Toward a Sustainable Community
Not until the spread of the Industrial Revolution in the late nineteenth century, has man possessed the ability to adversely alter, on a global scale, the geologic and climatic cycles that have existed for millennia. Planet earth, which man calls home, is approximately 5 billion years old. The science of paleontology tells us that man is a relative new comer to the planet. Modern man did not arrive on the scene until approximately 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Developments in hunting, agriculture, literacy, and the sciences, have allowed man to thrive and inhabit nearly every corner of the planet. However, this success has not been good for the earth. The world's population has recently surpassed 6 billion and the developed countries community models and lifestyles are not sustainable.
Due to rapid, unrestrained growth, housing, shopping, and entertainment construction has spread across the surface of the planet like an oil slick. We are depleting resources and altering ecosystems at an alarming rate. Only now are we beginning to comprehend the long-term effects of more than a century of environmental ignorance, neglect, and apathy.
Historically, city and community planners lacked the vision and understanding that would lead to environmentally friendly and sustainable conditions, allowing us to live in harmony with nature. This, coupled with irresponsible consumerism and poor individual choices, has led us to a crossroad. It is now clear we cannot continue to build communities that are unsustainable and we must change our lifestyles. We have arrived at the threshold of the 21st century where nothing less than a global call to action is necessary. We can continue on our current path, which will ultimately lead to severe health problems, loss of valuable resources, extinctions, and a wholesale denial of contaminated areas, or we can take positive, radical steps to break with the past.
Regarding unsustainable communities and lifestyles, the blame lies mainly with two specific phenomena, American's love affair with the automobile, and the "American Dream" of owning a home and land outside of the city. A car-dependent lifestyle introduces numerous problems and exacerbates the dilemma of exurb migration. With so many cars on the road, they become congested, leading to the need for new, longer, and wider roads that encroach on existing ecosystems and animal habitats. With roads and highways stretching farther and farther from the city, suburbanites can now live at greater distances from the cities requiring a need for increased fossil fuel production. This increased consumption and burning of fossil fuels increases air and water pollution and contributes to the greenhouse effect. It is estimated that out of the millions of underground storage tanks of gasoline and diesel fuel across the U.S., over 300,000 have failed, contaminating the surrounding ground water tables (Nebel, Wright 490). In the case of...