Episode 86 - Sprawl Above All

What began as a harmless attempt by the wealthy to escape the poor peasants they were forced to rub shoulders with in the cities turned into the greatest infrastructural nightmare ever to be unleashed upon this world: the American suburb. Countless people and generations of their progeny who got swept up in the fervor of suburban sprawl experienced a radical shift in physical space that has left communities in shambles or precluded their existence and paved over much of the land we should have conserved for agricultural use. Economically, what began as a financial shot of adrenaline to kickstart the post-war economy has now culminated in a ticking time bomb of unpaid infrastructure and health liabilities threatening to bankrupt municipalities throughout the country. If that wasn't enough, sprawl is an ecological and environmental disaster that contributes more to climate change than any other development pattern.

We can trace some of these consequences to the early foundation of property law in the United States, as well as a handful of powerful men destined to drive a stake in public transportation and influence generations of engineers and city planners. More importantly, we can rant and rave for two hours about how much we hate the suburbs.

full transcript available

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  • 11:21 A Brief History of Property Law
  • 18:03 The Birth of the Suburb
  • 23:29 Innovations in Housing Construction
  • 25:03 The Post War Economy
  • 29:48 "The Auto, Baby"
  • 35:47 What is Sprawl
  • 58:52 Early Zoning
  • 1:02:56 Divide and Separate
  • 1:13:08 Shopping Mall Financials
  • 1:17:35 Road Costs and Driving Pains
  • 1:23:03 Little Lords
  • 1:35:16 Bernays and the Suburban Experience
  • 1:45:39 Oh Yeah, Climate Change Talk Too
  • 1:49:49 Looking Forward


(1) The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America's Man-Made Landscape

(2) Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream, by Andres Duany, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, and Jeff Speck

(3) CoolClimate Maps: Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint by Zip Code


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Published 08-08-2019 02:32