News from WaPo:

Finally a Front Page headline that gets one of the Core Confusing Words right!

“In the World’s Rural Outposts, A Shortwave Channel to God.”

This is a story about listening to sermons broadcast over shortwave radio filed from Homoine in southern Mozambique. There are some “rural” outposts in some parts of Africa such as Mozambique and in South America, Central Asia, New Guinea and other isolated places.

When we first traveled in the remote corners of the Caribbean there were rural places there too, but not any more. There are a lot of low density urban places and some nonurban places where human live and work but there are no “rural” places in the US of A and few (yes, Larry some close to the Arctic Circle but nowhere near where tourists go) in North America. For a full discussion of “rural” and other Core Confusing Words see GLOSSARY.

For those who have not read Bjorn Lomborg’s perceptions of Climate Change the front page of Outlook has a nice photo of two Polar Bears and a short item by Lomborg. Interesting perspectives but he, and most others, miss the settlement pattern issue. The only way for humans to protect themselves from future Climate Change – up or down – and other impacts of natural reality is to shrink the ecological footprint of human activity.

That means, over time, fewer people each consuming less. Even more important is that humans need to consume less in all their joint economic, social and physical activities that are carried out at the Household thru the Inter Continental scales – that includes all six of scales in between the Household and the Inter Continental scales. Transport, heating and cooling – and most other forms of resource consumption vary by settlement patterns. More on this in our next column.

By the way, it seems pretty warm today.

Finally for those who think the US of A is doing just fine compared to our primary economic competition, Steven Hill has a nice item “5 Myths About Sick Old Europe” on page 5 of Outlook.

Happy reading and thinking.


Share this article


(comments below)


(comments below)


16 responses to “SUNDAY READING”

  1. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    An interesting phrase to look up is: “Farm-to-market roads”.

    …”in Texas, the terms “Farm to Market Road” or “Ranch to Market Road” indicate a road that is part of the state’s system of secondary and connecting routes, built and maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). This system was established in 1949 as a project to provide access to rural areas.”

    I make no judgements … this is purely FYI…

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    One of the things that is intersting to me about Canada is that most of their urban areas seem “different” but I will admit from the get-go that I am not a world traveller… so my little world of what I know is.. very small.

    But places like Halifax, Frederickton, Saskatoon… Fort Nelson, though fully automobilized, “feel” like some US cities back 30-40 years ago.

    and it could be .. quite simply.. that they have economies lie some of our urban areas had 30/40 years ago…

    .. but they seem like good places to live… still reasonably-priced housing.. and reasonble shopping and amentities if not world-class.

    .. I exclude Edmonton.. which.. for all intents and purposes walks and talks like many US urban areas.. Edmonton is a mess.

    there are many, many, many people in this world who do NOT live like many NoVa folks.. and I suspect are perfectly happy with their more modest lives…

  3. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR appears to be making the argument that since most people living in rural areas have all the amenities of an urban lifestyle, that there are no rural areas.

    I propose a new definition of rural. If there are more wild animals and livestock living in an area than humans, then it is rural. I’d even go so far as saying that if there is more livestock than humans, it is rural.

    I agree that there are many people who live much more modest lifestyles (than the typical NOVA example) and are perfectly happy with them.

    I’d suggest that rather than cramming a lot more people into NOVA, we could make them a lot happier living elsewhere, even if their jobs paid somewhat less.

    All we have to do is figure out how to move the jobs from NOVA to the rural places where people live urban lifestyles anyway.

    Guess what?

    It is already happening.

    27% of the population has homes and jbs in the central city.

    9% have homes in the cental city and jobs in the suburbs.

    20% have homes in the suburbs and jobs in the central city.

    43% have homes in the suburbs and jobs in the suburbs.

    From 1990 to 2000 the increases were, respectively, 5%, 14%, 16%, and 65%.

    And the public transport Mode Share was, respectively, 14%, 6%, 6%, and 2%.

    I have claimed for years, that if you want to succeed, you should plan for what is happening rather that what you would like to happen.

    It is pretty clear, based on the above figures (from MIT) that we should be making truly massive investments in improving suburb to suburb, and intra suburb travel.

