As a native Westerner, my problem with "wide open spaces" is how many we've lost in my lifetime and how difficult it is to really live in what's left in a nation of 308 million. The constant move outward in metro Phoenix obliterates anything but the illusion. Today's wide vista out the window will be a Super Wal-Mart tomorrow. People who bought in Fountain Hills years ago — a development that annihilated one of the state's most lush saguaro forests, and it takes a saguaro ten years to grow an inch-and-a-half — are now partly surrounded by schlock. Same with Verrado, where the idiot David Brooks saw "the future." Prescott, a town with history and wonderful bones, is a planning and congestion disaster outside the old town. The same is true with Flagstaff, as with most small towns in America.
If you're rich and lucky enough to buy land adjacent to a National Park, maybe your panorama will have the illusion of the pristine, although we know the pollution, fire, sleazy land swaps and other stresses facing our public lands — and just wait for the GOP to privatize it. Move to the staked plains and you can find real emptiness, but good luck finding work. And if I want wide open spaces, do I profane them further with a new house, which by its very nature can't be "green," and total dependence on the automobile? Good luck finding a real, scalable, sustainable small town on a passenger train route.
For these reasons, as well as growing up in central Phoenix and for the eye-opening years I spent living in real cities, I choose to make my stand in the city. And it's a major focus of this blog. Most Americans don't "get" cities; they don't have urban values. Most want their imitation English country estates crowded together as lookalike tract houses in suburbia. The problems with this are manifold. First, the nation's population has doubled since Levittowns were first laid down. Thus, most suburbs suffer from urban problems without urban solutions. Second, they are artifacts of a moment in history defined by cheap gasoline, now passing away. Third, sprawl destroys vast tracts of valuable agricultural land, rural areas and wilderness, with numerous environmental strains. Fourth, for all the heavy subsidies to make suburbia work (freeways, flood control, etc.), it's a highly inefficient spatial arrangement. Suburbia is not merely boring and filled with anomie (American Beauty, etc.), it is now the epicenter of the housing crash, with attendant debt, poverty and very high carrying costs.