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As a child growing up on South Hill, I naturally wanted to escape it. As an adult who returns home after living in sustainable communities across the globe, urban sprawl just saddens me. What a sick, consumerist, apathetic joke about life. For all the resources it uses, it doesn't even feel good.

To clarify, I have nothing against suburbs (small towns outside of cities). What is frustrating is suburban development that leaves healthy, beautiful towns empty and creates instead homogenous wastelands of 'growth'.

Urban sprawl begs many questions. What kind of community can happen in a land dominated by parking lots? Who does this benefit? Why do people choose it?

And the biggest question: How did good intentions go so wrong?

Well, for an answer to some of those questions, there is the automobile. It's an experimental technology creating experimental settlements that just aren't working out so well.

When towns are designed for people, they are just that: towns, or villages, or shires even. When towns are designed for cars foremost, they may be easy to drive into and through, but they lack the most important things. They lack identity, community, life.

At this point in the conversation, many people may throw their hands up in despair. "So what! We need cars. That's just the way it is!"

Well, is car culture making us happy? Think of all the land, money, stress, and precious hours of time that are poured into going from one place to another.

On the other hand, think about sleeping in, doing business with neighbors, biking the kids to soccer practice, and being proud of your small house and beautiful town. Villages start to not seem so bad. If you take out some roads and driveways, and throw in gardens, gathering spaces, or solar panels, all of a sudden living on this planet may start to make more sense.

Too impossible?

Pedestrians, bicyclists, and bus-riders are voting with their feet for towns we can love. It is happening all around. We are voting yes for small local stores, yes for happy children, yes for the protection of our forests and farmlands, and yes to the global community that would breathe easier without our dependence on oil. It feels indescribably good.

No one wants to be trapped inside a cage on wheels that is creating endless headaches and resource wars. Don't take my word for it, instead try a day a week of no car. Try biking around downtown on tree-lined streets with the kids, then see how you feel. Liberate yourself.

CALENDAR: Apr. 26 Stream Team workparty or Mainstreet Clean Sweep, May 3 Native Plant Sale & Puyallup Farmer's Market Opening, May 10 Master Gardener's Sale and Mother Earth Farm workparty.

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Page last modified on June 06, 2008, at 03:20 PM