The End of Suburbia

The End of Suburbia

Ratings: 7.25/10 from 24 users.

The End of SuburbiaSince 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?

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40 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Bestoink Dooley

    This video was made several years ago just before the tight oil boomlet in the US. was getting underway.That boomlet has given us some extra time -probably about ten years or so- but the high cost of extraction and the inherent rapid depletion of shale wells makes it only a temporary reprieve to what's coming :Peak Oil. It's going to be ugly.

  2. disqus_kgXQNDEnVa

    It is somewhat disingenuous to suggest that energy depletion is both largely the fault of the suburbs and that suburbs will be the only places to suffer because of peak oil. For instance, the film talks at length about consumption and production of both food and products; these are things that will affect cities dwellers just as much as they will affect suburbanites. There is also a growing number of urbanites who have "reverse commutes"-- that is, they live in the city and work in the suburbs, so city living does not guarantee less driving. And those who do live and work in the city are still using fossil fuels for commuting, unless they walk or ride a bicycle.

    Research also suggests that resource consumption is highly dependent on income. While some studies have suggested that per capita GHG emissions are smaller in cities (and this work is not conclusive....there are conflicting studies about this), there is also a higher concentration of poverty in cities, which may at least partially explain the lower per capita numbers. I am not suggesting that we should not be concerned about resource consumption, because we most certainly should. What I am suggesting is that all Americans-- not just suburbanites-- should be thinking about these issues and taking responsibility for the resources we consume. Moreover, it is not just the suburban way of life that will be affected by the depletion of energy resources, but that all Americans will find themselves having to make adjustments to the way that they live.

  3. Alv V

    Those that are keeping society like it have been the last decades, is flogging a dead horse. Now people are starting to realize the horse is dead, but still wars are going to brake out to try to wake up the horse from the dead. Neighbors are going to fight over the left-overs from the big party humanity have had from fossil fuels.

  4. Roy

    This is one of the most misleading films on energy issues I have ever watched. Errors abound and the conclusions are in major defect. Conclusion: Watch reruns of McHale's Navy, you will be better off.

  5. Spencer

    Gives a good background on why suburban development has to eventually be rethought and isn't ultimately sustainable. It was pretty interesting for me. I'm living in Ottawa right now, which has a population around 1 million. Ottawa had a lot of suburban development after WWII and is a highly spread out city. The city is kind of in an interesting transition right now though. There are a number of current suburban developments but the city is trying to start increasing urban density and has plans to upgrade public transit and install a new light rail system.

    Something the documentary didn't fully touch on. It never mentioned a few other possibilities for energy and electricity generation such as hydro electric, tidal power, or potentially geothermal. While not viable in all areas hydro can produce a very high amount of electricity and is pretty reliable. I don't know about the US but there is a pretty high amount of it in various parts of Canada. Manitoba gets most, if not all its electricity from hydro. Quebec and Ontario have quite a large amount of it as well and there are still several potential sites in both provinces which could be developed. Without as much cheap oil we would still have to scale back energy use and downsize some aspects of our lifestyles, but we probably have enough potential hydro energy we could keep a lot of things going.

  6. SloopyLopez

    I just don't see how anyone can still be in denial about the state of our planet. Most of the spokespeople for the mega-rich corporations whose theories of "all is well, no need to worry, we have enough oil for a couple 100 more years, and there's no such thing as global warming" have begun to recant their ideas. Not only that, but we can now see evidence that the way of living, as we know it, has entered the beginning stages of decline.

  7. FreemonSandlewould

    Ha! Liberal BS. Fact is we're about to have a huge boom in shale oil and gas!
    I know about now you liberals want for me to get on bended knee and pray to the god of global warming. Sorry that is over. MMGW is a hoax. And funny enough the applicability of "peak oil" appears to be a hoax also. The stone age did not end for a lack of stones and neither will the oil age.

    Discredited idea. Nothing to see here. Move along.

    1. Pete

      Shale oil is scraping the barrel; if peak oil wasn't a reality then the oil companies wouldn't give shale oil a second thought. I bet you believe in that Conservative BS, 'the war on terror'.

    2. Matt Begley

      No global warming... really? You either can't comprehend, or you're in denial about, the facts that proove beyond any doubt that we are in for intense climatic fluxuations currently and for the forseable future expressed by global warming. The numbers don't lie, it has been independantly verified and anyone with eyes can see it happening. Simply observe arctic and antarctic sea ice decline or glacial decline world wide. As the tundra's permafrost begins to thaw it is releaseng tons of methane into the air which has altered scientific models to increase the rate of planetary warming. I bet you're a Christian as well, that would explain the denial of reality you seem so comfortable with.

    3. Jamie

      Freemon: You are an id**t. Not even worth a comment.

