I watched this TED talk this past week about retrofitting the suburbs . I particularly liked it over other documentaries on suburbia because it wasn’t so nihilistic and the speaker, Ellan Dunham Jones, offered some inventive solutions to make the suburbs more sustainable.
I grew up in the suburbs. I understand what life’s like out there: The boring, summer days as an adolescent. The hyper-dependence on vehicles. Getting lost biking around clusters of identical neighbourhoods. Day by day, I heavily consumed resources and bloated my carbon footprint, not knowing any better. Though as times changed, traffic accumulated and gas prices skyrocketed, I was accepted into a university in the city, and it made sense to leave the suburbs.
A few months ago, I missed a turn while heading out on a ski trip, and my GPS led me through my old neighbourhood. I almost drove completely right through it before I recognized where I was. After allowing the nostalgia to hit me like five Red Bulls, I pulled over and stepped out to soak it in slower. All the surrounding farms had been replaced by rows upon rows of identical houses. The roads were widened two or threefold. The old mall was leveled long ago in lieu of a big box store shopping center.
I couldn’t believe how much had changed. I can’t say if it was for the better, because my old neighbourhood has become a model for urban sprawl these days, but it was a change nonetheless. Unfortunately, as seen in the TED Talk, in parts of North America where the local economies were not strong, many suburban neighbourhoods suffered mass migration over time and eventually became ghost towns.
As the talk progressed, it became more interesting as Ellan Dunham Jones illustrated how suburbs, abandoned or not, could be retrofitted to either become more sustainable, usable, or livable. She showed how to positively adapt to change. Here’s how you can too.
1. Simplify. I’m going to move out from my current apartment soon because my neighbours constantly fight, it distracts me, and I’m allergic to drama. Usually, I dislike moving, but this time around, it’s not so bad. I live rather austerely, so there isn’t much to move, and I like my neighbourhood, so I already know where to move to. The way I see it, the more complicated you make your life, the more anchored to where you are, and the more vulnerable you are when things change.
2. Accept Change. Resistance is the bane of adaptation. It’s like travelling to another country and expecting people to understand English if you speak slowly with wild hand gestures. If you’ve lost a job, someone in your life, or just don’t friggin’ know what you want to do with your life, then you can’t