Beautiful Land, New Opportunities, Wasted Space

Greg Galitzine : Green Blog
Greg Galitzine
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Beautiful Land, New Opportunities, Wasted Space

I recently moved cross country from the East to the Pacific Northwest. As polluting and contributing to congestion as driving is there is still nothing like it to give a full and complete picture of the landscape.

And for the most part it is a beautiful one that, still worth waxing poetic about, but which I will leave to more accomplished scribes except to say everyone should travel by land from coast to coast at least once in their lives.

The sights that one is familiar with only on screen come alive when you are surrounded it by them...the spectacular architecture of Chicago: its downtown and its neighborhoods, the rugged scenery amidst the charming-in-their-own-right tourist traps around the Wisconsin Dells...the Rhine-like setting of the Mississippi Valley...the wide open spaces in central South Dakota...the amazing transition from grasslands to lush forests west of Rapid City in the Black Hills...and how the Rockies loom above the barren mounds west of Gillette, Wyoming...

There are amidst this green shoots: downtown revitalization in Port Huron, an amazingly high quality South Shore Railroad electric commuter/former interurban line, and the endless fields of wind turbines fenced in by HV lines parallel to I-90 in southern Minnesota, though in the case of the latter on can understand the visual pollution concerns (though my wife calls them beautiful).

Yet there is also endless (and mindless) low-density car-friendly but walking/cycling/transit hostile sprawl stretching out west of Toronto, southern Michigan, and Chicago amidst huge swaths of already-serviced vacant industrial land and rundown cities and neighborhoods. There is sadly more greenwash than green.

Why would anyone in their right mind allow building on greenfields amidst a housing and commercial market glut, when homeowners are desperate to sell and businesses want to get out from under leases other than small-minded greed amongst local politicians and their developer campaign contributors, is beyond common sense.

There is nothing wrong per se in living in large homes on treeless lots and locating businesses in 'office parks' and 'power centers'. It is that this development has been getting free ride on the environment, land use, and transportation, which distorts the residential and commercial real estate marketplace and fosters waste and destruction whose pricetag that has to be paid by all of us.


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