Sustainability in the Capital Region

kunstler bio photoUrban planning expert/critic James Howard Kunstler will be talking about sustainability in the Capital Region February 10 as part of the Stakeholders' Sustainable Communities Institute.

Kunstler, who lives in Saratoga, was recently ranked #12 all-time on a list of urban thinkers. He has strong opinions about what makes sustainable communities -- and doesn't hesitate to share them. His books mourn the effects of urban sprawl and warn of future catastrophe. As part of the "Eyesore of the Month" feature on his web site, he recently wrote of the St. Louis train station: "... an utterly bewildering piece-of-sh*t shoehorned under a bunch of freeway ramps behind a UPS depot parking lot. Where's the Prozac dispenser?" And on his podcast, he more-or-less jumped Harry Tutunjian about the redevelopment of Troy's city hall.

All this is to say the talk will probably not be boring. It starts at 6 pm on February 10 at the Opalka Gallery on the Albany campus of the Sage Colleges. It's free -- but you have to RSVP by February 3: sustainability@thestakeholders.org.

photo via JHK

Comments

Even when I agree with Kunstler I don't like him. To me he comes off as just plain mean spirited.

Stakeholders? Sounds like a resume booster...

@Eric,

I've been hosting a weekly podcast with JHK for a few years now and I work with him on various projects. So I've slowly gotten to know him a little better over time.

He's a critic when it comes down to it and he naturally attracts a lot of criticism of himself. I've heard other people say that he comes off as mean spirited, so you're definitely not alone in feeling that. I can see why some folks feel that way. But I think JHK is justified in much of his outrage and I share many of those feelings myself. He is also very kind and compassionate in a lot of respects and I think some of his critics overlook that.

When it really comes down to it, JHK is a wordsmith with a great grasp on language. He went to college to study theater -- not urban planning or sociology -- and his presentation (e.g. TED, Colbert) is really quite theatrical. He's also pretty funny, though he does have a somewhat dark sense of humor. One of his favorite quotes is from Samuel Beckett: "Nothing is funnier than unhappiness."

On another note, I've been subtly trying to get Kunstler to retire that bow tie photo. Here's a more recent photo my cousin took of JHK. Whaddya think?

http://kunstlercast.com/images/JamesHowardKunstler_by_CalCrary.jpg

I agree with Duncan. Kunstler is quite theatrical (I’ve seen him speak several times and casually follow the podcast and his blog). I’ve heard many say that he’d do better for the cause if he weren’t so acerbic. But I disagree. I think if he watered down his approach, he wouldn’t get any attention at all. To me, his harsh sense of humor is a non-issue—first, because he is quite funny; second, because there isn’t a credibility issue here. He knows his stuff and he is spot on about the tragedy that is our built environment.

As Duncan and Karl note, part of Kunstler's appeal is in the delivery of his message (aka, his theatricality). Social commentators don't mince words (Frank Zappa comes to mind), though they might use ironic devices like satire.

From what I can tell, Kunstler's message is as much derived from cherishing (without sentimentality) a certain vision of/for America as it is about critiquing a differing vision of America.

I may not agree with everything Kunstler has to say, but he certainly adds value to the conversation about what is wrong with our community landscapes.

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