betacity


sustainability has to do with systems like neighborhoods and cities
October 17, 2011, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Cities, economy, Energy, Suburbs, Transit | Tags: , , , ,

Here’s a letter to the editor I wrote in response to an article by Allison Arieff in the New York Times:

A house can’t be sustainable because it is merely an object; sustainability has to do with systems like neighborhoods and cities. So for instance a ‘sustainable’ suburban house that isn’t close to the things we needs to live our daily lives: jobs, grocery stores, schools and entertainment etc., simply can’t be sustainable. Requiring people to drive everywhere in the way our environments have been built has led to an explosion in material use, energy consumption and waste and the making of degraded environments. It’s the context that matters most, not the object. A typical American suburb simply cannot be sustainable unless drastically altered.

The author is right, the way to start is to remove the public subsidies: gas, business incentives etc., so that it becomes harder to build unsustainable sprawl. A way to achieve this is to remember that America’s original single family houses were built in cities on the east coast: Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore etc. For the most part these very livable places continue to be the most sustainable environments on the continent. Requiring that builders put houses close to jobs and markets etc would be the environmental corrective we need to get back to sustainable living.

Letter to the editor, Peter Rudd, New York Times, Shifting the Suburban Paradigm, Allison Arieff

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