Flaming Out on Old Suburbia

President Obama’s “Green Deal” Needs to address how to make our metropolitan lifestyles more sustainable. Here’s a snippet of a talk I gave at my alma mater The University of Illinois-Chicago:

Cul-de-Sac Syndrome
UIC alumnus speaks about the American Dream
Erin Vogel
Issue date: 10/19/09 Section: News

Is the American Dream sick? John Wasik, above, on the Cul-de-Sac Syndrome.
Media Credit: Juliette Cardenas
Is the American Dream sick? John Wasik, above, on the Cul-de-Sac Syndrome.

John Wasik, award-winning author and UIC alumnus, visited the Richard J. Daley Library last Tuesday afternoon to discuss his latest book, “The Cul-de-Sac Syndrome: Turning Around the Unsustainable American Dream.”

Wasik’s visit marked the beginning of the UIC Alumni Authors Series, a burgeoning program organized by Linda Naru, Coordinator of Communications and Marketing at the UIC Library, with the intention of educating the UIC community about the 100+ past UIC graduates that are now respected authors.

“I think that the Alumni Association has been looking for ways to recognize alumni for their work,” Naru said, “and the library wants to do more outreach programs centered on books and writing that will draw students, faculty, and alumni into the library.”

Arlene Norsym, the Vice President and Associate Chancellor of Alumni Relations, suggested that John Wasik speak at UIC after meeting the author and reading one of his books. She found the book’s subjects to be “fascinating and thought-provoking.”

The focus of Wasik’s talk was the idea of sustainability: first, the difficulty of defining this concept, and then the ways we, as Americans, must change our thinking in order to integrate this concept into our daily lives and choices. Wasik began his book with the intention of better understanding the idea of sustainability; he went so far as to relocate his family to Florida for a month in order to find a truly sustainable family that was living “off the grid” and “generating its own power.”

Wasik explained that the idea of the “Cul-de-Sac Syndrome” is about the current, rather desperate, situation of our country, the idea that “we’ve hit and blind alley and can’t go any further. We need to rethink things so we can go in another direction.”

One of Wasik’s suggestions to improve our country’s current situation has to do with rethinking our ideas of “community”; for instance, how we think about the differences between the big cities and suburbs. Wasik lives in Prairie Crossing, a conservation community in Grayslake, Illinois. According to Wasik, in Prairie Crossing, “we define sustainability as something we can walk to, as being able to buy food that is grown a block away.”

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