Resisting Dickensian Gloom

High-density development in Australia is causing more greenhouse gases than the suburbs, argues Dr. Tony Recsei of the group Save Our Suburbs, in this rebuttal of a blog post by Michael Dudley.
Photo: Tony Recsei

There has been a tremendous response to my introduction to the Demographia Survey. Many have asked me to expand upon the arguments and provide documentation (such as Michael Dudley in this space), which was not possible in a preface. This I am pleased to do.

Greenhouse gas emissions.
Advocates of high-density policies (often termed "Smart Growth" but also under other descriptions and euphemisms such as "urban consolidation", "compact development", "growth management" and "urban renewal") maintain these policies save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

A comprehensive study of per capita emissions in Australia based on household consumption of all products and services appears in the Australian Conservation Foundation's Consumption Atlas. Unexpectedly, this analysis shows that greenhouse gas emissions of those living in high-density areas are greater than for those living in low-density areas. An analysis of the data (1) shows that the average carbon dioxide equivalent emission of the high-density core areas of Australian cities is 27.9 tonnes per person whereas that for the low-density outer areas is 17.5 tonnes per person. As mentioned in the Demographia Survey introduction, food and goods purchased account for most of the emissions and this amounts to more for wealthier inner-city dwellers.

Surprisingly, transport emissions amount to very little (only 10.5%), household electricity and heating fuel being about twice as much at 20.0%. (2) It should also be noted that the emissions from household dwelling construction and renovations at 11.8% are greater than emissions for transport. It is clear that transport, so heavily emphasized by Smart Growth advocates, is responsible for only a small fraction of household emissions.

Interestingly, using regression analysis to attempt to isolate variables influencing household emissions, the paper on which the data is based (3) finds that density, as an isolated variable, has practically no effect on total energy requirements. The paper also finds that density has little effect on the per person energy requirement for mobility and automotive fuel consumption.

Another study which solely measures direct household energy consumption (4) (thus excluding the effect of purchases) found that annual greenhouse emissions from this source in high-rise equated to 5.4 tonnes CO2 per person per year whereas that for detached housing was only 2.9 tonnes. So even when excluding purchases associated with wealth, high-rise still comes out worst.

Yet another study, also not incorporating factors directly associated with wealth (5) finds that the total of transport, building operational and building embodied annual greenhouse gas emissions per person for city apartments is 10 tonnes whereas that for outer suburban dwellers is 7.3 tonnes – once again more for apartments.

The explanation for these findings probably partly arises from lower occupancy rates in high-rise compared to single-residential (as revealed in the above-mentioned studies) and the use of elevators, clothes dryers, air-conditioners and common lighted areas such as parking garages and foyers. Most studies do not include this latter important element, simply because they are based upon consumer bills which do not include common consumption. In addition there is the greater energy per resident required to construct high-rise.

Looking towards the future, if we are to reduce our urban energy and water footprint by individually collecting localised solar energy and rainwater it appears reasonable that this will only be practical for dwellings that have a large roof area per inhabitant. That means low density.

In summary, in the Australian situation there is no environmental emission evidence that justifies forcing people to live in apartments - if anything the reverse seems to be the case.

Transport.
Not only does transport comprise only a minor portion of household emissions, the energy difference between the use of public and private transport modes is surprising small. The Sydney City Rail website states "greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre for rail transport is up to five times less than that of car transport" (my emphasis).

However one cannot assume optimal conditions to always prevail such as full carriages. Such theoretical figures are just that – theoretical. Theoretical figures for automobiles would also be much more favourable if one assumes for example full occupancy of seats.

In fact the actual greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre for the Sydney rail network, transporting around 500,000 passengers each day, is 105 grams. (6) The figure for automobiles in Australia, assuming an average seat occupancy of 1.3, averages 155 grams and is much less for modern fuel-efficient vehicles that emit a mere 70 grams. It needs to also be considered that direct point to point travel distances by personal transport are frequently less than that for equivalent public transport journeys so further reducing the energy difference.

Our research shows that high-density developments hardly reduce per person travel intensity at all. Dudley dismisses a Melbourne study (7) I mentioned that shows that people who moved into newly converted dense areas did not use public transport to any greater extent, and there was little or no change in their percentage of car use. He claims this is due to Melbourne being "a sprawling city". However the overall density of Melbourne is not relevant here as, in addition to being well served by public transport, the converted areas are located very close to the central business district. It sometimes seems that the last refuge of Smart Growth advocates is to declare whatever they don't like as sprawl. Indeed, it could be argued that there are no cities in the developed world that do not sprawl.

Developers recognise that units without parking are not saleable. In Melbourne medium density housing projects located near commercial or transit centres invariably include one or two parking places per dwelling. (8) The initial developers of a 5.7ha site near Sydney Central Station abandoned their proposed development of the huge multi-unit project mainly because authorities insisted that a maximum limit of 60 per cent of the units could be allocated parking. (9) This abandonment was in spite of the fact that the site could not be in a better location for public transport, being adjacent to the central railway station and major bus routes that radiate out from the locality.

