35 thoughts on “The Death Of Density”

  1. I think too many changes due to the covid pandemic are considered long term changes. Here, I think the decline in city density is solely due to covid and is short term. Once covid goes away, then I think we’ll see a substantial move back to the cities.

    1. I agree with you to a point. I think the place you do your work has shifted from the office building to wherever is convenient to the worker. I live only fifteen minutes from my office, but my employer has saved a lot of money by downsizing to a hotel concept. I will rarely ever go to the office while working for this company.

      The shift will be to the burbs where most everyone lives. I don’t see a massive swing to decentralization to the rural areas for one major reason…supply chain. Cities and suburban areas are supply chain hubs. Transitioning all that to rural regions would be hugely expensive and inefficient. So no, I don’t see empty cities in the future.

    2. It depends. There are a lot of jobs that are only located in cities because of prestige but companies are finding that they can save hundreds of millions of dollars by having their employees work from their bedrooms. Prestige money is better set of fire by sponsoring a sports team rather than providing catered food to your employees in an office overlooking the sound.

  2. We have done nothing to stop China from starting another pandemic.
    The result will be death of big cities around world- including the cities in China.
    Europe is more screwed then they were screwed.

    1. We have done nothing to stop China from starting another pandemic.

      Well, how do you stop that? There are limits to the power of the US and other countries to affect China. I think this will get worse in the not-so-distant future as China becomes more powerful relative to the rest of the world.

      1. I tend to think the countries of Africa will become more powerful and don’t think China will become superpower.
        I think it’s quite possible that China is more likely to become involved in warfare- and if that is what meant by a superpower, then I guess China might become a superpower.

        1. I … don’t think China will become superpower.

          It already is a superpower. Maybe you slept through it.

          1. I could give a list of the manner in which the US has failed in terms of being a superpower.
            But only in the strange world of woke, can superpower claim to still be a 3rd world country.

          2. But only in the strange world of woke, can superpower claim to still be a 3rd world country.

            While it’s a technical difference, China was a second world country. And their economy and standard of living is far better than third world countries were when there was a third world category.

            My take is that China will reach developed world status by 2050 and have the largest nation-level economy in the world. That’s a conservative estimate.

          3. “My take is that China will reach developed world status by 2050 and have the largest nation-level economy in the world. That’s a conservative estimate.”

            Do you think that China will have any coal to mine in 2050?

            I think they could be running out of coal by as soon as 2040, by which I mean they might not be able to mine as much say, 1/2 of the amount of what they mining now. Or they gotten all low hanging fruit and will have lots major mining sites that will have been closed and what remain is more expensive to mine coal and/or with some sites which can be mined a lot longer period.
            Or could say peak coal will be reached before 2040- with lowering amount each year thereafter. So by 2050 they might mining more than US does, but they are currently mining 5 times of much as US does. and before 2060 they could be mining 1/2 as much as US does.
            And of course another factor to consider is that any China data can’t be trusted, so I would say it’s possible that it’s even sooner.

          4. Can some of you aerospace guys give me the story behind Embraer?

            I thought building jet airliners is a First World capability, and I always thought Brazil was to put it charitably in a kind of First-World wannabe status?

            I “get” that they don’t supply the engines (United Technologies) nor the avionics (Rockwell?). But is there a cultural infrastructure in Brazil of people like all of you who dreamed about designing jets when you were small children?

            How did Embraer come to be? Is this a case of top-down industrial policy from the government. Or were there engineers and entrepreneurs who had a dream?

          5. Do you think that China will have any coal to mine in 2050?

            I doubt they’ll run out this century or next. Even if they keep burning it at the present rate of acceleration. Keep in mind how proven reserves expand as present proven reserves are consumed.

  3. We don’t need no Stinking factories in the big city employing thousands — they can “All Learn To Code!”

    1. I used to be a marine machinery mechanic. Then I learned to code and was soon making fifteen times as much money. Besides which, computer programmer is fifteen times easier than being what sometimes called an “outside machinist.”

  4. Density doesn’t have to suck and Subdivision World has its discontents. Yesterday I wanted to walk to the local supermarket. Then I remembered that no sidewalks lead to its door, so I would have to walk on the grass strip around the perimeter of the parking lot. Guess I’ll drive another day.

    1. Addendum: The old downtown of my city has been in decline for decades. Rather than fix it, the city council has a habit of approving new subdivisions on the periphery and only later improving the roads leading to them, which run through the old subdivisions. Our density is rush hour traffic on single lanes through construction zones.

    2. Only a chump would live in a subdivision. I live 14 miles from the nearest supermarket. Granted, it’s a long walk, but it does help me keep my trim and girlish figgar…

  5. Every year, I gave my wife a Christmas present of a trip to New York City (or, once, to New Haven CT) to have a nice dinner, see a Broadway show, spend the night in a fine hotel, then return the next day (via Amtrak both ways). Last year we had tickets to Mean Girls. The whole city shut down before the weekend arrived.

    Broadway shows are shut down until at least the end of May 2021, and it isn’t clear to me that they will ever recover. I miss the tradition we had. It was really nice.

    The exodus from NYC has been breathtaking, and probably to some extent permanent. I don’t know how anyone lived there in the first place, and suspect that once free of it, most would not want to return.

    1. When I was younger I spent a lot of time in NYC (where the big publishers were), but also Boston (I have family there), Philly, Baltimore, and DC. The restaurants and museums were nice, and I had busness there anyway, but I could never have lived in any of them. When I was young, I’d’ve been happy to live in a tent on my scruffy acreage (I lived fairly rough as a child, on the Utah side of the Rockies near Mt. Peale, so had some idea what it’d be like). At 70, a badly beat up double-wide I got for the cost of pickup truck does nicely.

