This documentary raises a possibility with truly staggering implications --that the lifestyle Americans and other wealthy industrial nations have come to take for granted will soon come to an abrupt halt. The basic premise of the film is based on the theory that we have reached --or possibly passed-- the stage of "peak oil." That is, no matter how efficient we are or how many oil-rich nations we invade, there is simply not going to be enough oil in the near future to keep up with the ever-increasing demand. This, combined with an impending shortage of natural gas, which is required for electricity, means that some drastic and painful changes may soon be forced upon millions of people.
The End of Suburbia is definitely a film with a message. There is no attempt to present an opposing point of view here. I suppose interviewing an oil company spokesperson with a dissident opinion would not have added much value. There are, I believe, nonpartisan experts who do not agree with the peak oil theory, but interested viewers can do their own research, which is always a good idea. The film could be criticized for its mainly pessimistic slant, but this can hardly be avoided considering the topic! They do present some possible alternatives towards the end, such as the new urbanism movement, which seeks to create more livable cities in place of sprawl.
The experts interviewed in The End of Suburbia, such as Mike Ruppert and Jim Kunstler are articulate and convincing. Ruppert has a very informative web site where he gives updates on this and other important issues. The film handles its subject in an entertaining way, giving the history of American suburbia from the post-World War ll era to the present. The fact is, America has invested in and subsidized this automobile-centered way of life to the exclusion of all alternatives. The cost of this is something we may only be starting to realize. Ironically, I saw this film a week after gas in the U.S. went above $3/gallon, which would have been unthinkable a short time ago. This may be only the beginning.
The modern suburban landscape is, after all, fairly bizarre if we think about it and stop taking it for granted. Millions of people drive long distances every day, going from cardboard-cutout homes to office cubicles, Walmarts and gargantuan shopping centers. As The End of Suburbia points out, the suburb is an entirely artificial environment, neither city nor country and combining the worst of each. It is, perhaps, a good thing in the long run that its reign is most likely about to end.