Published by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) Support Us

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Facebook

Opinions and observations from environmental experts, activists, and luminaries
Thanks for a nice post. I agree with all you have wriiten, as you have stated it. But, at the same time, we must be very careful not to allow a "new ruralism" to become a pretext for suburban expansion onto prime farmland that would better be preserved intact. We need metropolitan areas to be as compact as possible to preserve what lies beyond as well as to maintain efficient transportation patterns and limit per-capita stormwater runoff. Unfortunately, such suburbanism is exactly what is being proposed by some adherents of the new ruralism. The American Farmland Trust, the nation's leading advocate for sustainable agriculture and a longtime NRDC partner, has big problems with that, and so does NRDC's smart growth program.
I live in Pinole, California, a town of about 20,000 just North of Berkeley along I-80. The town is in the process of adopting a new General Plan that embodies many smart growth elements, including rezoning of older single family areas in the original town center for high density development. My home is on a block being rezoned. It currently functions in mixed use mode, with residences and businesses side by side. Because we have yards, it is possible to grow a vegetables that provide a health supplement to our diet -- my wife and I enjoy a large salad each day from our garden that is the centerpiece of our evening meal. Rezoning of our block to smart growth standards will eliminate its potential role in the urban foodshed, since setbacks will be eliminated altogether. Tall buildings will cause long shadows that make artificial lighting essential. Eliminating side yards will reduce natural ventilation by erasing windows. Countering the urban density of smart growth are the resiliency and relocalization concepts embedded in the Transition Town movement. Resiliency is improved by local gardening. Dense urban cores require elevators, which seem the polar opposite of resilient. We replace some horizontal miles traveled with vertical miles traveled in an energy consuming vehicle. Is this wise? My hope is that we can recognize the energy saving potential of working at home, and combine that with space reserved for gardening, especially in older neighborhoods. Working at home reduces demand on the environment in many powerful ways, yet it is not a recognized part of the good energy options now being discussed. I am representing a lonely vision of zoning for multiple use -- live/work/grow. The planning commission thinks I am from Mars. Do you have any suggestions? Things to read and/or cite?