dispatching harmful myths
April 2, 2011, 3:01 am
Filed under: betaCITY, Cities, density | Tags: , , , ,

We are up to our necks in myth, when it comes to our built environment, says Edward Glaseser in his new book Triumph of the City.  He offers some strong rejoinders to the high priesthood of environmental and urban myth:

Collaboration – not isolation – engenders success.  Insistence on homeownership drives us out of cities and into sprawl; it is romantic and unsustainable and not better than apartment living.   The idea that it is sustainable to live with trees and in villages is romantic.  Preservation is often not a desirable, nor environmentally sustainable, path.  The idea that better communication means we don’t need to be near each other is simplistic.

The strength that comes from human collaboration is the central truth behind civilization’s success and the primary reason why cities exist.  To understand our cities and what to do about them, we must hold on to those truths and dispatch harmful myths.  We must discard the view that environmentalism means living around trees and that urbanites should always fight to preserve a city’s physical past.  We must stop idolizing home ownership, which favors suburban tract homes over high-rise apartments, and stop romanticizing rural villages.  We should eschew the simplistic view  that better long-distance communication will reduce our desire and need to be near one another.  Above all, we must free ourselves from our tendency to see cities as their buildings, and remember that the real city is made of flesh, not concrete.

Triumph of the City, Edward Glaeser, p 15


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