Click on the headline (link) for the full text.
Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Our Ailing Communities (Richard Jackson interview)
Jeff Speck, Metropolis Magazine
Public-health advocate Richard Jackson argues that the way we build cities and neighborhoods is the source of many chronic diseases.
There are few things more delicious professionally than finding a well-credentialed expert from another field-perhaps one that is better trusted than one’s own, such as medicine-who has dedicated his life’s work to proving everything you’ve been arguing for years. That’s why so many city planners are in love with Dr. Richard Joseph Jackson, whose latest book-Urban Sprawl and Public Health, coauthored with Howard Frumkin and Lawrence Frank-is being giddily passed around at conferences like a box of Teuscher chocolate truffles (you know, the dark ones with the powder coating).
The message of the book is simple: our car-dependent suburban environment is killing us. Planners, most notably the New Urbanists, have been saying this for decades, but Jackson’s got the statistics. And the charts. And the tables. In his book and in lectures nationwide, Jackson demonstrates-technically, like a doctor-how sprawl is at least partially responsible for a full range of American diseases, from asthma to diabetes, from hypertension to depression. The reason that we spend one dollar out of six on health care is very preventable, and yet we claim some of the worst health statistics in the developed world.
Trained as a pediatrician, Jackson has spent more than 25 years in public health, most notably as the director of the National Center for Environmental Health, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and recently as Governor Schwarzenegger’s state public health advisor. Jeff Speck, a city planner and the director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts, caught him at his desk at the University of California Berkeley to discuss our built environment.
(11 Nov 2006)
Urban Sprawl and Public Health: Designing, Planning, and Building for Healthy Communities (link to book)
Where will everybody live?
Haya El Nasser, USA TODAY
How the USA copes with unprecedented growth in the next 3½ decades is about more than location. It's about how we live.
...Can the USA, which trails only China and India in population, absorb another 100 million people in such a short time? Where will everybody live? Space itself isn't the issue. More than half of Americans live within 50 miles of the Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf and Great Lakes coasts on just a fifth of the country's land area, according to the Center for Environment and Population, a research and policy group that's based in New Canaan, Conn.
But people can't live on land alone, especially if they want water in the desert, plentiful fuel to power long commutes, energy to cool and heat bigger houses and clean air and water. How and where they live could determine how well the nation - and the environment - will handle the added population.
...Each American today occupies almost 20% more developed land (housing, schools, stores, roads) than 20 years ago, according to Markham's group. By the late 1990s, 1.7 acres - the equivalent of about 220 parking spaces or 16 basketball courts - were developed for every person added to the population.
“We're going in the wrong direction right now,” says Don Chen, executive director of Smart Growth America, a coalition of groups working to slow sprawl. “The rate of land consumption is twice the rate of population growth.”
There are signs that Americans are rethinking their ways. The major growth patterns of the past 50 years - sprawl, the shrinking of old industrial centers in the Midwest and Northeast and the boom in the Sun Belt - are being challenged by changing demographics..
...Indications are growing that the automobile-dependent suburban lifestyle of the 1950s - tract homes built on streets and cul-de-sacs increasingly distant from central cities - is losing traction.
Urban town centers that combine condos, shops and offices in pedestrian-friendly settings are sprouting in suburbia. Residential construction in downtown districts is on the rise because empty-nesters and young professionals want to be where the action is. Areas that have scant histories of mass transit, such as Phoenix and Dallas, are investing billions in light-rail lines. Cities not known for impressive skylines, including Charlotte, are building high-rises.
(27 Oct 2006)
James Howard Kunstler, Clusterf*ck Nation
My travels last week took me to small college town in Georgia and into the heart of Vermont, and the contrasts were instructive. To protect some sensibilities, I call the Georgia town "Peachville." There are lots of places like it down in Dixie, and they all suffer from similar problems.
Peachville's surrender to the tyranny of the automobile is total. For a region whose people like to yap about "defending freedom," their own capitulation to the car is complete. Practically every street in this town of 40,000 has been turned into a multi-lane mini-freeway. If you wanted to walk, or needed to walk -- and a number of faculty members at the college where I spoke said they did -- then your experience would be frightening and miserable because there are so few sidewalks, and the distances between things is scaled to cars, not people.
... The sad fact is that the final blowout of the cheap oil age has been the foundation of the Sunbelt's prosperity. The whole nation is afflicted with the cancer of suburban sprawl, but down there it is invested with the highest values. It is their truth and beauty. To a certain extent, their former poverty embarrasses them and they want to forget about it, not celebrate it.
...[with the end of cheap oil] the people of Georgia will have to make other arrangements like everybody else. But the process may be extremely traumatic for a people who have not allowed themselves to imagine a future different from the present.
I was in Vermont, two days later. I had dinner in the Bobcat Cafe on Main Street in Bristol. The place was full, the lighting was mellow, the furnishings were wood, the napkins were cloth, and the menu was composed of things other than cornmeal, sugar, and pork. Vermont, by the way, is also a mostly rural place that had been relatively poor for a hundred years before the 1960s. The customers in the Bobcat Cafe seemed to include all ranks of local society
(30 Oct 2006)
Kunstler points out another solution to peak oil: good taste. One of the lessons from traditional cultures is to live with "a few possessions of high quality." -BA