In response to my report about the construction explosion in Beijing, a friend noted tangentially that he had been browsing real estate listings in Colorado Springs, near where he lived most of his life. He found a “Victorian” listed for under $200,000. Check it out while the ad stays online. The house was built in 2005, it seems, on a “zero scaped fenced and irrigated lot” (rocks with sprinklers). I guess it’s Victorian because it’s yellow with black and white trim. Next follow the Google Maps link to reveal the tell-tale street pattern of what, as Kunstler puts it, has left American cities “encysted in a surrounding fabric of necrotic suburbia.” The best comes last: switch to “satellite” view and zoom in. Now that’s Victorian. (Sprol.com is a site devoted almost entirely to such godlike views of mortal folly. My favorite entry in a while concerns bicycling in Los Angeles.)
That friend moved to Portland recently, for any number of great reasons. Unfortunately, the household has found that not all is well in their neighborhood. Trouble in the Waller is a must-read, enough to make you cry, yet they persist. Holly wrote, in part:
We choose to raise chickens in the city as a part of our convictions. We raise them to deepen our connection with the natural world, by practicing animal husbandry. We raise them to enjoy nutritious wonderful eggs from chickens raised in a good, healthy environment, in the sun, hormone- and antibiotic-free. We raise chickens to help maintain breeds of birds that are not raised in factories, so that when, inevitably, disease devastates the factory breeds, some hardier breeds will survive, to provide stock for meat and eggs for all people. We raise chickens to create a more integrated environment on the land we occupy, using animal fertilizer, not petroleum-based inputs, to grow food that we eat, and the plants that make a space beautiful and healthy to live in.
We believe that we can no longer afford to live in a strictly ornamental world, and cannot continue to be an increasingly flaccid and parasitical people. We live in a world of increasing social and economic crises that promise only to become worse with the accumulating impacts of global warming and peak oil. Patrick and I have chosen to live in a way that reduces our ecological footprint, wherein we seek to live as locally as we can. We support local food producers. We live our lives within a radius that we can cover by bicycle. And through raising chickens and gardening the small amount of food we do, we seek to learn and develop once-common skills, and to reconnect with the plants and animals that nourish us.
And we are not alone. This fact is perhaps what strengthened us most of all. More and more people are recognizing the problems with our oil-driven hyper-culture, and trying to make change, many, like us, in small, local, on-the-ground ways. There are all the people raising chickens here in Portland. There are all the people riding their bikes instead of driving. There are all the people who support the farmerÃ¢â?¬â?¢s market, and the food co-ops.
We’re getting chickens too, by the way, for reasons we can only flatter ourselves are as deeply considered as our friends’. Anyway, I was talking to our own neighbors recently about the fact that they are moving after nearly thirty years in their house. I’ve enjoyed hearing stories from them about how much things have changed in that time; they seem like nice people. They are looking to move into a smaller, one-story place not too far away. The fellow told me that they were amazed at how “hit and miss” the quality of the neighborhoods nearby are. As an example he cited the open house less than a mile away he had visited recently. The house seemed perfect for their needs, and their interest was growing until they discovered the dirty secret about the place. He paused for dramatic effect. “The back neighbors one yard over, they had — can you believe this? — chickens” I kept a straight face.
The same neighbors had proposed some months earlier that we load up in their car and drive to the beach to help pick up litter, since “we all care about the environment.” It would be about four hours of driving altogether. We declined politely, as we have declined the numerous kind offers of rides to stores. All I could think was how much litter you’d have to pick up to offset the environmental toll of all that driving, and how the beaches would have a lot less litter if people didn’t drive there so casually, with so much cargo space to load up with crap.
Yes the times they are a-changin’