This podcast this week is a conversation with Christopher Wells, a professor of Environmental Studies at Macalester College in St Paul. Christopher has just published the book Car Country, an environmental history of the American automobile landscape. In his book, Professor Wells narrates a history of the birth of American automobile society, focusing in particular on the links between the automobile, government policy, and the evolution of auto-dependent land use. The book is a rich history of the early 20th century and how the different cultural, intuitional, and economic interests converged to create a built environment where the private car becomes the only possible choice for moving around American cities.
I sat down with Chris early this week in his office on the Macalaster College campus, in St Paul’s Mac-Groveland neighborhood. We had a long conversation about the early motorcar era, the revolution of the Model T Ford, and the gradual expansion of automobile oriented space until it reached every corner of American society. This is one of my historical passions, and we had a great conversation about why the USA looks so different from other parts of the world, where cars are less of a necessity and more of a luxury. I hope you enjoy our conversation.