Addicted to novelty since 2001

Calgary: The North American Tragedy in Microcosm

Author James Howard Kunstler’s (readable, but tres 1997) website was quoted on page A3 of today’s Vancouver Sun. This was undoubtably because he’s making fun of Calgary, but I liked what he said:

Now it has become an archetypal city of immense glass boxes in a sterilized center surrounded by an asteroid belt of beige residential subdivisions — sort of what Rochester, New York, would be like if it had an economy. The vast suburbs ooze out onto the prairie to the east, along with their complements of strip malls, power centers, car dealerships, and fry-pits, and on the west they bump up against the foothills of the Rockies.

What’s going on in Calgary, with new subdivisions of half-million dollar houses opening every month, is the North American tragedy in microcosm. Because every new suburban house built, every new Target store opened, every new parking lot paved, every highway widened will be a project in the service of a living arrangement with no future. It is a true madness that beats a path to historic tragedy.

Well put. To put Calgary’s appalling urban sprawl in some context, consider that, according to Stats Canada (PDF), the Calgary health region (a common measure for this sort of thing, apparently) has an average of 27 people per square kilometre. Vancouver’s is 4238.75. Heck, even south Vancouver Island is 139.

2 Responses to “Calgary: The North American Tragedy in Microcosm”

  1. Aaron

    Kunstler’s got a flair for words, that’s for sure.

    Calgary’s the city that’s halfway to everywhere – halfway to Red Deer, the US Border, Lethbridge and Banff. It’s a car city.

    The problem with comparing the municipal health authority numbers, however, is that geography dicates Vancouver to be a tighter city. Those numbers would be more meaningful if figures from Surrey, Chilliwack and outlying areas were contrasted with it.

    Nevertleless, Vancouver is looked at as a model of sorts when it comes to urban planning.

    Funny thing: My Dad moved us out here because he found Vancouver too everything – stinky, crowded, rude or whatever.

    It’s a beautiful city, but the underbelly is pretty nasty.

  2. Todd

    Torontonians must be seething that they weren’t so fittingly glove-slapped.

Comments are closed.