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Thread: The End Of Suburbia -the movie

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    The End Of Suburbia -the movie

    THE END OF SUBURBIA . I was wondering if anyone had actually seen this movie? I found it on the NU website and indeed the film features
    James Howard Kunstler, Peter Calthorpe, Michael Klare, Richard Heinberg, Matthew Simmons, Mike Ruppert, Julian Darley,Colin Campbell, Kenneth Deffeyes, Ali Samsam Bakhtiari and Steve Andrews.
    Here is the synopsis, as if you didn't know it already, and a link to follow. I haven't seen it.

    Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too the suburban way of life has become embedded in the American consciousness. Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.
    But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now. The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous
    .

    http://www.postcarbon.org/eos/

  2. #2
    Quote Originally posted by The Irish One
    THE END OF SUBURBIA . I was wondering if anyone had actually seen this movie? I found it on the NU website and indeed the film features
    Here is the synopsis, as if you didn't know it already, and a link to follow. I haven't seen it.

    .

    http://www.postcarbon.org/eos/
    I saw it last month when it was shown on Vision TV here in Canada. The following is a newspaper story about that TV special:

    http://www.reportonenergy.com/suburbia/

    I also found this review by the Edmonton Real Estate Weekly interesting:

    http://www.rewedmonton.ca/content_view?CONTENT_ID=846

    As expected, the documentary gave a powerful message along the lines of James Knustler's book. The fact that even the Edmonton real estate people took notice can be viewed as a success for the film. However, I don't think that the message has filtered down to the consciousness of the general public.

  3. #3

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    Nothing to worry, folks. Don't you know oil is being magically created deep in the earth and bubbling up as sweet crude (someone on Citycomforts actually argued that).

    Or, the magic Hydrogen economy will appear.

    Suburbia is fine. It's the only true American dream.

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    Cyburbian jordanb's avatar
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    ^ I've heard Skel say that before. You should hear his thoughts on climate change.

    By the way, where is he?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    I've actually seen "The End of Suburbia" twice. Both viewings were to profit local smart growth organizations and Kunstler was scheduled to speak and do some Q & A at both, but only showed up the second time I saw it. I've also noticed it on our public television station. It's interesting and informative, but nothing new to an informed eco-concious planner. Then again, I don't think we're the demographic they're trying to reach, so in that respect, I think the film does a lot of good. I'm sure the film will get more circulation as the price of and the general awareness of our dependency on oil continues to rise.

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    Member JLA's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The Irish One
    THE END OF SUBURBIA . I was wondering if anyone had actually seen this movie? I found it on the NU website and indeed the film features
    Here is the synopsis, as if you didn't know it already, and a link to follow. I haven't seen it.

    .

    http://www.postcarbon.org/eos/
    I received a copy last December as a Christmas gift (it was on my wish list). It's a bit over the top but, overall, well done.

    FYI: The film maker has a sequal titled "escape from suburbia" in the works now.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Sustianability is a loaded word

    I don't see suburbia's problems so much as a matter of economic or energy sustainability (though both are important issues, you coudl easily have much lower-impact sprawl) but rather an issue of quality of life.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

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    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    A local environmental group in Bucks County PA did a screening of it in the county seat. The local paper's review of the movie and discussion portrayed it as "shrill" and "extremist" and that taking such a position causes people to tune out the issue entirely, thus rendering the movie counterproductive.

    I haven't seen the movie yet. Lokks like I'll have to buy my own copy.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  9. #9
    Kobayashi's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    I don't see suburbia's problems so much as a matter of economic or energy sustainability (though both are important issues, you coudl easily have much lower-impact sprawl) but rather an issue of quality of life.
    Of course it is. The more and farther you have to drive the more energy you consume, duh.

    I downloaded the movie off of newsgroups (sue me, i'm a poor college student).

    Drop me a pm if.......

  10. #10
    The local paper's review of the movie and discussion portrayed it as "shrill" and "extremist" and that taking such a position causes people to tune out the issue entirely, thus rendering the movie counterproductive.
    This is the sort of the problem I was thinking the movie might have. Why can't we just scare the hell out of ourselves to change our ways?