  8. just a thought

    Woops. That was meant for the Leary doc. See what drugs do to you. :)

  9. just a thought

    Leary's treatment of LSD was completely reckless - not unlike his private life, where disappointment and mental breakdown were the fate of many who knew him. It's one thing to be an educator, and quite another to push a potentially dangerous substance on an entire generation of gullible youth with a canned one-liner.

    Whatever benefits LSD had for psychiatry and for reaching the mainstream were never realized because of him. And that will be his legacy.

  10. MJ

    Suburbia: You'll never find more soulless, lifeless breeding grounds for homogeneity and smile-faced depressants.

  11. tom

    To those commenting on how to fix the gulf oil leak, it's great to come up with good ideas, but you're missing an important fact: If we hadn't had such a need for foreign oil, there would be no need to try to get oil from such depths; such difficult places, and no oil catastrophe in the gulf. Think about it, and start using your bicycle as much as possible.

  12. ekhagy

    Follow this documentary with: Collapse. One day this topic will be the only topic in discussion.

  13. Hambone Littletail

    Any advice on how to get the damn thing to play beyond the first ten minutes without it conking out on me? I've tried twice now, and it throws me back to the beginning. I really want to see this documentary.

  14. TonyBeauX

    Thanks so much Vlatko!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. TonyBeauX

    I hope this gets added again soon. :(

    1. Vlatko

      It's fixed. You'll just need DivX Web Player to play this.

  16. coyote03

    Same here, looks like it may have been removed :(

  17. Jenna

    I really want to watch this but everytime I've tried over the last 2 weeks it doesn't work. I can watch other docs on this site but not this one. Please fix this. Thanks.

  18. Chris

    Don't be so stupid. It's coming out at something like 20,000 psi down there. Even getting a pipe inside the hole would be impossible.

    The best bet.... make a frame around it then make a plug that will fit inside the frame. Put concrete blocks on the plug till it is heavier than the force of oil coming out and forces down on the hole.

  19. DancingSpiderman

    Design what would be a rapid-fire large-bore spud gun, that will shoot Brawny paper towel rolls out of a 50 foot long stiff rifle barrel...

    Shove the spud gun rifle barrel 50 feet inside the oil leak hole, and shoot thousands of paper towel rolls within inside the hole, the rolls EXPAND on contact with the oil, and WALLA you papier-mache' the leak shut FROM THE INSIDE.

    Use the spud gun design in the same manner as described above, but this time, shoot hundreds of large round wads of those Miracle Sponges (the kid's toy, rapidly expands when placed in water) from within inside the leak hole about 50 feet inside, so that there is time enough for the sponge to expand and plug up the oil leak hole, again from the inside of the hole.

  20. DancingSpiderman


    About the Gulf Of Mexico oil leak, why doesn't BP just do the most simplest solution of all:
    Shove a stiff hose 70 feet or so into the gaping leak hole, and quickly inject several thousand gallons of ready-mix concrete from within inside the hole ?

    The oil, sand, and flotsam flowing its way out towards the exit hole will help the concrete to congeal, plugging up the hole by the time it makes contact with the inside of the hole, effectively plugging the hole up.

    Then crew can then cap the leak better on the outside because the escaping oil flow will be GREATLY reduced by the inside plug.

    I've sent emails with this same solution to The White House, to BP, and to the American Chemical Society, among other organizations and talk radio show hosts, and the only reply I got was a stupid form letter email from the white castle, in wording that tells me absolutely nobody even reads emails there.

    This solution is the most common-sensible one, much less expensive and has a much higher probability of success than anything they've attempted so far. You CANNOT effectively plug a leak of that kind from outside the leak.

    The solution is staring them in the face, but it is being ignored and not tried.
    My conclusion is that the Powers That Be have a nefarious ulterior reason for not stopping the oil leak. The onus is on them to prove this assumption incorrect. The onus is also on the responsible company to solve the problem -- the ENTIRE problem and its consequences. And then to never EVER do the same activity in the same way again.

  21. RJ

    I'm not sure totality was watching the same documentary, or maybe she/he went for a few cups of tea at vital points. Watch it again, especially the first 20 mins when they talk about how ugly industrial cities became and how everyone wanted to flee them. Then go back and edit your comments. Also watch again, the very detailed description of how oil will simply get more and more expensive. It specifically explains that oil will not just "run out".

    Anyway, It's a luxury to have so many plants we can't eat or use growing in our urban landscapes. It will be lovely to see that change back.

