stay indoors. Trailer parks–the rural and suburban equivalent of slums–deny the idea that suburban life is somehow better than urban life. It is true that cities are psychologically isolating. Vast throngs lead to alienation but I’d rather have that than physical isolation.

These are mostly personal opinions. I realize that my choice of living environment is not for everyone. Suburbs have a few things going for them. They’re cheaper than the city and they are geared towards raising families but, I think it’s debatable that they’re safer or somehow better than dense city life. You can raise healthy, physically fit kids in the city, it’s just more expensive to.

But here’s something to notice: city dwellers spend their money on different things than suburban dwellers do. City dwellers are less likely to accumulate a lot of stuff simply because they don’t have room for it. Instead, they spend their money on less than tangiable things, travel, entertainment and so on.

Urban planners are beginning to realize that density is environmentally good, even if some people don’t like it much. Urban dwellers have fewer children, accumlate fewer possessions and use energy, services and goods more efficiently than their rural counterparts.

For some people urban spaces conjure images of Soylent Green or Blade Runner, and they’re horrified by it. Me, perhaps perversely, I’m drawn to it. I read the Asimov’s Caves of Steel and I liked it! Somehow the idea of stacking people into huge boxes like blade servers had some kind of weird attraction to me. That was how I thought the future was going to be. If the population keeps going up, eventually we’re all going to live in capsules.

This entry was posted in The Future. Bookmark the permalink.