    We should immediately abandon all expenditures related to traditional radial travel (HOT lanes and Rail to Tysons) and flood the suburban travel network with free jitneys, paid for with general funds. Such a move would immediately incentivise peole to use Multi-person vehicles.

    And, that way we can go a long way to emulating the points made in Steven Hill’s article about how Europe is outpacing America.

    I think the point of Bjorn Lomborg’s article was that single viewpoint extremism is a major cause of wasted environmental efforts. A point that EMR obviously missed when he says “The only way…..”


  4. Anonymous Avatar

    With all due respect to EMR, but what is the point of him telling us what’s in the Washington Post? Every Sunday, I read the Post, the NY Times and at least two metro Virginia dailies. I think I can read the newspapers without a “paint-by-number” kit.

  5. Jim Bacon Avatar
    Jim Bacon

    Anonymous 7:11, By way of explanation, EMR is a long-time critic of the way the Mainstream Media, the Washington Post in particular, covers issues related to transportation and land use. He is especially critical of the way the media perpetuate mass mid-understanding through the imprecise use of language. (Go to the right-hand column, search for the note on “Glossary” and click through to view EMR’s notes on words and their meaning in the context of the transportation/land use debate.)

    When EMR reviews the Sunday WaPo, as he periodically does, it is usually through the lens of critiquing the analytical framework and vocabulary employed by the writers and editors.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    In a sense, EMR is attempting to re-define commonly-accepted words like Rural – as opposed to patently wrong useage by the mainstream media and/or the folks who read the mainstream media.

    … right?

    He’s free to do this but a lack of acceptance… is not something that one can claim is “wrong”.

    For instance, if the MM started to use HIS definition.. they would have to also explain why they chose to use words in a different way than commonly accepted or else readers would be also confused.

    In general…I think there is a limit to what standards the media should be held to with respect to “accuracy”.. but .. also.. the MM is not a monolithic entity that is controlled by someone who insists that they “do it right” and I’m glad they are not…

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    EMR wants the world to see things his way. He does that by redefining what they say into what he says they should have said and actually meant.

  8. Groveton Avatar

    You guys are killing me.

    You act like “NoVA” is some kind of wierd, unique abberation.

    …live like the people in NoVA…

    …the NoVA lifestyle….

    There are affluent suburbs around almost every major city in the US.

    New York – Rye (among others)
    Chicago – Lake Forest (among others)
    Detroit – Birminham
    Atlanta – Dunwoody (among others)
    SanFrancisco – Atherton (among others)

    In fact, Orange County outside LA (site of the TV show The OC) is Fairfax County’s big brother on the west coast.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Unlike many other large centers of population in the United States, Orange County uses its county name as its source of identification whereas other places in the country are identified by the large city that is closest to them. This is because there is no defined center to Orange County like there is in other areas which have one distinct large city. Five Orange County cities have populations exceeding 170,000 while no cities in the county have populations surpassing 360,000.”.

    Sound familiar?

    There is no more a NoVA lifestyle than there is a Roanoke lifestyle.

  9. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross


    but fairly representative of a select number of major metro areas that I feel are defined by “more” than your smaller stand-alone urban areas.

    Characterized by… things like .. multiple trauma/research centers ..multiple colleges, universities, airports, hubs, etc.

    The folks who “like” the urban centers know… if you gave them a choice between NoVa and Roanoke for a job assignment – it would be a no-brainer…

    Roanoke is a fine place (and I’d pick it over NoVa) but for many, especially the younger set, it’s not a Urban Rock Star…


  10. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse



    My favorite Texas Farm to Market Road is FM 1960 in the Houston New Urban Region. Ride it from end to end and enjoy a visual dictionary of dysfunctional human settlement pattern.

    Your observation about Countryside and small urban enclaves in Canada is right on – 30 or 40 years ago. Urbansides are different. Edmonton is the largest Canadian New Urban Region in which I have not spent quite a bit of time. Sorry to hear your assessment. Try most of the others, Toronto, Vancouver, etc. and especially some of the smaller ones like Victoria and Ottawa.