  22. milton

    to Kfrench
    I think we can follow the same scheme the elites are following except we give it a twist. They have their fancy Council's on Foreign Relations; there is one in every state. Well we can create a council on enviroment; then we use fancy doctors we pay to give testimony to congress. pay congress. and done. Thats how things get done in this world. We just need alot of donations and a way to make it profitable to the people supporting our cause. not necessarily a profitable industry of change.. just profitable enough to pay the people who put up some dollars to pay the original bribes. The only danger is the elite gather up more dollars than us and pay more bribes than us to get their way.

  23. Anna

    Great to see this online to view for free! Thank you. :)

  24. Luke Wilson

    Well this was yet another informative documentary about the imminent demise of the modern day citizen. If you manage to escape the terrorists(fanatics), the government, religious propaganda and whatever else out there that is lining you up for an evening meal, there is always energy. Great, feels me with optimism for the future. Superb stuff.

  25. Alan

    I just watched this online but I will be buying the DVD I think the message provided is worth the support I can provide.

    There are many people out there like myself that will gladly pay for media after determining that is is worth paying for.

    Also having it available in this way even though it is pirated will likely get the message out to more people. I know this sentiment will not cover costs, but I wanted to mention it.

  26. Yavanna


    Whilst I admire your comment as being well constructed I don't particularly agree with you on all facets. Please don't take this as an attack - for one thing I`m not a yank so bare with me. I simply cannot construct all my thoughts and processes to include the USA as the ultimate barometer and all consuming question.

    I do believe that advertising is a form of mind control - in fact its a huge part of the basis for the Muslims attack on our standards for civilisation. I really don't think it is hard to imagine of even establish the need for interested parties to make oil become a hugely profitable asset. IF "oil" is running out - which is more a fact than an "IF" then you are correct in saying the price will rise and people will assume more efficient ways of living.

    However advertising will force society to consume every last drop and suck every last penny before it eventually becomes a non issue. And then what? I believe there are numerous technologies being withheld but if not is it otherwise possible for the huge populations to somehow convert to living a Amish type existence? Minus the Nike trainers ofc nethere mind the jeeps.

  27. Totality

    I'm not sure if I buy into the idea that suburbia and American's fascination with cars was some sort of evil corporate conspiracy...

    People moved out of the cities into the suburbs and "gutted" the inner city as the film puts it, because people WANTED to get out of the city. They make it sound like people were tricked or forced out of the inner city into the suburbs. To me this is absolutely ridiculous. People left the inner city in droves because they wanted to leave.

    The assertion that America became so heavily dependent on cars rather than mass transit "because we had to invent an industry to use up all the cheap oil" is silly. Light rails and buses are nice (in theory...), but the ability to go where you want on your own schedule is an obvious advantage that automobiles have over mass transit. To overlook that is shameful on the part of this film.

    Now, the central theme is that hydrocarbon energy is declining and this lifestyle of suburbs supported by automobile culture is unsustainable. Long term, petroleum supplies will someday be depleted. What these people overlook is that we won't just wake up one day and find out there is no more oil. Price will begin to steadily and universally increase over the long term, thus increasing the cost of living in the suburb/auto lifestyle this film rails against.

    Long term, people will simply move to more cost-effective lifestyles, wherever that may be (electric cars with solar/wind energy, move back into urban areas, etc etc).

    This problem will fix itself in the long-term. This will not cause an apocalypse or overnight disaster, simply a slow change in lifestyle and standard of living. There is no need for all this fear mongering. There are more immediate issues to direct your attention and effort to.

    1. Zoidberg 1201

      The last time someone was as wrong as you "witches" got burnt at the stake.

      Our system is grow or die, it cannot be gradually transitioned from.
      That's why the peak in production is important.

      Doesn't seem like you watched the doc.

  28. Yavanna

    There have been many patents crushed by the car / oil industries that could have produced a better future but that wouldn't have been so profitable now would it? And Sally your'e right hemp is the only realistic alternative at the moment. SO many uses it's crazy not to be using it as all the ancient cultures did.

  29. Sally

    Legalize hemp. It has hundreds of thousands of industrial uses. millions of jobs could be created and it will be so much healthier for our planet than burning fossil fuels.

  30. David

    Technology already solved it millions of years ago. We should live as peaceful creatures of Nature, not as greedy individuals wishing for more and more and more until we die.

  31. Techguy

    Don't be too pessimistic, technology will soon solve these problems.

  32. James Young

    Brings up the most interesting subject of all Population.

    How large a population can the planet support, and give all a reasonable way of life?

  33. leverhundar

    Interesting and informative

  34. Der Oberst

    I agree, good documentary.

    7 out of 10 Stars.

  35. kfrench

    I think our way of life in very wasteful and it is not even healthy way of life. I wish I knew of some way to help bring about the massive collective change that America needs, and I think it is very disturbing that the government is not informing its citizens more about this crisis. Wonderful documentary.