The following is the second of a two-part book review installment by current SUMA student, Zach Zill. Complimentary in topic to the review in Part I of William Cronon’s book Nature’s Metropolis, the following covers Adam Rome’s book, Bulldozer in the Countryside; which chronicles the massive expansion of post-World War II suburban tract housing development. Both books uncover a rich history of philosophical debate about humanity’s relationship to the natural world, and show how past efforts to improve that relationship have explicitly questioned the basic forms of property and ownership at the root of our legal and economic structures.
Bulldozer in the Countryside covers a more recent and less geographically-specific story. Rome chronicles how mass-produced, energy-inefficient tract housing became the solution for the U.S. housing shortage that existed at the end of the second World War. The results: runaway energy usage due to the abandonment of traditional, climate-specific house designs; poisoning of soil and water from widespread and inappropriate usage of septic tanks; and destruction of critical habitat and protective ecosystems that left both human settlements and other species’ homes more vulnerable to environmental threats. Like Nature’s Metropolis, this is the tale of intensive market expansion leading to extreme ecological consequences. Rome argues that “the postwar building boom was an environmental catastrophe on the scale of the Dust Bowl.”