Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Smart Growth

I have a new environmental interest: Smart Growth. It's partially an academic interest, and partially a personal one. Over the summer I read some things for an environmental policy class about making urban areas walkable and sustainable so that the infrastructure itself is green (LEED certified, and the like) and so that the people who live there are encouraged (or in some cases, forced) to live in more green ways. This really struck a cord with me because, as my earlier post mentions, we recently moved to the 'burbs, and let me tell you-- this area could really use some smart growth concepts implemented. I also just love the idea of encouraging green lifestyle choices by making them easier. In my neighborhood, people wouldn't drive quite so much if there were safer crosswalks and sidewalks for pedestrians, and if there were more little grocery stores or convenience stores interspersed amongst homes. (In smart growth terms, that's called mixed-use development).

This semester I'm taking an entire class about transportation and smart growth, so I get to read a lot more about it, which is great. There is a fair share of support for the concept, but there is also quite a bit of anti-smart growth sentiment out there. Some argue that a more accurate term would be "restricted growth" but from what I've read about and learned in class, I really don't think there's anything limiting about smart growth. The point of smart growth is not to restrict or stop growth, it's to accommodate growth in such a way that takes the long-term sustainability of the community and the environment into account. Still, not everyone sees this or agrees with it. And even those who do agree with it don't all necessarily find it attractive. My class, which is full of environmental science and policy graduate students, has a lot of comments from students saying they understand the benefits of smart growth, but at the end of the day, they want their single-family home, their backyard, their car, and their parking spot more than they want to live in a smart growth community. I know they're not alone, and that this is how most Americans think, but it's especially discouraging to hear it from a group of people who are clearly concerned about the environment. The idea that living in a smart growth community is a sacrifice is a huge hurdle that the smart growth movement must overcome. I don't have the answers for this (yet) but as with all things in life, the first step to overcoming the problem is to acknowledge it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For green thinking to lead to a life style change it has to be a trend people want.I could give up my single family home if life is more fun in a high rise. if you have a wonderful door person who knows and likes you and is a sort of welcoming Mom that may make living in a box in the sky better. Also a gym and a space to play and a garden plot on the roof and a party room and a balcony and a really really big tv and a party organizer and a baby sitting pool and a real pool and a convenience store and well - see what I mean? Also a connection to pub transportation that sheltered you from nature and had a news station to watch while you wait with a update - well see what I mean. can I be a member now?