Dead Cities: A Natural History

Dead Cities: A Natural History<BR> By Mike Davis. | The New Press. $27.95.

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Mike Davis has long been America’s guide to the shadowlands of postmodern urbanism. In City of Quartz, he unveiled a Boschian vision of Los Angeles — the city of dreams — as a Blade Runner dystopia already upon us. Ecology of Fear painted L.A. in a paranoid palette, as a metropolis unlikely to survive the combined threats of mega-quakes, fires, and El Niños. Now, as the nation attempts to reinvent its downtowns as well-secured malls, Dead Cities forcefully returns our gaze to urban landscapes divided by race and class, and lurching unsustainably toward a showdown with Mother Nature.

If too many of Dead Cities‘ chapters read as filler — essays on Southern California politics that would have felt dated five years ago — the fresher work effectively challenges the much touted revival of America’s cities. Davis’ strange tour winds from the riot-scarred streets of Compton to “the most polluted site on Earth” — a bioweapons test site just west of Salt Lake City — to collapsing East Coast ghettos.

As ever, Davis remains preoccupied with the West. At his darkest, he foresees a future in which “sprawl … addiction, violence, and simulation will have overwhelmed every vital life-space west of the Rockies.” It’s the West become Los Angeles. Or worse yet, Las Vegas — a city whose “prodigal overconsumption,” hyper-sprawl, and poverty-stricken inner city make it the apogee of unsustainability. Creating a viable “alternative urbanism,” writes Davis, presents an extraordinary challenge. But then again, “this may be the last generation even given the opportunity to try.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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