Cities have been getting a lot of attention lately with the majority of earth's population residing in dense urban cores for the first time in history. There seems to be a growing consensus that cities are the way forward and that suburbs should burn in hell for destroying out beautiful countrysides, our farmlands, and promoting unsustainable lifestyles. So how do we resurrect the suburb or make it better? Are we planning on disassembling them and using the material to build new urban dwellings or are they going to become abandoned and sit empty? Is there a way to think about the burbs differently that will lead to a new lifestyle or a renewed sustainable energy?
To survive long-term, the suburbs will likely have to become more community oriented and organized. This century thus far has proved to be about social and sustainable movements. Two movements the suburbs can embrace to improve their chances of retaining and attracting citizens are intense car sharing programs, and intense community farm programs.
Typically, neighborhoods center around some type of public space, whether that be a park, an elementary school, or another type of community-oriented structure. These centers could act as transport hubs, where car share programs are initiated. Programs like carpoolconnect.com can help people find rides and coordinate with neighbors to accomplish errands and daily tasks. Perhaps it seems extreme, but if the suburbs want to kick their negative wrap, they are going to have to show they can compete with cities on transportation and social interaction.
Suburban farming has become a big thing as well. Though urban farming has attracted much of the attention because of its extreme conditions, many suburbanites have been converting their yards into mini-farms and, in some cases, turning a profit. Many organizations have popped up to promote the transformation of turf lawns to lush homestead farms, most famously Fritz Haeg's Edible Estates. His organization has inspired a new breed of farm and a new brand of agriculture. Companies are beginning to form around the country with the intention to lease and cultivate neighborhood lawns. Weekly neighborhood farmers markets could be held at the community center with the majority of produce and added value products coming from within the neighborhood.
When it comes down to it, the suburbs need to bolster their sense of community interaction in all areas of their citizens daily life from transportation methods to food choices to live/work arrangements. The suburbs aren't going to just disappear, so hopefully in the next few years we as a society will develop some new suburban living models worth promoting.
(Photo from The Shift Home and the author. The original full-sized color version can be viewed by clicking the photo.)