Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A Few Notes

A Freakonomics Quorum on the future of suburbia was posted recently, featuring James Howard Kunstler at the top. An interesting note from his response is reagrding an upcoming urbanization prediction:
One popular current fantasy I hear often is that apartment towers are the “greenest” mode of human habitation. On the contrary, we will discover that the skyscraper is an obsolete building type, and that cities overburdened with them will suffer a huge liability — Manhattan and Chicago being the primary examples. Cities composed mostly of suburban-type fabric — Houston, Atlanta, Orlando, et al — will also depreciate sharply.

I'm not sure what, exactly, the concern is here, though I've also not read his books. I do recall, however, that before the days of elevators, most buildings reached a maximum height of about 7 floors. I'd be hard pressed to believe that running an elevator was the major concern, but perhaps I'm underestimating the energy used. Though, it would also make sense urban areas will need to be more dense than the recent half-century of suburban expansion, but not so dense that they cannot be supported by nearby agriculture.

Colin Beavan also wrote briefly about how "consuming fewer planetary resources may, instead of making us deprived, make us happier." Further:
Americans are now twice as rich as they were in 1950, but no happier... psychologists are advocating that policymakers use indicators other than the Gross National Product (GNP) to make decisions. What’s the purpose of an economy, they ask, if not to enhance the well-being of its citizenry

Freakonomics has recently had some excellent posts on the relationship of happiness to income. Much of the research indicates that, when viewed worldwide, there is a stronger relationship, perhaps because in many nations doubling your per capita income is the difference between poverty and subsistence.

Previous research has indicated that once you reach a level of income at which you are not concerned about meeting day-to-day needs, your happiness level is not as closely related to your income (though relative income is still important: i.e., "are you as wealthy as your friends?") Again, the data is, as Justin Wolfers says, "not so clear cut." In fact, in Belgium, it appears that more money makes you less satisfied with life.

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