Friday, April 9, 2010

The Environmental Paradox of Smart Growth

Kaid Benfield, a fellow new urbanist and the Smart Growth Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council appropriately summarized in a recent blog post entitled "The Environmental Paradox of Smart Growth" what I have written about in this blog and have spoken about for years.

There is no question that sustainable land use requires, among other things, neighborhood density.  Indeed, I have basically staked my career on the proposition that we must increase the average density of our new (and, in some cases, existing) built environment in the US if we are to achieve anything near sustainability as we absorb more growth.  Nothing has been worse for our environment than sprawl.  Smart growth based on walkable neighborhoods, transportation choices, nearby amenities and the accommodation of an increasingly diverse society – more urbanism, if you will – is the only way we can limit per-capita impacts, and thus total impacts, to a manageable level.

But we also must be honest with ourselves about something, if we are to get this right:  Environmental impacts will occur with development; to limit them, we must concentrate them, and this can mean increasing them in some places.  This is what I call the environmental paradox of smart growth.  Only if we understand the paradox can we address it.  Only if we address it can we really create better places in which to live, work, and play – and surely that, not just lowering pollution numbers, must be our real goal.

Amen, Kaid.Well said.

Read the rest of the blog post here.

1 comment:

  1. A healthy human habitat, as described above and in this this blog to every good end, is the ying to the yang of a healthy physical enviornment. The sprawl in between, its derivative cost structure, and its apologist are the enemy of both the human habitat and the physical enviornment. Maybe its less about discussing choices in the built enviornment and more about showing which choices cost us more in both the short and long run. The trade-off for both requires us to make this clear.