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Smart Growth's Conservation Imperative


  Frederick County, MD (by and courtesy of Kai Hagen)

It's certainly well-known among my colleagues that I am passionate about cities.  I'm proud to think of myself as an urbanist who believes we can no longer accept sprawl as the dominant form of land use in America.  Instead, we must direct growth and development in ways that strengthen our existing cities and communities.

There are many environmental, economic and ethical reasons why this is so, but for me personally none is more compelling than the need to reduce development pressure on our remaining natural and rural landscapes.  There is a bargain implied in smart growth: looking toward Cunningham Falls in MD (by and courtesy of Kai Hagen)every vacant or underutilized acre that we develop in our existing communities at a walkable density displaces what would otherwise be five to six acres of sprawl and lost landscape. 

It's a bargain worth making.  And it has two sides:  those who love natural areas must commit to accepting the right kind of growth in our existing communities, in order to save as much nature as we can in the countryside; and those who love cities must commit to conservation of natural landscapes and accepting limits on sprawl so that cities and towns can be reinvested and strengthened.

I'm passionate about cities, but I am also passionate about wilderness.  I grew up in the mountains of North Carolina before I migrated to the big city.  My friend Kai Hagen (a terrific photographer whose photos accompany this post), on the other hand, grew up in Washington, DC - within walking distance of where I live now, by coincidence - and migrated to the mountains.  In this short and very well produced video by The Wilderness Society, Kai reminds us why the conservation side of smart growth matters every bit as much as the development side:


Every post this week will feature an educational and entertaining video.  Move your cursor over the images for credit information.

Kaid Benfield writes (almost) daily about community, development, and the environment.  For more posts, see his blog's home page