August 27, 2004

Stopping Sprawl Is Up To Us

"Only when a substantial number of ordinary citizens decide that it's a critical national issue and follow conservation groups into battle will the destructive effects of sprawl move to the forefront of the national agenda," writes Anna Quindlen in an opinion piece for Newsweek magazine. "Sensible and ecologically sound development is possible, but people have to seek and support it. Otherwise the hideous stretches of superstores and supermarkets that turn downtowns into ghost towns will begin to meet across the great suburban plain, and every former cornfield in America will have a name like Fox Run. Without the fox."

This is a piece worth reading. She notes that sprawl isn't regulated by one or two governmental agencies, but by cities, towns and states across America. She compares sprawl to smoking -- and how it took concerted efforts of many, including massive public education campaigns, year after year, to finally have an effect in curbing the deadly habit. A similar, massive and sustained effort is needed to combat sprawl.

"[I]f you asked many Americans what is most devaluing the quality of their lives, I suspect the answer would be that their surroundings look like Monopoly boards at the very end of a hectic game," she writes.

"If that doesn't change, our kids will wind up in an unlovely and unlivable place, sitting in endless traffic because the exurbs have moved still farther out...., drinking degraded water because the water table has been polluted, taking pictures on vacation to prove that forests still exist."

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