Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Will bad news for the exurbs be good news for the land? and for rural livelihoods?

This piece from the New York Times is headlined, "Rethinking the Country Life as Energy Costs Rise," but it isn't really about the "country." It is about the exurbs or, as journalist Peter S. Goodman repeatedly refers to them elsewhere in the story and in the multi-media link associated with it, "the suburbs." The dateline is Elizabeth, Colorado, west of Denver, and here's an excerpt:

Just off Singing Hills Road, in one of hundreds of two-story homes dotting a former cattle ranch beyond the southern fringes of Denver, Phil Boyle and his family openly wonder if they will have to move close to town to get some relief.

They still revel in the space and quiet that has drawn a steady exodus from American cities toward places like this for more than half a century.

The story recounts details of the rising energy costs that the Boyles are facing, including those that result from $4/gallon fuel and long commutes to work, as well as from the escalating cost of heating their home with propane -- twice what it cost five years ago.

Will fuel prices finally bring relief from such dreadful McMansion sprawl? Is the demise of suburbia at hand? Or will high energy costs bring only worse times for what was once our beautiful countryside, our farming and ranching land?

Addendum: In the print edition, this story ran under the headline "Fuel Prices Shift Math for Life in Far Suburbs." As of 5 pm PST, it has been the second most emailed story on the NYT website for several hours. Are all of the exurbanites reading and sharing it? and also all the others who long for the American dream of a "place in the country"?

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