Thursday, June 09, 2005

Deep Thoughts by Rob

St. Edwards University, recently bulldozed a forest to put up a parking lot (like the song). One of the ironies of the project was that since city officials require adequate drainage and runoff for new structures, the university bulldozed another section of the forest to build a retaining pool (adjacent to the already-present creek). School officials might reprove: “but we added some really nice landscape around the parking lot and retaining pool!”

Texas will most likely begin paving its state with an entire new freeway system, the Trans-Texas Corridor, parallel to existing freeways. Sure it would be nice to widen the freeways by a lane in the countryside, but is it necessary to create an entire new freeway system that civilians will never use (it will be a toll road) and that will slice a ¼ mile of concrete through forests, plains, farms, and deserts? Texas state officials respond - and this is only mild hyperbole, “But what will Texans do 100 years from now if we don’t build these freeways today!”

As a socially and environmentally conscious individual, I am alarmed by the pace of development in America (and Texas in particular). A recent article in the Houston Chronicle wrote about a simple and unfortunate reality: it is cheaper and easier (politically and legally) to buy a farm in exurbia and convert it into the next track of homes for middle-income, traffic-braving soccer moms and dads, than it is to build closer together within already established city limits. As a result places like Houston have both underutilized land within city zones, gentrification occurring in older more historic city zones, and city limits expanding further and further into semi-virgin land: in some cases new subdivisions are being built 50 to 80 miles outside the city center. One of the new reported communities boasts nature trails and bird look-outs. This sounds wonderful until one realizes that their house no doubt use to be the bird's house. Following developers’ trends, the new subdivision will likely be called “Scissortail Landing,” eponymously named for the birds that no longer dwell there.

The desire to obtain “the good life in the suburbs, far removed from the problems of the city,” has become a problem in itself. Development for the sake of development creates myriad social ills, including traffic congestion and pollution, out of control commercial and residential strips (ever see a new Home Depot built in the same parking lot as an old shuttered Home Depot?), and decreased socialization among neighbors due to larger and more separate homes.

Try this fun exercise, visit, click on “Satellite,” close your eyes and click on a random area of America. Then zoom in. No doubt you'll land in the 'burbs.


Uncle Mike said...

Hi Rob,

Cool web site. How do you figure all this stuff out? I would say you have too much time on your hands, but I know that's not the case.

I couldn't let this pass without jerking your chain a little. Besides, what good is it to be a blogger if nobody responds?

Let me start by pointing out the obvious. . . There are more people and they have to live somewhere. Why should it matter if they decide to live away from the urban centers? Can you blame them?

I don't believe that there is anything sacred about vacant land (especially in Texas). I also believe that a person has a right to do whatever they want with their land (within the scope of reasonable zoning laws). Who do you think owns the land that is being developed? The developer. He is willing to take the risk and pour his money into providing a product that he thinks people want. If he's right, he makes a lot of money. If he's wrong, he loses a lot of money. Meanwhile, he provides jobs.

It's the entreprenuerial spirit that made this country great (well, that and the Christian principles upon which the country was founded).

One more thing that you might find interesting. Adam and Eve, and then Noah and his family (after the flood) were told to multiply and fill the earth. Show me in the Bible where God endorses or even condones population control. God never told anyone to stop having kids. And a large family (actually, many sons, sorry ladies) was always a sign of great blessing.

Population control is a man-made invention brought to us by the same people who push the evolution lie. That's not to say that I look forward to the world being overrun by people, but it does make me wonder if maybe God has some limit to the number of people who will be born and Christ won't return until the XX billionth child is born.

Until then, I will pathetically try to carve out my little piece of tranquility amidst the suburban sprawl. If I can have enough privacy to pee in my yard without being seen by my neighbors and make it to work within 20 minutes, I have my own little slice of the American dream. Now if my wife would just concede to have another dozen or so children. . .

So, be fruitful and multiply so Christ will return sooner. (besides, your kids will be really smart and cute)

Uncle Mike

Robert & Rachel said...

There are many tangible ways to quantify the loss of environment in economic terms, but what some people may never understand or appreciate are the even greater societal, psychological and spiritual costs. Pro-growth advocates will continue to decry a policy that protects "some ivory-billed woodpecker bird" over their God-given right to multiply and litter the prairies and forests with McMansions, but they fail to grasp that their self-serving pursuit of "the American Dream" is stifling future Americans' ability to thrive and enjoy what is left of America.

Urban planning isn't for everyone. A couple of years ago the residents of Phoenix defeated an initiative that would have created a metropolitan urban growth boundary - similar to the one in Portland. When I asked a local to address his fears about the future of his city and the problem of sprawl, he sort of opened his mouth in incredulity. I might as well have asked him to solve a derivative or explain what fire does on a subatomic level.

Anyway, I feel very passionately about unplanned and poorly planned growth, so I will revisit this issue from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Whose to say that if the 'self-serving' developer decides not to urbanize a piece of land that that in itself is stifling what some future Americans might consider their 'American Dream' to be, this being the simple pursuit of owning a decent surbuban home to fellowship with their children, family, friends, etc.? If this isn't an option for this family, where are they to go? Some city center apartment highrise? I can't imagine that to be an ideal place to raise a family.

I'd like to hear what some other options might be.