Smart alternative to sprawl: The smart growth movement
Solution to urban sprawl? The smart growth movement centers around the combination of housing, transportation and other infrastructure investments to present an alternative to sprawl.
Sunday, March 6, 2011 - 22:57
SMART ALTERNATIVES TO SPRAWL: The smart growth movement seeks to avoid urban sprawl through effectively coordinating housing, transportation and other infrastructure investments. (Photo: Chris 73/Wikimedia Commons)
Every year at Connecticut College, the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment (an interdisciplinary program at the college) holds a weekend-long conference with speakers and presentations about current environmental issues. This year's conference theme was "Smart Growth? Environmental and Social Implications." I was able to attend a few talks by keynote speakers and was very intrigued by the discussion of the smart growth movement. Prior to this conference, I hadn't really learned much about smart growth but now feel like I have a good understanding and fervor to learn more.
The smart growth movement centers around the combination of urban planning and transportation to present an alternative to sprawl. The goals of smart growth are to create more sustainable and livable communities through various methods of concentrating growth. According to the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment's conference website, "Key features of smart growth are mixed land uses, walkable neighborhoods with housing for a variety of income levels and needs, preserved open space including farmland, new development concentrated in existing communities, and multiple public transportation options."
The conference focused on understanding the impact of development patterns and solutions for alternative methods of planning. The concepts within smart growth are important in managing our rapidly developing and expanding world. The complexity of these global issues requires much planning and necessary infrastructure to effectively control our world's future. Smart growth focuses on effectively coordinating housing, transportation and other infrastructure investments.
One talk I found interesting was by Julia Freedgood, the managing director of Farmlands & Communities Initiatives at the American Farmland Trust. Freedgood's talk was entitled "The Role of Local Farms & Food in Advancing Communities" in which she shared many interesting facts and commentary on the protection of farmlands and advancing agriculture as an integral factor of the smart growth movement. Freedgood stressed that in order for the movement to progress and expand, the driving force behind the smart growth movement should come from the local/state levels of participation. She stated that even though implementing federal policies is important, real change will come from the work of local communities and individual participation in order for policy implementation. Freedgood and other speakers at the conference stressed that building more sustainable and effective infrastructure is necessary before we can move forward with agricultural change such as reducing food prices and meeting demands.
Freedgood's suggestions for how people can get involved and proactive with the smart growth movement were:
— Know where your food comes from.
— "Vote with your fork" — make smart choices about what you eat, where you eat, the food you eat, and what you are supporting through this.
— "Vote with your votes" — contact your elected officials to support farmland protection and demand a stronger food and farming system.
— Get involved with local food events/agricultural events within your community.
Overall, I learned a lot from this conference and it has sparked an interest in me to learn more about the smart growth movement.