More than anything, humans need to know what's over that next hill. We explore. But now that we done explored every valley, we thirst for a supplement. The Car: the Ford Explorer, the Plymouth Voyager, the Dodge Caravan. The fucking Probe. This symbol of independence rollicks humankind into the sunset of uncharted freedom. But because we cannot actually explore anything new, cars allow us to at least feel free.

Such begins Sprawling from Grace, a dissection of how the United States built a country of suburbs, not only convenient by car, but necessitating it. And with the necessary car came the necessary expansion of freeways, which are now crumbling; the necessary time we spend sitting in those cars, which is growing; and the necessary gas, which is dwindling. Ninety-five percent of all the earth's petroleum goes toward fueling vehicles. And we're running out, which will lead to resource wars. "All those Mel Gibson Road Warrior movies could look more and more like reality 100 years from now," intones Bill Clinton.

Indeed, the car—the fake tan of true independence—could be our undoing. But Sprawling from Grace promises a salvation that's a hell of a lot better than suburbs. It also reminds the complacent urbanite how dire the problem is and how to communicate the virtues of urban living to someone who spends 20 hours a week behind a seat belt. Besides, we have plenty of more pressing things to explore—space, atoms, DNA—than what's over that next hill. recommended

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