Keep out! No riffraff or flowering shrubs allowed!
If you are suffering at present from a shrinking retirement account, rising unemployment, tighter credit, and plummeting property values, there might be a silver lining here. Maybe the worst of suburban development is coming to an end.
Shrinking prosperity is already putting the brakes on the proliferation of McMansions everywhere. And what no cash doesn’t do, the end of what writer James Howard Kunstler calls the "cheap oil fiesta" might. Most of us now know in our bones that oil prices are only plummeting temporarily, that we are coming up against the finite limits of our fossil fuel supply sooner rather than later. And our national tendency to build wherever we please with as little connection as possible to walkable civilization or nature now mainly seems embarrassing.
Here, as a prime example of what’s gotta end, are photos from the most "upscale" new development outside of Red Bluff, California, an inexplicable several miles from Red Bluff itself.
Why have a garden when there’s concrete?
Or brick and concrete?
Or stone and concrete?
You’d never guess, of course, that these houses are not set in some asphalt desert, but on the gorgeous, icy, clean Sacramento River in an amazingly unspoiled and underpopulated landscape of beautiful golden grasses and towering oaks, with snow-covered volcanic mountains in the distance.
Here’s a vacant lot in the same development.
And here is a photo by Diane Cardwell, a much better photographer than me, of a spot nearby to give you an idea of the stark majesty of this part of the world.
Why build and landscape appropriately, however, when you can completely dominate and obliterate a beautiful piece of land with your concrete and your cash? And why participate in the life of a scruffy but charming town like Red Bluff, when you can build your house behind gates miles outside it?
Hard times are not pretty. But I’m not entirely unhappy about them, if they mean fewer "dream" houses so utterly disconnected from both humanity and God’s green earth.