29 December 2012

High-density hell

Every time I visit Melbourne CBD (every few months by train) I am reminded why I don’t like cities and certainly wouldn’t want to live there as a resident! It is noisy, stinky and increasingly crowded, not to mention unbearably hot in summer with all the asphalt and concrete smothering the ground, the streets claustrophobically overshadowed by towering buildings. And this is the city again voted world’s most livable! I shudder to think what less-livable cities are like.

A new resident to the CBD made the mistake of complaining about how noisy it was – the main offenders being music venues – and oh was he castigated, both in the article comments and elsewhere (Reddit’s mostly-younger members being a predictable example). Well, seeing as governments are pushing for higher-density cities, this sort of conflict is going to happen a lot, so I don’t know why those castigating him were so offended. Is there any law that says cities have to be noisy, aside from fatuous bullshit about noise contributing to “vibrancy”? A lot of what passes for “music” is just loud noise pollution and the environment is better off without it.

There was a quite vitriolic post on Reddit – Urban Sprawl now biggest impediment to Economy – where those who objected to high density/urban consolidation being touted as the ultimate solution to our woes got downvoted and called NIMBYers (the usual predictably tired insult). They are anti-backyards (a wasteful allotment of space according to their philosophy) and think everyone should live crammed into apartment towers with a park or two providing lonely oases of greenery. I have given up arguing with people of that mindset as they have a quasi-religious conviction that high-density is the only acceptable way to live. Not so – reducing population growth would enable people to live in detached houses with gardens and backyards, and contain urban sprawl – it would also ensure that land is retained for local food production. But this alternative solution is unthinkable to high-density advocates.

I also found disagreeable this later related post, You want housing up, not out? – the HD advocates (I really need a catchy name for them) want to brainwash children into their cult:

My idea is to use an art/design competition to harness the imaginations of older children and effectively use their drawings as covert propaganda for the type of places we want to exist, after steering their little minds towards what we want them to draw. It’ll be asking primary school children to draw how they foresee their dream Australian lifestyle, or dream city in X amount of years. What will streets and cities look like? How will people live?

This Sustainable Living webpage from NSW Save Our Suburbs gives arguments against urban consolidation. (They don’t, however, advocate restricting population growth; rather, they encourage regional decentralization.)

My little utopian vision is of cities being mostly depopulated, and people living in smaller regional towns, each having its own sustainable power and food supplies, and connected by high-speed rail and Internet. A slower, environmentally-friendly and more relaxed society. I would like to see a “small, smart and sustainable” future for Australia; I emphatically reject the “big Australia” and frantic unsustainable push for endless economic growth that currently has us trapped.

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