Jane Jacobs, National Treasure

I just picked up a copy of Jane Jacobs's “Dark Age Ahead“,
a riveting critique of trends in today's society, and how she believes
they are leading to a new Dark Ages.  Here's the blurb:


Visionary thinker Jane Jacobs uses her authoritative work on urban life
and economies to show us how we can protect and strengthen our culture
and communities.

In Dark Age Ahead, Jane Jacobs identifies five pillars of our culture
that we depend on but which are in serious decline: community and
family; higher education; the effective practice of science; taxation
and government; and self-policing by learned professions. The decay of
these pillars, Jacobs contends, is behind such ills as environmental
crisis, racism and the growing gulf between rich and poor; their
continued degradation could lead us into a new Dark Age, a period of
cultural collapse in which all that keeps a society alive and vibrant
is forgotten.

But this is a hopeful book as well as a warning. Jacobs draws on her
vast frame of reference — from fifteenth-century Chinese shipbuilding
to zoning regulations in Brampton, Ontario — and in highly readable,
invigorating prose offers proposals that could arrest the cycles of
decay and turn them into beneficent ones. Wise, worldly, full of
real-life examples and accessible concepts, this book is an essential
read for perilous times.

I only just started, but I'm already hooked.  She makes great
points, like the fact that basic agricultural knowledge was lost after
the fall of the Roman Empire, leading to constant famine during the
European Dark Ages.  Even though crop rotation was well known
during Roman times, somehow, hundreds of years later, this technology
was lost.  It was like a massive cultural downgrade. 
Apparently she believes that something like this is what may be in
store for us.  Yikes…

What the coolest thing is about Jacobs, by the way, is that she's 89
years old, and still going strong.  Not only is she still writing,
but she's still as timely and sharp as ever.  We should all hope
to be as on top of things at that age as she is.

–YY

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