The book Degrowth in the Suburbs: A Radical Urban Imaginary addresses the central issue of the ever-evolving modern polis. The author, Samuel Alexander argues that the only way to combat the constant wasteful inner city growth is to “degrow” which means that he sees suburbia as the future of a more sustainable and efficient society, as a solution to depopulating imploding inner cities.
The book states, rightly so, that the Suburbs fill us with an image of affluence, large houses on tracts of finely trimmed green grass and children playing on their bicycles happily under the sun, while barbecues waft their smoke around SUV laden garages, and twinkling swimming pools of clear blue water.
Against this serene backdrop, is an image of a grossly neglected capitalistic economy that is fossil fuel-laden and heading for a global overpopulation, where over 50% now live in cities.
Alexander states that the only way to truly reduce environmental damage, as well as increase reliance on sustainable energy sources, is to commence a logical stepwise process of regrowth. Where there is deliberate downscaling of fossil fuel consumption together with an elevation in use and reliance on clean materials and sustainable energy sources.
The suburbs are basically large tracts of land that can be inhabited, but many chose to relocate to the cities to be near jobs and an abundance of resources. As such, it is imperative to repopulate suburbs, not rebuild them.
Homeowners in the suburbs can learn how to retrofit their properties to be more natural and less fossil fuel reliant. They can also learn to be less consumer-centric and focus on buying what is really needed and not what is used once and discarded.
When looking at the suburbs, you find a disillusioned middle class that has spawned a generation of employed professionals, bureaucrats, and tradespeople. These groups have secure housing, earn decent wages, and can waste a lot of money on discretionary spending. This is the “consumer culture” group.
From within this group is emerging a generation of disillusioned youngsters seeking a new role, and are considered to be the “post-materialist” society that is seeking ways to reduce cost, reduce reliance on consumerism and create a clean and sustainable environment for a healthy and well-balanced life.
What this new group has developed is a grass-roots society, where more political involvement is starting to take form in governments and is showing up in many green initiatives.
Another layer of society is the so-called exploited working class; these are families that live in the cities and struggle to make ends meet without spending on rubbish. The author claims that while Australia’s economy has constantly been growing for the past quarter-century, most working-class members of society will state that they have not felt any change, and in fact live in a hellish status-quo of never having enough to survive while the rich get richer.
What the book is trying to allude to is that the only solution is to work together, to bring the disillusioned middle class together with the exploited working class. Goppingen forces to create a better society that will lead to a more convenient lifestyle for both.
What Alexander suggests are small changes, but important ones, such as increasing the number and frequency of local farmers’ markets, as well as community and home gardens. Increasing the number of urban agriculture projects, free-cycling groups, sharing communities, as well as repair cafes. With this, there is a need to restructure the transportation infrastructure and how we access food and resources. It is about switching to more energy frugal households, using sustainable solutions that lower the overall cost of living and creates more self-reliance.
The bottom line is this: The book claims that by moving urbanites to suburbia and building sustainable solutions together with communal activates and commerce, the future of overpopulation might be diverted from a melting pot of poverty-stricken violent neighbourhoods into well spread well-maintained levels of social interaction.