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The “Development” of Land Often Means Destruction of the Environment by Tim Martin

Posted by: | May 10, 2014 Comments Off on The “Development” of Land Often Means Destruction of the Environment by Tim Martin |

Sprawl has occurred all across America. The study mentioned in the first paragraph highlights the extreme carbon footprint of both “edge cities” and “edgeless cities.” The “Average Annual Household Carbon Footprint by Zip Code” map clearly depicts the intense carbon footprint of communities surrounding major cities like Washington, D.C., Boston, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, Dallas, Denver, and California’s major coastal cities (Figure 1). Outside of major metropolitan areas, the “Walmart effect” and the resulting explosion of big box stores have accelerated land use conversion and its related negative effects on the climate. Focusing on Walmart as an example, in 2011 its U.S. stores and parking lots covered approximately 60,000 acres. An excellent article analyzing Walmart’s effect on climate change cites a U.S. Department of Transportation survey finding that the average American household increased the number of miles driven for shopping by 42% from 1990 to 2009 — the time period of Walmart’s extraordinary growth.



Figure 1

The desire to fulfill the typical American dream has driven much of the destruction of natural land. However, now that society more fully understands the effects of climate change and the contribution of land use practices, American communities should limit the conversion of natural land and attempt to repair sprawl. The Recession has helped set the stage for a revolution in our development practices. High unemployment, stagnant wages, and the end of loose lending standards have slowed construction and exposed the likely unsustainable nature of America’s rate of economic growth in the 1990s and 2000s. With both downtown stores and suburban strip malls sitting empty, we may have out-developed our economy and population. The endless strip malls must end.

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under: Climate Change, Land Use
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