Monday, 17 December 2007

Atlanta flyover

Flying over Atlanta as I have done all too frequently in recent weeks, one is struck by the vast urban sprawl down below that used to be peculiar to places like Los Angeles. You can observe how the woods are being gobbled up acre by acre, as the construction of yet more suburban split-levels guns the engine of growth, delights the Home Depot stockholders and sucks in droves of Mexican laborers--or did until the recent housing debacle.

How appropriate, then, that the area should be facing a severe drought that ought to put the whole development scheme in serious doubt. While Georgia’s builders and planners (or anti-planners, more exactly) bulldozed forward to add their quota of tonnage to greenhouse gases, they have also harvested the result of this ill-advised strategy in the form of a globally-warmed water shortage. Gov. Sonny Perdue called upon the Lord recently in a prayer vigil on the statehouse steps, but unless something changes pretty soon, he’s going to need more than a good drenching from Jaysus to save the lifestyle he’s encouraged his constituents to expect as their due.

The optimistic news out of Bali about the eleventh-hour agreement on global warming forced upon Washington is welcome, of course. But it is hard to see this translating into a radical reshaping of the ‘facts on the ground’ that places like Atlanta have created. The new, planet-friendly city, if it does indeed come into being, will have to be far more dense with far less vehicular traffic than anything we’ve seen so far. Will we survive long enough to see the vast square mileage of suburban tracts named “Leafy Acres” and “Golden Meadow” turned into ghost towns of urban kitsch, right next to the pink flamingoes?

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