(updated: Nov 14, 2007)
So I was briefly in Austin, TX for my brother's wedding this weekend. The wedding was in San Antonio but we flew in to Austin. The last time I was there was in '04 and the last time I spent any significant time there was back in '99. Just from the few hours I was there the changes I saw were incredible. The whole skyline had changed, with several new high-rises downtown, and new strip malls everywhere. But the worst was all the new roads and interchanges. Talk about eyesores. Austin seems to be desperately trying to mimic Houston. It is happy motoring insanity at its zenith.
Now they have been busily building new toll roads and more are in the works. These roads ring the ballooning city, creating even more incentive for unbridled growth. I looked at a tour guide for Austin at the hotel and it was just full of places to eat and where to buy crap but nothing about the outdoors. That is because nobody goes outside anymore. People just go from one air-conditioned building to an air-conditioned vehicle to another air-conditioned building. Outside it is smoggy and noisy, with nothing to look at except for the rat's nest of highways.
View looking toward downtown Austin. These multi-level interchanges are popping up every few miles. This one, still under construction, blocks the city skyline. This place is so bike friendly now.
The development extends so far south along I-35 that the entire hour-and-a-half drive from Austin to San Antonio is now basically one continuous strip mall.
I only liked Austin when it was a small town, back in its Slacker days. I didn't have a car for two years and biked everywhere. Then it was tolerable up until '99. But I would never live there again. The place has gone haywire, and all the nice open areas are all ruined by urban blight. It is ugly as sin what's happened in just nine short years. What happens in another nine years? They are developing as if the Gulf of Mexico is made of crude oil. I guess the Texas heat has gone and rotted out their brains because they clearly can't comprehend exponential functions or understand the definition of sustainable. Actually, the word sustainable has been so misused that it has basically become meaningless.
As I drove around in awe of all the cancerous expansion that had taken place, trying to get a bearing on my old stomping grounds, I became acutely aware of just how important and rare undeveloped land is, and how hard you have to defend and protect that land from merciless environmental destruction. And it brought me to Blue Clay and how hard we are fighting to protect this small piece of property from others who are interested (and there are others) - this no-good, piece-of-crap land. And it's such a battle. Just imagine if it were closer to the beach or some body of water or on a hill. We'd have a greater chance of winning the lottery than keeping the land green. So you have to fight like cats in a sack against a tsunami of big, often corrupt, money. Then if seeing Austin wasn't enough I come back to read about the planned development at UNCW, the last remaining open space aside from Blue Clay and the Atlantic Ocean in Wilmington.
Nice going Austin. You wanted everyone to know that it was a great place to live, thus ensuring it wouldn't be.
1. Sean - Earthwalker said...
Didn't you know? Development is a GOOD thing. It provides jobs, housing...blah blah blah. It's hard to comprehend why people view it as such a positive transition. I for one find it hard to look and and it's the number one reason why I'm looking to relocate far away from this suburban spiderweb or development. UNCW used to pride itself on the natural habitat when I first started going there. Of course over my three years there they put up a lot of buildings. It's too bad that they emphasize the importance of green space while destroying it. It's kinda like saying, "development is a good thing as long as it's 'smart development.'"
Nov 6, 2007 @ 4:00 PM
2. Sirbikes said...
Update: No sooner than I posted this there was a post on theoildrum.com from an Austin resident explaining what's going on there:
Linking promises to funding
Where I reside, Austin, Texas, our local transportation planning agency, the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, recently authorized almost $1.5 BILLION in highway expansions for five highways in Austin. About one-third of this - $540 million - is from debt (in the form of bonds) to be floated on the presumption that toll collections on the new toll lanes will repay the bond debt.
Despite Austin's image as "green," we are investing enormous sums of money into deepening our addiction to cars, oil consumption, and sprawling land uses. Our mayor unveiled an "Austin Climate Protection Plan" this year and a few months later voted for the $1.5 BILLION in highway expansions, with no one in the media picking up on the hypocrisy.
Nov 6, 2007 @ 7:29 PM
3. ArmySlowRdr said...
Austin is still my favorite city. The Greenbelt and Walnut Creek and Muleshoe for mountain biking and plenty of great shopping off exit 250 in Round Rock or near tha Arboretum area. Great places to eat too. Yeah I've only known Austin for maybe 7 years so I dont know how it was before. But I like it--a lot.
Nov 10, 2007 @ 11:32 PM
4. Sue said...
I just don't get what the fix is. You had a house built on land that was previously a forest. The trees were ripped out and removed so your house could be built. Roads were paved so you could get to your house. No doubt there are locals talking about this sprawl on what was green undeveloped land before, right? And what if you had to drive to work? What is a person to do, really?
I live in one of the most unapologetically new and overdeveloped areas in the country. I still get lost sometimes because I can't tell one street corner from another. It is all the same chain strip mall stores. Boring. Just like you, I crave green spaces. I hate living in the Phoenix area because it is so damn brown and dry and made up of either dirt or concrete. I have been debating where to move. Right now I'm thinking that I may end up back in California. But when I move to the new place, I am going to be contributing to the over-growth or sprawl of that area. I don't think there is any way of getting around it. I did it when I moved here. I was one of those people who moved over from CA.
When I bike around the neighborhood I am blown away by how many new condos are going up. It is insane. But is there any way around it really? Is there any such thing as "sustainable" growth? Can you move to such a place and be able to find a job?
Nov 13, 2007 @ 10:05 AM
5. Sir Bikes said...
Now you're getting to the heart of the problem. The problem is we have a system fundamentally based on constant growth forever, which is unsustainable. If we don't control our numbers nature is going to do it for us in a rather nasty way. Cheap energy lets us continue to grow and expand, that is, until we run out of it or consume all resources and destroy the biosphere. What we are in right now is a temporary prosperous blip in the history of the earth, a gift from the millions of years of condensed solar energy in the ground, which we've now wasted on incessant motoring about in huge vehicles.
Growth, by definition, is not steady-state and therefore can not be a solution. But most people can't comprehend this or can't do anything about it. As long as they're making money, the problem shifts to someone else sometime in the future. Unfortunately, the limits of the earth are being reached way sooner than most people, including me, expected.
Nov 13, 2007 @ 4:16 PM
6. Sir Lamm-Hammer said...
i think that the movie idiocracy does a perfect job of explaining the population growth problem. it is most likely what the world will be like in the future. unless the Clintons get back into the white house and fix everything.
Nov 18, 2007 @ 8:19 PM
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