Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Changing America (cont'd)

The Interstate Highway System (hereafter called IHS) was not only a huge structural undertaking that altered the landscape of America. It brought about a social and economic upheaval that we still do not fully appreciate.
Originally, the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1938 called for a study of a six route toll network. FDR felt there should be three east-west routes and three north-south routes.
But as Congress and succeeding Presidents studied the matter, the concept grew in scope and size. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed legislation establishing the National System of Interstate and Defense Highways. By now, the IHS was seen to require 41,000 miles of roads.
Note the words Defense Highways. The Department of Defense played a major role in the development and construction of the IHS. Its purpose was to allow for mass evacuation of cities in the event of a nuclear attack. The DOD went even further by requiring that one mile in every five miles had to be straight to be available as airstrips in the event or war or other emergencies.
The IHS committed this country to the automobile as the primary source of transportation. As a result a nationwide system of rail and bus transportation began to decline and disappear.
The automobile industry became, as the economists like to say, the "backbone of our economy". Instead of building or keeping the diversified manufacturing we had, we set the stage for an economy dependent on one industry for fiscal health, and it created a demand for and dependency upon oil that had long term consequences that are still being felt today.
Social upheaval followed as well. Freeways cut through cities, nearly always through the poorer neighborhoods. These dislocations not only left people homeless but without a grounded sense of place as well.
The complex and organic network of railroads and traditional highways that had developed over time linking communities to retail centers, workplaces, schools, etc. were bypassed. In time, it was seen that a new arrangement of how a community lives had to be found and put in place.
This explains the growth of suburbs and box stores and shopping malls. This also demonstrates how the new arrangements created a demand for even more cars. The one-car family with a one-job provider is an anachronism today. Every one needs to have a job and everyone needs their own car to get there.
And so we have these 14 lane super-highways in metropolitan areas filled with cars moving slower than horses that have been nicely described by James Howard Kunstler as "automobile slums".
Fifty years ago it was very different!


  1. Very interesting analysis. How'd you know so much about this?

    I can see how the highways of America really played a big part to the country's formation. It defined the way Americans live, and is also one of the major differences that you have with less developed countries like ours in the Philippines. If you would look at the city maps of Metro Manila, you'd see that our roads are a big mess. Roads narrow and wide simply intersect one another from different angles and there's hardly any lane that travels in a straight line for any considerable distance. It's like you can drop a tiny bomb on any one street and you'd instantly create a web of traffic jams several miles in diameter.

  2. Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

    Industrial Society is destroying necessary things [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land] for making unnecessary things [consumer goods].

    "Growth Rate" - "Economy Rate" - "GDP"

    These are figures of "Ecocide".
    These are figures of "crimes against Nature".
    These are figures of "destruction of Ecosystems".
    These are figures of "Insanity, Abnormality and Criminality".

    The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

    The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature [Animals, Trees, Air, Water and Land].

    Chief Seattle of the Indian Tribe had warned the destroyers of ecosystems way back in 1854 :

    Only after the last tree has been cut down,
    Only after the last river has been poisoned,
    Only after the last fish has been caught,
    Only then will you realize that you cannot eat money.

    To read the complete article please follow any of these links.

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

    Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment

    Delhi, India

  3. After reading these comments, I feel as if my intentions were not made clear, that I was too objective and even-handed.
    I regret mightily the construction of the Interstate Highway System. It is a hideous octopus that has destroyed many communities and strangled our society. There, that's better. No mis-understanding that.