THE CROWDING SYNDROME: Learning to Live with Too Much and Too Many by Caroline Bird

THE CROWDING SYNDROME: Learning to Live with Too Much and Too Many

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An optimist among the population-bomb Cassandras, Caroline Bird (Born Female, 1968; The Invisible Scar, 1966) outlines the dimensions of urban and planetary crowding, surveys the staggering overloads of service systems from Con Edison and Ma Bell to the subways, tallies up recent breakdowns beginning with the Great Northeast Blackout of '65, and concludes that things will surely get worse before human ingenuity and systems analysis can bail us out. And bail us out they will because makeshift, shrink, share, queue, and cutback solutions to spatial and temporal crowding will fail us. Rejecting recent Nixonian attempts to slow economic growth, promote the ""rural alternative"" to urban blight, and dam the media information flow, she rightly labels these non-solutions to the turbulence of growth as ""elitist"" attempts to protect the haves from the encroachment of increasingly strident have-nots competing for physical and psychic elbowroom. Rejecting the animal analogies of the Lorenz-Ardrey studies which show social pathology rising because of congestion, Bird argues that we are not rats and that crowding is a relative concept -- look at how well Tokyo manages compared to New York. But fundamentally she rests her case on the adaptability of the human brain and nervous system: ""The more they handle the more their capacity grows"" -- a kind of biological equivalent to Toynbee's dubious challenge-response thesis. She does not venture an estimate of just how many this crowded earth can accommodate, saying only that the ""limits recede"" as they are approached and likewise she barely sketches the social controls which will inevitably limit hitherto inalienable property rights. ""Global solutions"" are advocated for such problems as electrical power shortages -- in the long run they will, because they must, override vested private interests. As an affirmation this is sensible and encouraging; as a solution it's more hortatory than programmatic.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1972
Publisher: McKay