A film about urban sprawl and peak oil might seem a bit off topic for a business ethics and corporate social responsibility blog, but if you see the connection and/or have an interest in either subject, I highly recommend you check out a fantastic documentary, The End of Suburbia.
If you need some help finding the bridge between this blog and the focus of the film, look no further than the endless forced expansion of the consumer’s appetite for more consumption (homes, cars, clothes, decorations, kitchen gadgets, high-tech gadgets, and so much more) by companies in the pursuit of increasing shareholder return. What’s a homebuilder to do when money is pouring in and competitors are continuing to put up ostentatious and resource-binging skyscraper homes (a.k.a. “McMansions”) at a frantic rate 100 miles out from city centers and lining up 0% down ARMs for the self-delusional nouveau-rich (a.k.a. the negative net-worth and heavily debt-laden soon-to-be or currently former middle class), even if they know deep inside that their business plan is not sustainable long-term (say, when the right crop of inflation and credit turmoil pops up…)? Build more houses of course!
Why not? they ask. Their competitor over at ABC CrazyBig Homes is churning them out like cans of tasty and completely nutritious meat on an assembly line earning a fat bonus each period, and watching their company’s stock price skyrocket. Who cares if the system comes crumbling down later as long as I get mine, they rationalize.
In the off chance that you are not paying attention to what is happening in the US right now, and increasingly around the world, the party is over folks. For those of you who have little adjustment to make when living standards and life styles see a reversion to the mean similar to what is likely to happen in the US housing market, I commend you. For those of you who face a much larger delta, I’d get started on making some adjustments right now.
Even if you are not slightly interested, I say bite the bullet and watch it anyway. Here’s an overview of the film to whet your appetite:
“Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too has the suburban way of life become embedded in the American consciousness.
“Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream.
“But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary.
“The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today’s suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?“