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Suburbia

Last year I had a conversation with one of my friends about the suburbs. We both agreed we could not possibly live a 9-5, church on sundays life in a white-picket fence house. I would love to live in the city-city and work with homeless and other needy people, or live in a remote community working on community development (esp. literacy) or Bible translation, I would even like to live at a self-sustaining farm or commune (although that is at odds with my wanting to help people).
The point is that the suburbs are the devil. They encourage fuel consumption by making everything a drive away and with everything so far away, people are less likely to connect with others in their area and be a part of a community.
Then at the start of this year, through my decision to go back to study, I have ended up living in the suburbs. Initially I was staying with my Oma & Opa (no, I’m not Dutch or German) whilst looking for a house with friends, but the friends thing fell through and I have ended up staying on with my grandparents.
My work and college are both 10km away from home (in slightly different directions), both drives take me about 20minutes depending on the time of the day. As far as I can tell it would be mostly impossible to catch public transport to either, it would involve around an hour walking (per single trip), that could possibly be cut down by using buses, but I don’t like to catch a bus cos who even ever knows were they are going to go? Also, I often have evening classes, and work until late at night and I don’t fancy catching the train or walking around in the dark on my own.
Anyway, the other day I was sitting at home and decided I wanted to hire some dvds to watch, I had just finished a glass of wine with my dinner and so I wasn’t sure if I should drive (I now know I could have). I went online and looked up how far the distance was from home to the dvd store. It turned out to be a little over a kilometre and I thought, psh, I can walk that. After Joanne (Oma) worried about me for a second, I was off. The dvd store was shut, but I made it there and back without being mugged and it certainly wasn’t too far to walk. So you can walk to some things from the suburbs (I passed Safeway on my way, and a whole bunch of other stores are just beyond), that was food for thought.
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across a website that measures the walkability of where you live. It works for Australia, which is nice, and my place scored a loverly 55/100. For comparison, my parent’s place in a small country town scored 8 and my sister’s place in the city proper scored 91. It doesn’t measure public transport, or how steep the hills are, but it is still a good start. Here at home people talk about how they used to walk to the station to get to work or school, so the other day I decided to stop being lazy and driving (or getting dropped off) and to walk to the station to catch my train. It only took me 20minutes and it was a great walk, it also forced me to pack less stuff for my overnight stay.
So it turns out my ‘evil’ suburbs have walking access to a number of different things, if one was so inclined the shopping could even be done without a car, especially if you had a bike like these. This gave me something to think about.
Recently I have been reading Homegrown Evolution a blog about growing your own veggies and chooks in a suburban environment. The fact of the matter is that the block I am living on at the moment is huge. Joanne has heaps of garden, there is a small patch for veggies, several pots of herbs and the like and there are plans for a bigger veggie patch up the back next to the hills hoist.
Last year I heard the idea that with Peak Oil the suburbs will become abandoned, or slums and everyone will go to the inner city (where there are jobs) or to the country (where there is land), that concept has niggled at me since I heard it. Because there IS land in the suburbs, at least where I am there are large suburban blocks with plenty of room for veggies and even chooks. Perhaps because when this area was established it was close to the country, now it is surrounded by suburbs in all directions. But even where some of my relatives live closer in to the city (albeit on the other side), there is still land on their blocks that could be utilised. And when I lived in a flat in Kew there was a triangle of grass with a bit of shubbery around it that could easily be developed by the people from any of the 6 flats on that property.
So the main issue I can see here is lack of access to work or schooling options. Plus the trains out here only run every 20 minutes or half hour. Apparently at peak hour the trains are quite unbearably full. Although my cousin-thing says that compared to the peak trains in London, the peak-hour trains here are positively roomy and perhaps a lack of handholds is the only complaint.
The article that I read that actually was the catalyst for this article is about how the suburbs aren’t dying and people are not moving into cities (which is what was predicted).
I think that as petrol gets more and more expensive, the suburbs will become more like communities. The jobs will spread out into the suburbs from the inner city and people will be more likely to be involved in pursuits that are accessible via walking and public transport. Suburban gardens will also become more of a source of food than they currently are and people will utilise rain water more than we are at the moment.

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Comments on: "Suburbia" (1)

  1. Hey Joss,

    Scored an 83 out here in the Kew ‘Bible Belt’. It’s certainly disappointing to see people drive the 10 kms home from work and disappear into their self-contained worlds isn’t it. Been thinking about a community garden…. got any tips?

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