Tuesday, March 6

I’m in the mountains, dog-sitting for family. They live in the kind of place that’s flooded with natural light during the day, where you can see the Continental Divide out the windows. Put wood on the fire, take the dog outside, startle as big corvids of some kind glide past overhead.

This is a long ways from the countryside where I grew up, but out in the mountains is still unmistakably in the country in some crucial way.

There’s a tension between how good I feel in this kind of place and how much and how often I’m told that the only survivable future for civilization is urban density, tall blocks of towers, and more or less the planned eradication of the communities where I’ve spent the better part of my life.

Part of the tension is that these ideas probably aren’t so far wrong, so far as they go. It’s at least pretty clear that commuting in cars across vast distances is destroying the world1 as much as anything, and the way I live my life now scarcely generalizes to 7 billion people, nevermind how I’d live it given a few more degrees of freedom. I may want me to have a rambling compound on a couple of hundred acres in the middle of nowhere, but everybody having that just devolves into Mad Max.

I can understand the idea that the most good for the most humans is to be found in thickly populated cityscapes, efficiencies of scale, and a rural infrastructure reduced to some bare minimum for sparsely-crewed giant farmbots. At any rate I’m sure the most good doesn’t look much like the vast automotive sprawl coagulating all along the I-25 corridor just a few miles east of here.

Still, there’s something missing between what I’m supposed to take away from the consensus of the various learned-and-wise and how I actually think and feel about the shape of these questions.

1 A paragraph from four years ago: "America is never ever going to stop running entirely on cars. Not until it kills us. Not even when it becomes completely obvious even to Republicans and retirees and farmers that it's killing us. We just don't care. We aren't even capable of imagining caring. We are going to drive until there is nothing left for driving to destroy, and then we are going to drive some more. The last American will die alone, huffing gasoline in the front seat of a late-model Toyota the size of a city block in the center of a vast, oil-stained pavement stretching from horizon to horizon."