Today's cars are costly, dangerous and an ecological nightmare. What if the solution to the problems they create, though, has more to do with where we live than what we drive?
That is the question Alex Steffen asks at the start of a must-read essay about how much more important the design of our cities is than what is under the hood of our cars.
He nails it with his observation that "what we build dictates how we get around"
"Our efforts to build a one-planet prosperity may involve an astonishing variety of new approaches, but in the U.S., we most need to adopt one solution that leverages almost all the others: stop sprawl and build well-designed compact communities. That's because the land-use patterns in our communities dictate not only how much we drive, but how sustainable we're able to be on all sort of fronts."
Barcelona Images from ::The Star
And, he suggests it can happen more quickly that we think.
"Some people make the argument that the built environment is much harder to change than the design of cars -- after all, don't we buy a new car every few years and a new home at most a few times in our lives? But the reality is not so clear.
Generally, we think of cars as things which are quickly replaced in our society, and buildings as things which rarely change. But that will not be the case over the next few decades. Because of population growth, the on-going development churn in cities (buildings remodeled or replaced, etc.), infrastructure projects and changing tastes, we'll be rebuilding half our built environment between now and 2030. Done right, that new construction could enable a complete overhaul of the American city. " ::Worldchanging