  6. Light industry exists just fine (well, sort of fine – occasionally hammered by our malevolent trade, tax, and regulatory policies) interspersed in suburbs and small towns here in Ohio. I don’t see what most of these factories would gain by cramming into a dense built-up city where floorspace would be expensive, and getting trucks in and out would be a traffic nightmare.

    I welcome the de-densification of America. I’ve lived in cities, and by far prefer tiny towns. I think this will come down to an existential conflict between the greens (who want to take our gasoline engines) and the rest of us (who need them to commute/survive.)

    PS – “Density” doens’t work in green-world either. If they get their way most of us will just die, as our farmland can’t support our population on animal powered subsistence farming.

    “Density” was a side effect of train-logistics, physical record-keeping, and inertia. Internal combustion (portable power, portable water, portable everything that needs power) eases geography as a constraint on development.

    1. “as our farmland can’t support our population on animal powered subsistence farming.”

      What makes you think they will let farmers use animals?


  7. “And yet, there’s always hope for cities….Big ideas will be needed—whether from universities, think tanks, business chiefs, or even political leaders—if cities hope to come through this crucible.”

    Counting on those who gave us critical race theory, cancel culture, and Joe Biden for “big ideas” is the same as saying “That’s it, it’s all over, we’re done.”

  8. PS: Whether our country, urban or rural, ends up as a nice, well designed, livable place, or a Sovietesque brutalist hellhole will depend on *what* gets developed as we develop.

    A lot of these subdivisions (vinyl-sided 3-story cubes parked on tiny lots in HOA-“managed” subdivisions) are total garbage. The semi-rural and town architecture of the 40s and 50s is far superior where it is well-maintained and preserved.

    If architects abuse their art to “talk-down to” (not finding the right words, but I hope my point is coming across?) and diminish “the masses”, then we’re going to end up with a cheap shitty country reflecting the cheapness with which we regard the lives of our countrymen. If we exercise some care and build things that people actually want, things can turn out well.

    1. Libertarians like to believe that the market will sort out every eyesore, but I’m beginning to think that market forces are weaker than they imagine in many cases. The aesthetics of our neighborhoods are choices, choices that lie in the hands of architects, craftsmen and builders, and developers. People choose what they can from among the existing homes/neighborhoods on offer, but are at any given moment constrained to that, since they aren’t in the habit of commissioning their own houses directly (no money or time for that in most cases).

      Therefore, the choices of the architects, and the concept of life and the aesthetics they promote are important.

      I recall some godawful concrete apartment block reminiscent of something Le Corbusier would have horked up in a city in which I had lived. It was like one of those alien combine structures from the Half-Life videogames, stabbed into the landcape of the surrounding human neighborhood, and it communicated well exactly that sentiment: “Your lives will be re-ordered to serve *our* interests, and we’ll land whatever we please wherever we please.” It was an insult in concrete and steel, more reminiscent of a prison than homes for people.

      1. Bardominiums can look rather plain on the outside but amazing on the inside and shipping container houses can look intriguing from the outside and horrid on the inside. Cost influences a lot of design choices and people try and strike a balance.

        You are right though, most people have to choose from something already built and don’t often have the option of putting a creative stamp on their home’s appearance.

  9. One of the forgotten ideas is, it’s not difficult to build an inhabitable house with hand tools, and to live without electricity and running water. and yet have a lifestyle that’s better than that of the average suburbanite in his all-electric deathtrap. I’ve mainly played around since I got this place (raised bed gardens, a conservatory, a growhouse, etc., mainly for my wife to enjoy), but I did toy with the idea of building a cookhouse/washhouse that would serve all cooking and bathing needs without utilities besides wood (of which I have acres). I was going to build a windmill pump to raise the water.

    1. I watched a nearly two hour video on YouTube last night of a guy spending a year in the forest in Sweden building a log cabin with hand tools. It was hypnotic, like that Primitive Technology guy.

  10. The Wuhan Virus hasn’t changed my opinion of cities one jot; I’ve always despised them.

    I live about 20 minutes from a town in Northern Arizona. If I need to go specialty shopping, or go to the airport (the only two things I find I need to go to a city for ) then Phoenix is a two hour drive away, or Vegas about 4 hours.

    It’s mainly the density that makes me hate cities. I like having land, and not having neighbors nearby. I like having a much larger house (and a lot more land) than I could afford in a city, and I like not having traffic, crime, etc, the way city dwellers do. I also like not having air pollution, noise, etc.

    Yes, there are drawbacks (such as making less money than I could in a city), but I have never regretted it. I made it my goal while in college to get away from the urban/suburban life, and never looked back.

    I know a lot of people who like living in cities or suburbs, and that’s fine, to each, their own. However, every time I see bad news from cities, such as this article, or riots, or all manner of other ills, I’m glad I turned my back on ’em and left.

    1. The coal China has imported is 327 million tons [in 2013}
      The most Coal Australia ever shipped to China in year is about
      200 million tons.
      Most coal US has exported is about125 million ton in 2012 and in 2019 US consumed about 587 million tons {the least amount US consumed in 50 years [due mostly because of cheap natural gas]}.
      And China consumes about 4000 million tons per year.
      And entire world consumes 8000 million tons per year- and China is 1/2 of it.
      It’s not likely that China could import more than 1000 million tons and it unlikely Australia could export more than 500 million tons to China. And to get 1000 million tons would require Russia and/or US to ramp up their exports a lot.
      At 0.706 billion short tons per year, US has recoverable reserves for
      357 years. If mined twice as much it is 178.5 years.
      If US mined 4 billion tons a year, it would be 63 years.

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