    The other day I saw a show where a guy was using used vegetable oil to run his cars and heat his shop in Ojai, CA. He's a self described "Cowboy" and a "Diesel Mechanic."

  11. #11
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by boilerplater
    A local environmental group in Bucks County PA did a screening of it in the county seat. The local paper's review of the movie and discussion portrayed it as "shrill" and "extremist" and that taking such a position causes people to tune out the issue entirely, thus rendering the movie counterproductive.

    I haven't seen the movie yet. Lokks like I'll have to buy my own copy.
    Doylestown and Central Bucks aren't exactly liberal places. IMO "shrill" and "extremist" (name calling) is an easy way of dismissing what was said thereby avoiding having to deal with facts laid out. Unfortunately it's a tactic that works. It gives close-minded people an excuse not to see it . . . because after seeing it it's hard to dismiss the warnings and advice given by some of the most well respected people in the oil and geology business.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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    Member JLA's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta
    Doylestown and Central Bucks aren't exactly liberal places. IMO "shrill" and "extremist" (name calling) is an easy way of dismissing what was said thereby avoiding having to deal with facts laid out. Unfortunately it's a tactic that works. It gives close-minded people an excuse not to see it . . . because after seeing it it's hard to dismiss the warnings and advice given by some of the most well respected people in the oil and geology business.
    Agreed. The possibility that we could experience a significant discontinuity in our way of life leads most people to just tune out.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian abrowne's avatar
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    I've been wanting to see it but have not been able to find it anywhere to view.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Other than a free online clip, I haven't seen it yet, but I presume I will have the opportunity soon.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  15. #15
    Cyburbian AubieTurtle's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by abrowne
    I've been wanting to see it but have not been able to find it anywhere to view.
    Netflix has it for rent. You could join, rent it, and then quit before your trial period is over.
    As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. - H.L. Mencken

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    http://w1.isohunt.com/download.php?mode=bt&id=3420431

    this will link to a torrent file, which (using a bittorrent client) will allow you to download the entire avi, which is about 700 megs. if the link for some reason doesn't work, head over to www.isohunt.com and search for the title.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian illinoisplanner's avatar
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    I do believe people are turned off by scare tactics. "Oh no, the world's going to end, the oil reserves will run dry in 10 years!!!" People prefer the facts being laid out and they can choose for themselves. They also like to see the alternatives. Maybe offer the benefits of walking, mass transit, etc. Talk to real commuters and walkers and have them say how much better, cheaper, healthier, less stressful it is to not use the car. The good things about city life. Of course, I've never seen the movie, and maybe they do do this. But I do know that too much doom and gloom often makes people shrugg the problem off as a joke.
    "Life's a journey, not a destination"
    -Steven Tyler

  18. #18
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    I'm happy. I'm going to go see it at a free screening tomorrow!
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  19. #19
    Cyburbian circusoflife's avatar
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    The King County LIbrary System has several copies now since I told them to order it late last year. I've re-reserved one since it came in while I was in Asia. But I have to wait...there are numerous holds ahead of me for the few copies!

    I guess that is a good sign.
    - Beware more of the man in the fancy cloak, than the one in tattered clothing -

  20. #20
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    dobopoq's review of "The End of Suburbia".

    I just saw it this evening in a free screening at a local community center. It was what I hoped it would be. The intro featured some hilarous old technicolor footage from the late 40's and 50's showing idealized images of the suburban nuke'you'lar family, complete with the paternalistic voice-over, that film from those days often had.

    Following much the same thread of his, "The Geography of Nowhere", Kunstler, narrates from the era of the first suburban estates of the 1870's, to the railroad suburbs of the next 40 years and then the 1920's when the economy takes off largely on a frenzy of suburban development rudely interrupted by The Great Depression and WWII. Then there's footage of workers putting up subdivisions like mad from the late 40's on.

    Much like Kunstler's authorial discussion of the issue, the film does not touch on the social and racial issues that fueled white flight to the suburbs following the race riots in the 50's, 60's and 70's. Perhaps that would enlarge the scope of the movie beyond a manageable scale, but still I find it annoying how little mention the role of race gets.

    The film also did not really delineate the way in which the 1970's oil shocks differ from the coming of Peak Oil (They were a matter of politics, Peak Oil is geology). But there was a mention that in 1979, the Carter administration issued a doctrine stating the U.S. had a strategic interest in maintaining access to Middle East oil and that it should use it's military power to control and protect the oil.

