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Subdivide and Conquer
A Modern Western

Suburban sprawl: causes and remedies.

A printer-friendly version of this page 56 minutes
Closed Captioned

Produced by Jeff Gersh and Chelsea Congdon
Narrated by Dennis Weaver

"A compelling argument for the containment of sprawl." Jeff Thomas, Northern Arizona University
Suburban sprawl laps at the American landscape like wildfire, consuming over two million acres of land each year. SUBDIVIDE AND CONQUER shows how sprawl impacts peoples' lives in cities, suburbs and towns, and what some people are doing to change the way we grow.

As Americans, we share the myth of the Rocky Mountain West as a majestic place of high-noon deserts and John Wayne mesas, river valleys ringed by saw-toothed peaks, cabins and cowboys. But the reality of the modern West is one of look-alike stripmalls, snarled traffic, air pollution, and ranches sold for subdivisions. Like most places in America, this is a region under siege by unplanned low-density development -- sprawl. The West is now the fastest growing and most urbanized region in the country; most of this growth is occurring on the fringes of metropolitan areas and in rural communities. In some areas, land is consumed for subdivisions at the dizzying rate of over an acre an hour.

Narrated by Dennis Weaver, SUBDIVIDE AND CONQUER explores the consequences of sprawl, the history of this automobile-centered pattern of development, and notions about the endless frontier and rugged individualism. The film also suggests remedies, and takes us to places where sound public policy and good land use planning have stemmed the tide of sprawl. We learn that, when given a choice, many Americans want to live in distinct, well-designed neighborhoods, with all the amenities and attractions that they provide, and they want driving to be one among numerous transit options rather than a lifestyle requirement.

The film takes us through the West - to Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Oregon - to tell the story of what is in fact a national issue making front-page news in every region of the country.

NOTE TO ANTI-SPRAWL ORGANIZATIONS AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCIES: For a limited time we are making this video available at a special price of $59 to local anti-sprawl organizations and local government agencies. Please order under Special Offers.

NOTE TO INDIVIDUALS:This program may be bought as a home video provided that you buy it for your personal use only in the privacy of your home with your family and friends. They are not to be shown in public meetings or gatherings of any kind. Check under Home Videos.

Grade Level: 7-12, College, Adult
US Release Date: 1999     Copyright Date: 1999
DVD ISBN: 1-59458-131-2     VHS ISBN: 1-56029-798-0

"For its first-rate script and score, great production values, and useful suggestions, I highly recommend that you 'head this one up and move it on out to your video shelves."
Video Librarian

"More than merely showing the contradictions of the American Dream in its simultaneous romanticization and destruction of nature, Subdivide and Conquer provides a multidimensional critique and various alternatives to one of the greatest environmental problems facing the U.S. today."
Joe Bandy, Dept. of Sociology and Anthropology, Bowdoin College

"An excellent introduction to the social, political and environmental problems of urban sprawl...Excellently suited for junior or senior level classes in environmental studies at the high school level, or college level classes in modern history, environmental studies, urban studies, interdisciplinary classes that include the above topics."
Kate Foss-Mollan, PhD., author of Hard Water: Politics and Water Supply in Milwaukee

"Subdivide and Conquer is an upbeat and down-home promo for a new brand of proactive incentives-based planning, playing on folks' pride of place as they muster the courage to take a stand against the banditry of sprawl."
Dr. Ian Wright, City Planning and Environmental Design, University of Manitoba

"An entertaining and informative look at the forces that drive development and lead to urban sprawl...Though Subdivide and Conquer maintains a regional focus, the process described in this program applies to the country as a whole."
Todd Gardner, PhD, University of Minnesota, author of The Metropolitan Fringe: Suburbanization in the United States Before World War II

"A well-planned, carefully developed discussion of a problem which plagues many areas of our country far beyond the mountain West...recommended."
Rue Herbert, University of South Florida, MC Journal

"Every viewer of Subdivide and Conquer is bound to learn something new and offers its analysis in a lively and informative manner."
H. Peter Steeves, Dept. of Philosophy, DePaul University

"Opposing business-as-usual practices with optimistic possibilities, this video effectively champions planned development in the West."

"Revelations like these should make Subdivide and Conquer the anti-sprawl activist's favorite documentary."
Sierra Magazine

"Should be viewed by all regional and transportation planners as well as any citizen who wants to quickly grasp the full picture of what 'manifest destiny' looks like."

"Offers a revealing look at the perils of unmanaged growth. We may well look back on this documentary 30 years from now as a lesson in How the West Was Lost."
Mother Jones Magazine

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Study guide

Awards and Festivals
Best Environmental Program, MountainFilm, Telluride
Bronze Plaque, Columbus International Film & Video Festival
Environmental Film Festival in the Nation's Capital
Cornell Environmental Film Festival
Olympia Environmental Film Festival
Taos Mountain Film Festival
Marin Environmental Film Festival
PINE Film Festival, Portland, OR
Brownfields Film Series
Black Bear Film Festival

Air Pollution
American Studies
Environmental Ethics
Land Use
Local Economies
Public Policy

Social Studies
Urban Studies
Urban and Regional Planning
Western US

Related Titles

Subdivide and Conquer (Short Version)
Suburban sprawl -- causes and remedies.

Store Wars
Looks at the impact on a small town when Wal-Mart plans to build a mega-store there.

Save Our Land, Save Our Towns
Examines the causes and effects of -- and then remedies for -- suburban sprawl.

Livable Landscapes
How growth and sprawl affect the quality of life in New England, and some possible solutions.

Chávez Ravine
Don Normark's haunting photographs bring back to life a Mexican American village razed in the 1950s to build Dodger Stadium.

Is "sustainable cities" an oxymoron or can they be made to work?

ReInventing The World
Three 50-minute programs on creating sustainable cities, food systems, and lifestyles.

Wind River
The battle over water rights on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.

Community by Design
Good design of houses and neighborhoods builds community.

Biophilic Design
A design revolution that connects buildings to the natural world, buildings where people feel and perform better.

The Air We Breathe
Connects asthma and other respiratory diseases with air pollution and suburban sprawl.

Possum's Rest
Can humans and wildlife co-exist in the suburbs?

Escaping from History
Poverty and consumerism clash in Mexico City. What can we do?

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