Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Deconstructing Suburbia


Sorry for the smartypants title. Really, don’t expect too much intellectual discourse here (and if you’ve been to university and taken art or humanities, you would have heard that word ‘discourse’ about 273,648 times during your studies and then never again in human conversation).

I mean the title literally. See there’s this ‘guy’ that lives near me whose all kinds of crazy (I know I’m treading in dangerous waters talking about this, but what the hell....). He has lived in my subdivision since the early days of it’s creation, I know because so have I. He had managed in the course of about a month to take a very nice brand new typical suburban home and alter much of it to look like something on the outskirts of Rio De Janeiro. And before anyone accuses me of being some arrogant, white imperialist, let me explain. People who live in homes constructed of any material they can find on the outskirts of cities in developing nations I’m guessing would prefer something better, and here this man is taking the better and recreating what is essentially a tiny shanty town in his backyard. The neighbours were and are outraged. Except for me. Sort of. Yes there’s a part of me that says, “Hey man, you’re messing with my property values”, but then there’s this other part of me, The Griper of all Things Suburban, that says, “Go on mister, let your freak flag fly!”

No doubt, unintentionally, he is being green creating these outbuildings from scraps of anything instead of running off to Home Depot and buying some brand new pressure treated lumber. Sometimes I wonder just a little, (okay, way more than just a little) is he a barometer of things to come? With oil at record prices and demand outstripping supply, finding ways to take care of our energy needs and upkeeping our homes will have to be alternative. It will make us think more independently and resourcefully. Those identical little boxes can’t all look the same if solar panels and little windmills are jutting out on various roofs. And that’s for those with the means, lesser means could have people creating clever devices like this. Most of the world doesn't live in pretty 3 bedroom houses. One day, we’ll probably have to leave our bubble of aesthetic conformity and think outside the box towards the real world.

Excuse me, I have to go mow the lawn before the neighbours complain. But do take a look at this little video on great resourcefulness and windmills, it's really inspiring.

6 comments:

andrea said...

No, more likely he is a barometer of what we'll be forced to do when oil prices strip us of all our life savings. Meanwhile, he's probably just a garden-variety (get it? ha!) cheapskate and we need to figure out how to get by with less and be more resourceful. (And I love that you feel compelled to add the disclaimer. Let your politically incorrect flag fly! If people need an explanantion because they need to attack to feel all holy about themselves, well... let them stew.)

Now I'll watch the video. (At this stage of my life it I don't respond as soon as the response enters my head it disappears completely.)

Ellen said...

andrea: ah, that's interesting, I didn't know it sounded like a disclaimer, I thought it was just me liking to over-explain everything as usual.

As for the 'guy', I didn't mention the scary outbursts that happen like clockwork twice a day and other irregular behaviours. (Which reminds me, if for some reason I disappear in the near future, direct the police to this post)

Melody said...

Ellen, that's kind of creepy....the outbursts I mean. You just never know who's living in your neighbourhood. My neighbour from across the road sprays or should I say poisons his lawn at least twice a year and he has two little boys 3 and 5 who are out there playing all the time. Drives me crazy......

Donn said...

The collapse of Snoburbia has been on the horizon for decades. Oil prices are going to continue going up for the rest of our lives..which has a silver lining...
we will be forced to CONSERVE.

Unfortunately house prices are going to retract..it will become more desirable to live closer to work (prolly near downtown) and instead of commuting for 2 hours a day you will be able to sleep in, have breakfast with your kids, read the paper while you take a short busride and your blood pressure will drop 30 points.

Why we thought that running away from the city and building all of those CAR-houses was a solution is beyond me? One of our newest developments is bragging about a revolutionary design that customers are 'eating up'..
the garage..
wait for it..
is in the back!

plus ça change,
plus c'est la même chose eh?

Ellen said...

Mel: I heard pesticides and herbicides for home use were banned in Ontario recently. Hopefully that will get through to people. Plus, if we have complete social collapse, at least we can eat the dandelions that grow on our chemical free yards!

Donn: According to a recent Wall Street Journal article (too lazy to find the link) the exodus is well underway. I can also tell it's happening by all the For Sale signs decorating my neighbourhood with no takers. (I can almost see the tumbleweed blowing through my town.)

No doubt, suburbia will be a strange, short-lived idea in the history books. Time to bring back the town square concept of community and living ('cept without the gallows and icky medieval stuff)

RainWillFall said...

Totally late posting, but check out Earthships, completely made of a junk but sweet as hell.