    Unlike John Kerry, the film clearly conveys it position on the Iraq war. Ruppert in particular says "Did you think Dick Cheney was kidding when he said ""It is a war that will not end in our lifetime.""?. Afghanistan and Iraq were just the beginning. Another commentator says, "We would not be in Iraq if it had no oil." Heinberg says, "We are living in the age of the most powerful empire in the history of the world: oil". He then unveils the PNAC for what it is - a plan for military domination of the world's remaining oil reserves.

    The film also does a good job of discussing the peaking of natural gas as well and it's vital role in electricity generation. They cover the northeast blackout of 2003. The official explanation was that it was caused by a branch falling on a power line. In reality, it occured on the first super hot day of what had been a mild summer, at 4:30 pm when industrial, commercial, and residential AC demand overlaps. Here the film isn't so optimistic about the ability of supply to meet the future energy demands of the hot/cold midwest and super hot sunbelt. People didn't seem to learn anything from the blackout, i.e. how dependent they are on energy.

    Without getting bogged down in detail, the film does a good job of explaining Hubert's Peak and why it entails consequences occuring long before we run out of oil. Kunstler says "We have a railroad system that not even Bulgaria would be proud of." He explains that no amount of renewables will allow us to continue running what were running now, the way we're running it. Biodiesel, ethanol etc. are net energy losers. We rely on tons of chemicals to grow large crops of corn. The energy involved in growing the corn and then converting it to ethanol, far exceeds the energy we can extract from the ethanol. The film mentions how the interstate highway system has encouraged sprawl along it's entire perimeter and how much money it costs to maintain it in good service.

    The film also touches on New Urbanism with footage of some examples of it. It makes it clear that people will have to live more locally in the future.

    Summation: The passivity inherent to a documentary presents the information in a form that American attention spans can digest. If PBS doesn't start playing this movie soon, we can be sure it has been taken over by the neocons. In the words of Carl Sagan: "What are conservatives conserving?" Not the environment or its resources, that's for sure.

    For anyone who has read this review and remains skeptical of the urgency of its message:
    Ask yourself a question: Do you have a mortgage on a house in the mid-suburbs or beyond that is less than half paid off? If the answer is yes, then do you think the responsibility of owing several hundred thousand dollars more, might possibly be biasing you to tune out any info that conflicts with an - everthing in the future is going to be much like the past - attitude toward reality?
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Boru's avatar
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    I realise this film works of the North American suburban experience, but can it be translated into suburbia anywhere? I debated buying it, but then thought that the North American bent to it might make people think "those crazy Americans" then climb straight into their car to go home.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jordanb
    ^ I've heard Skel say that before. You should hear his thoughts on climate change.

    By the way, where is he?
    Not to de-rail the thread here, but what I argued was that the known oil reserves in the near earth crust (0-15 km deep) are not the only ones, and that there are deeper reserves that feed the nearer ones. And there are scientific papers on that... And about Climate Change...I only put in doubt the magnitude of it and the anthopogenic effect.

    So all I've said is that there's not going to be a catastrofic climate change and a depletion of oil reserves.

    Yet, sprawl isn't a very sustainable way of living, because air pollution is caused by fossil fuel powered cars, that drive to and from their suburban ranch. Not to mention the inefficient use of land and other resources...

  23. #23
    Cyburbian dobopoq's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SkeLeton
    Not to de-rail the thread here, but what I argued was that the known oil reserves in the near earth crust (0-15 km deep) are not the only ones, and that there are deeper reserves that feed the nearer ones. And there are scientific papers on that... And about Climate Change...I only put in doubt the magnitude of it and the anthopogenic effect.

    So all I've said is that there's not going to be a catastrofic climate change and a depletion of oil reserves.

    Yet, sprawl isn't a very sustainable way of living, because air pollution is caused by fossil fuel powered cars, that drive to and from their suburban ranch. Not to mention the inefficient use of land and other resources...
    Climate change is serious, although I'm currently of the opinion that there won't be enough oil for us to burn (fortunately) to completely screw up the environment.

