Douglas E. Morris. It’s a Sprawl World After All. Foreword by Ray Oldenburg. Gabriola Island, British Columbia: New Society Publishers, 2005. Paperback, xv + 243 pp.
Unplanned growth bedevils almost all societies and, as Morris convincingly argues and documents, is responsible for a great many social evils—from assaults to murders. The United States, which is the book’s focus, is especially beleaguered by this formidable challenge to a healthy society. In the absence of a comprehensive program of urban planning after 1945, urban sprawl has defaced much of America’s landscape and social environment, creating an atmosphere of alienation, isolation, incivility, and personal risk.
Morris, who writes from the vantage point of someone who has actually lived outside the United States and in small communities for many years, is an astute observer with a keen eye for the human cost of urban sprawl. He makes the point that genuine life-enhancing communities exist outside the United States and could exist within the borders of America. The New Urbanism movement, which was launched in the 1980s, recognized the problem but thus far has not led to truly viable changes. The settlements reflecting the New Urbanist philosophy, such as Disney’s Celebration in Florida, mostly suffer from an artificiality that fails to spawn healthy self-sustaining communities.
The author devotes a fair amount of space to considering what to look for in a healthy community and how to create one, and his book includes an extensive list of resources, such as relevant organizations and publications.
Sadly, the immediate impact of books like this tends to be almost zero. For those wondering how to make their lives more sane and enjoyable, however, Morris offers much wise counsel.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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