    In all these places one can see how much better US of A could have done over the past 60 years. Ottawa as a nation-state capital is very functional. Of course Washington-Baltimore is an order of magnitude larger but much can be learned from what the Canadians have accomplished in essentially the some context.

    “In a sense, EMR is attempting to re-define commonly-accepted words like Rural – as opposed to patently wrong usage by the mainstream media and/or the folks who read the mainstream media.

    … right?”

    NO, NO, NO

    When the conditions that a word like “rural” (or “city”) once described fundamentally change STOP using the word to describe the new condition. It is still a valid word as long as you use it to describe the historic condition.

    Some words like “suburb” and “sprawl” were always confusing so abandon them too. That is what the list of “Core Confusing Words” in GLOSSARY is all about.

    Only an idiot would propose to “redefine” an oft used word. Come up with a new word or phrase that makes the meaning clear.

    Only those with ulterior motives would continue to use words they knew were confusing. In our next Backgrounder we will outline the ulterior motives that drive of MainStream Media.


    Right on. Good point re Orange County. More on that in our Backgrounder on “The Problem With Cars.”


  11. E M Risse Avatar
    E M Risse


    Nice use of words.

    I have one question:

    How do you define “hub”? Is “hub” something like a Centroid or more like a Zentrum? Are all the “hubs” inside the Clear Edge?

    We need to be as specific about the organic fabric of human settlement pattern as we are about the anatomy of the human body.

    “I have an ouchy in my tummy” is not a useful way to describe Diverticlousis.


  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    EMR – now there you go again.


    I am embarassed to admit that I had no deep meaning associated with the word “hub” other than to describe a place where many paths lead to…

    it could mean much more than an airport or rail hub .. for instance a regional medical center or a major university with specialized degrees not found in typical univerisites…etc

    and of course that leads to a “why” and so on and so forth.

    Does “hub” have a specific new urbanist conotation? one that is different from a conventional settlement notion?

    Are they the same critter in either setting .. or different?

  13. I think “rural” is a slippery term. One person’s rural is another person’s exurb, or in some cases suburb even.
    I do think it’s valid for journalists to refer to parts of the US and even Virginia as “rural,” if for no other reason than because they’re categorized by the US Census as rural.

  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    there is one thing that I think tells one what is NOT rural and that is water/sewer infrastructure.

    we have lots of dialogue on compact development… and where housing should be and not be…

    but compact development without water/sewer is a no-go unless you’re gonna have a humongous well sufficient to serve the density and a very large common drainfield (possible).

    If a locality provides water/sewer to a given area – I don’t think it’s rural any longer

    It might “look” rural but the outcome is preordained.. with only the “when” part undecided.

    you just cannot plop down a compact development anywhere – regardless of geography or location – either.

    and without water/sewer, your settlement pattern IS going to be low-density residential because commercial is even harder to do without water/sewer.

    I’m suprised that this issue has nto come up much with regard to settlement patterns.

  15. Anonymous Avatar

    Right. So anyone who wants to and is willing to provide a performance bond ought to be able to hire an engineer and put in his own water and sewer, right?

    Wrong. Such things are mostly against the ordinances, not because they won’t work or becaus people would do them, but because there have been so many failures due to government falure in oversight.

  16. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    The State Health Department will allow private systems and I think
    they do require a substantial performance bond and for good reason.

    Those “failures” (I would correct) were not failures in government oversight FIRST; the actual “failure” was that the folks who built and operated them failed to do what they promised and the state had to step in – with taxpayer dollars and fix it.

    I’m not sure that a locality can even prevent a private water/sewer plant per se from being built. Isn’t that handled by DEQ and the State Health Department?

    This is really quite an interesting question because settlement patterns that are predicated on compact development -need water/sewer

    .. and once built – water/sewer can and does enable the more traditional low-density 1/4 acre subdivision type of development which the advocates of compact development consider not a good thing.

    For instance, a Greenfield multi-use proposal .. might require that water/sewer be extended to that site – and once it is – it allows the land adjacent to also be developed – with some uses that may not be compact but rather more traditional low density subdivisions.

Leave a Reply