    As to the depth of oil discoveries: world oil discoveries peaked in the 1960's. So if there is much more oil deeper down, how come we haven't found it yet? Many of the current major oil fields have only been recoverable due to the latest advances in technology. We have to look a lot harder, and dig a lot deeper for oil today, than we did a century ago. If there really is much more oil down deep, how come oil discoveries have declined even as we invest more than ever in oil searching technology?

    From what a google search reveals, most sources claiming there is more oil at greater depth are of the abiotic (or inorganic) school of oil formation. But most scientific evidence indicates that oil is the creme de la creme of all sources of carbon based energy of which we have been burning in ever denser forms in larger quantities in recent centuries. We went from wood, to coal, and then oil at which point carbon-based energy reaches the zenith of its density. The major difference between organic and inorganic chemistry is that carbon is found in any organic compound, which is not true of inorganic compounds. As such, all life forms we know of are carbon based. Thus, all fossil fuels are the result of solar energy (especially concentrated in oil), stored in plants through photosynthesis, from which animals feed. The breakdown of this organic material that is basically the detritus of a mechanism for the absorbtion of solar energy, over many millions of years is slowly "brewed" into the oil upon which we now so greatly depend. In a sense, oil is the esspresso of fossil fuels. Coal was more like weak coffee. Below a certain depth where the sun has never reached, life has never existed, and thus oil is not likely to be found in great quantity.
    "The current American way of life is founded not just on motor transportation but on the religion of the motorcar, and the sacrifices that people are prepared to make for this religion stand outside the realm of rational criticism." -Lewis Mumford

  24. #24
    Cyburbian
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    Actually, bacteria distinct from any known surface bacteria have been found in sedimentary bedrock in several places recently, with no recent exposure to the sun or air prior to their discovery in core samples that had not been contaminated with surface bacteria. However, before anyone gets any wild ideas about these bacteria being the source of oil, no connection of any kind has been found or even proposed between these bacteria and anything other than the rock they were found in. As far as I have ever heard, all actual physical evidence on the issue points to an ultimately biological origin for crude oil.

  25. #25

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    In discussing Kunstler's doom and gloom over at City Comforts, one poster had a very good "summary" of the issue that I thought is pretty succinct:

    The invited response to this post was originally to answer the question, “Is overstated bufoonery helpful or harmful?” Well, with that deck so stacked, we’ve wandered all over the map, pseudo-politely dissing Kunstler mostly for stuff he doesn’t say. As I read him, he doesn’t claim to know the particular features of the future, but doubts strongly that they will be much like the present. He does offer scenarios which seem pretty provocative to most of us, but if you drop the crap about hydrogen cell panaceas and the alleged Russian deep drilling and notice that even big oil is reflecting peak oil consciousness in its mass advertising, and understand that our Iraq adventure includes massive installation of new military bases wherever we can by force of arms or economic pressure command them—and that our global strategic direction is clearly chosen in proximity to pipelines and oil fields which we imagine will prolong our profligate oil consumption , well—take a breath, sorry—well what can a reasonable person conclude?
    Maybe our whole enchilada is riding on oil, eh? We continue to build tract castles farther and farther from our bases of employment and commerce, feeding the American illusion that when you make it you can be a country gentleman. These dwellings are bigger and more sealed and “climate controlled” meaning that they depend mightily on oil and natural gas directly or indirectly to function. We eschew subsidy of public transportation wherever possible in preference to the private car which has a better stereo and air conditioning than we have at home. We shop in air conditioned supermarkets where crops grown with petroleum products are shipped to us via machines which run on petroleum products. The more affluent we become the more likely we are , for instance, to demand fresh fish air freighted to us from some other place on the globe and the freshest agribusiness products to be brought to our table regardless of season or local availability.
    We construct sand castle economic ideologies to explain why all this is right and just and economically inevitable. And since we’re all enveloped in an Orwellian war and terror construct, it’s hardly patriotic to suggest that we should take a good look at all this. I think there’s a bunch more bufoonery in ignoring the hard facts of our looming predicament --or arguing about whether its impact will be gradual or abrupt—than in maybe taking another look at Jimmy Carter’s or others’ definition of the problem, and quit kidding ourselves.


    Posted by: Chuck Herndon

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