James Howard Kunstler may be the world’s most outspoken critic of suburban sprawl. He believes the end of the fossil fuels era will soon force a return to smaller-scale, agrarian communities — and an overhaul of the most destructive features of postwar society.

Why you should listen

James Howard Kunstler calls suburban sprawl "the greatest misallocation of resources the world has ever known." His arguments bring a new lens to urban development, drawing clear connections between physical spaces and cultural vitality.

Geography of Nowhere, published in 1993, presented a grim vision of America in decline -- a nation of cookie-cutter strip malls, vacuous city centers, and dead spaces wrought by what Kunstler calls the ethos of Happy Motoring: our society-wide dependence on the automobile.

The Long Emergency (2005) takes a hard look at energy dependency, arguing that the end of the fossil fuels era will force a return to smaller-scale, agrarian-focused communities and an overhaul of many of the most prominent and destructive features of postwar society.

His confrontational approach and propensity for doomsday scenarios make Kunstler a lightning rod for controversy and critics. But his magnificent rants are underscored with logic and his books are widely read, particularly by architectural critics and urban planners.

What others say

"The upside of Kunstler's anger is that he's getting people to sit up and take notice." — Outside magazine

James Howard Kunstler’s TED talks

James Howard Kunstler on the TED Blog

James Howard Kunstler's novel of a long emergency

May 7, 2008

“We are sleepwalking into the future,” author James Howard Kunstler said in his biting 2004 TEDTalk, envisioning a bleak post-oil era for sprawling suburban America. His predictions come to life, now, in spite of the controversy surrounding them: Kunstler has written a novel, titled World Made by Hand, which details life in the “Long Emergency.” […]

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Peak oil: Chevron CTO's best guess

October 26, 2007

News.com’s blog reports on how much oil we have left, in the estimate of Chevron CTO Don Paul: About 1 trillion gallons that we can extract, and another trillion that, for now, we can’t. In a hallway conversation with a News.com reporter, Chevron’s Paul estimated that we will have consumed half of all the oil […]

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Transcript

James Howard Kunstler on TED.com

April 20, 2007

In James Howard Kunstler‘s view, public spaces should be inspired centers of civic life and the physical manifestation of the common good. Instead, he argues, what we have in America is a nation of places not worth caring about. NEW: Read the transcript >> (photo of water tower with smiley face, caption: “The National Automobile […]

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Quotes from James Howard Kunstler

I like to call it ‘the national automobile slum.’ You can call it suburban sprawl. I think it’s appropriate to call it the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.
James Howard Kunstler
TED2004 • 1M views May 2007
Persuasive, Funny
The public realm in America has two roles: it is the dwelling place of our civilization and our civic life, and it is the physical manifestation of the common good. When you degrade the public realm, you will automatically degrade the quality of your civic life and the character of all the enactments of your public life and communal life that take place there.
James Howard Kunstler
TED2004 • 1M views May 2007
Persuasive, Funny