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Compact, Tightly-Controlled Living? Who Needs It?

By George Schmok

In this Streetscapes issue of LASN, there are two articles on urban sprawl. One is about LEED-ND and the other talks about making anti-sprawl development a mandate of the federal government.

Oh boy . . . Just can't wait until we all live in a NYC type city. Tenement life will be so good for the comrades. Somehow I don't see landscape architects benefiting from centralized, socialized development. High-density living should be the antithesis of good land planning. Sure, there is a need for apartments and condos and common area, but mandating that kind of development is only in the best interest of those who think they should be able to control the lives of the less educated minions of the world.

Some say centralized infrastructure is the only way to conserve resources, but why? Have you seen the air, water, noise and light pollution surrounding Manhattan? Go to downtown L.A. and all you see is overcrowding, dirt, trash, graffitti . . . Chicago . . . I understand that they have towers in the tenements that beep when gun fire goes off, so the police know where to go (or avoid) . . . Awesome!

Anybody want to hang in Central Park after dark? How about Griffith Park in L.A.? Most big cities close their parks after dark. In the parks of the big cities, you find the homeless, the vicious, the wanton and
the criminal.

Now go to some of the cities featured in this issue where the downtown, not the central park, is the meeting place. Centralize business. Centralize manufacturing. Centralize commerce. Centralize agriculture. I believe we could centralize those pollution-producing elements so they can be accessed by public transportation, monitored for carbon neutrality and serviced by tightly woven utilities. But let the people retreat into the hills to live and play.

What is wrong with integrating the people with the landscape, instead of forcing the people to huddle under one roof so the land can remain undisturbed? New technologies in rainwater harvesting, pocket agriculture, energy capture and non-oil based travel should not be seen as facilitating density. It is the perfect scenario for allowing integration with people and nature.

Have homes and houses spread over vast distances and let nature coexist with the population. With 2.3 billion acres in the U.S., you could have every family of four live on an acre of land and we would still have 2.2 billion acres of land left over.

An inch of rain over an acre produces 27,000 gallons of capturable water. Even the driest deserts in America get 2-4 inches of rain a year. An acre of land is plenty of space to grow enough fruits and vegetables for a family of four to live on. And it is plenty of space to establish energy capturing elements to supply the household with heat and cool and refrigeration and lighting.

Satellites and cell towers can supply all the Internet and communication needs. So why the big rush to ignore technology that allows such great freedom and force the population into compact, tightly-controlled living?

In the late 19th and early 20th century people rushed to the cities for the amenities they couldn't get in the country. They didn't rush there to be jammed together with everyone else. But today, technology is emerging that can allow the redistribution of people, without huge infrastructure development and without displacing the natural landscape and wildlife.

Urbanization is so 20th century . . . Packing people so we can generate electricity 200 miles away and deliver to one point is archaic. Packing people together so we can let rainfall leave the area, capture it and return it to a centralized point is redundant.

Packing people together so we can preserve the landscape, so we can build a park, so we can enjoy the landscape . . . I say build mass transportation elements, encourage localized traffic in electric vehicles, encourage rainwater harvesting and energy capture at a personal level, encourage personalized agriculture, but supplement it all with centralized industry and you get a much more utopic way of life.

But hey . . . If you want to live and work in the same concrete jungle as four million other people, feel free. Just don't tell me it is the only way to preserve the landscape . . .

--God Bless

George Schmok, Publisher

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November 13, 2019, 8:09 pm PDT

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