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Archive for May 16th, 2007

Sustainable Crop

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Take a drive through the country in virtually any part of the Mid-West and you’ll encounter cornfields. Stalks of corn planted and grown in such a way that the acreage will yield the most profitable crop possible. Considered in the yield is the amount of time it takes to prepare, plant, fertilize and harvest, as well as the energy and equipment needed.

We accept this as sensible farming, yet we deny the same principles when applied to housing. A drive past most new developments is testament to the improper use of resources. Spaced in such a way that another home could be built between them, homes on large lots have created a series of economic events that are becoming too difficult to maintain.

Consider, for the sake of mathematics, that a city needs $100,000 per acre, per year, to sustain its services, such as police, fire, water and sewage treatment. Don’t forget the school system. “Planting” 4 houses on that acre requires annual taxation of $25,000 per unit. Grow 10 houses and the tax burden decreases to $10,000 per unit. Grow 20, and it’s reduced to $5,000

When housing is grown with lack of density, the cost of providing services also increases. Garbage trucks must drive further to collect the trash. Road maintenance costs increase. The amount of wires and pipes required to connect them increases. The mailman now must drive rather than walk.

Ill designed housing developments also deny park space. How can kids develop social skills when they must be driven to the soccer field or softball diamond? Wouldn’t you rather just tell them to be home when the streetlights come on? That would free up time to bake a pie, or simmer the beef stew.

Most new housing developments destroy the natural elements that most residents desire. Trees, ponds, prairie and the environment needed to support local wild life. Typically named after what they’ve destroyed, “Fox Run”, “Quail Preserve”, and “Hunter’s Creek”, the road-side signs lure buyers by what no longer exits and a promise of better schools. A year later, residents complain about the deer eating their shrubs and over-crowded schools, which they no longer with to support through increased property taxes.

While developers run away with profits, residents are left to deal with the aftermath of poor planning, struggling to find ways to pay for a life that’s increasingly more expensive.

When we find ourselves cursing class size, wondering when the snowplow will arrive, why the cost of stamps keeps going up, and why sewage treatment costs so much, at least one answer can be found in the bathroom mirror.

We vote by consuming. When we consume inefficiency, it’s a vote for further production. Our choices must reflect the importance of long-term sustainability.

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