When it comes to talking about the divide between urban and non-urban living there’s more differences than just who lives in a more sustainable community. People living in non-urban areas just don’t understand the positive urban living that is being espoused, and in fact, can take insult to how pro-urban thinkers (like me) talk about cities versus sub-urban living.
Marohn says he has realized over the past decade that he and the New Urbanists are actually often talking about the same thing. The urban experience and the small-town experience have more in common than people think. And they’ve both been distorted by the suburban experiment. The picture looks different. In cities, it looks like an army of surface parking lots has devoured our downtowns. Small towns have also been hallowed out at the core and nipped at their edges by encroaching subdivisions.
But the effect is the same, Marohn says: an erosion of civic space, which has led to an erosion of the financial viability of communities. And this is the language he uses to talk about planning – the language of economics, of debt and prosperity and gas prices.
Sure, economic arguments are often environmental ones, too (saving on gas also saves the environment!). But Marohn only ever mentions this under his breath, like, “oh, by the way, reinvesting in our existing infrastructure is good for the environment, too.” He says he sometimes ticks off environmentalists by acknowledging their worldview as an afterthought instead of up front.