The reality is that, for many journeys undertaken (including travelling to locations outside the city centre, attending childrens' sport and recreational activities, transporting pets and visiting friends), public transport is unsuitable or even forbidden as with bulky goods or pets, as well as being too inconvenient and time-consuming to be of practical benefit.

A 2008 Canadian study on the relationship between density and transit use does not alter the above assessment. It plainly shows how little density contributes to a change in automobile use. Without any evidence to the contrary, it seems reasonable to assume that the Canadian fraction of total household emissions that relate to transport is similar to that shown on the Australian Conservation Foundation's website, being 10.5%. Applying this value to the data in Chart 2 of this Canadian study one finds that for those living within 5 km of the city centre there would be a difference attributable to density of only 1% in total annual emissions per person. For people living 20 km or more from the city centre the difference would be much less at 0.2%. Yet it seems that for Smart Growth advocates this miniscule difference justifies cramming people together like sardines. These believers ignore other much more significant factors affecting emissions that completely over-ride this minute transport-related effect.

It is interesting to note that journey to work travel times do not seen to decrease as density increases. Looking at New York and some examples of large cities of different density there is no indication that these times are less in dense cities:

The increased congestion caused by high-density policies results in inefficient stop-start traffic which increases greenhouse gas emissions as a direct consequence of burning more fuel per km and increases the concentration of dangerous micro-particles from vehicle exhausts. The resulting greater traffic per area and less volume available for dispersion exacerbates this. The World Health Organization maintains that several times as many people die from these particles every year as do from traffic accidents. (10)

The evidence is that the imposition of high density policies does not lead to reduced traffic congestion, lower air pollution levels and improved travel times. The reverse appears to be the case.

Health.
The increasing concentration of dangerous micro-particles from vehicle exhausts is mentioned above.

In addition, mental health problems are of major concern. A study of over 4 million Swedes (11) has shown that the rates for psychosis were 70% greater for the denser areas. There was also a 16% greater risk of developing depression. The paper discusses various reasons for this finding but the conclusion is compelling: "A high level of urbanisation is associated with increased risk of psychosis and depression in both men and women".

Another study of a population of 350,000 people in Holland (12) also finds adverse mental (and other) health consequences. After allowing for demographic and socio-economic characteristics, for those living in areas with only 10% green space the prevalence of depression and anxiety was 32% and 26% respectively. For those with 90% green space the prevalence was respectively 24% and 18%, a significant difference for an increasingly serious problem.

Research also indicates that bringing up young children in apartments can have adverse consequences. (13) Keeping children quiet emphasizes activities that are sedentary. There is a lack of safe active play space outside the home - parks and other public open space offer poor security.

There are other indirect indicators that relate to this question:

  • The Australian Unity Well-being Index (14) reported that the happiest electorates have a lower population density.

  • A recent study in New Zealand (15) asking people whether residents in particular areas would most like to live in that type of area, revealed that the answer was yes for 90% of rural residents, 76% for small town residents, 75% for city suburbs and only 64% for central city dwellers. Apparently as density increased, so did dissatisfaction with that type of living.

  • The inference from a study on apartment life (16) is that half of the apartment living households in Sydney and Melbourne would prefer to live in single-residential dwellings. This corresponds to only about 10% of all those in occupied dwellings in the two cities wishing to live in apartments. A recent housing preference survey (press release) sent out with rate notices by Ku-ring-gai Council in Sydney reveals a similar result. Within reasonable limits people should be allowed to live in the type of housing they prefer. They should not be forced into living in a manner prescribed by planners who profess to know what is best for them. It should be emphasised that we recognise that there are some people that prefer high-density living. What we are arguing against, is the forced imposition of high-density policies, such as is occurring in Australia and other countries, to the overall detriment of their citizens and the environment. It appears from deprecating comments about the "free market" and "libertarian" views that Smart Growth advocates are unconcerned about what people actually want.

  • Social networks should also be considered. Putnam in his famous book "Bowling Alone" sums up that "suburbanisation, commuting and sprawl" have contributed to the decline in social engagement and social capital (17): However charts in this book show the opposite. The chart below aggregates Putnam's portrayal. This indicates that involvement (18) in these social activities of people in the centres in the more spacious small towns is nearly twice that in dense large cities. It is also apparent that such community involvement is greater in low-density suburbs than in denser central city areas, especially for the larger centres.

The data therefore show, contrary to what was claimed, that as density increases, people's involvement in community activity declines. Facts available indicate that adverse health and social consequences of high-density living are significant.

Housing Cost
This aspect has been adequately covered in the Demographia Survey. It seems reasonable to conclude that the major cause of excessive housing costs in Australia lies in over-prescriptive land use regulation. In Sydney, where housing costs are the second highest in the 272 markets surveyed, the New South Wales government has restricted the release of greenfield housing sites (19 while at the same time demanding municipalities increase densities under threat of removing the councils' planning powers. Since 1977 the New South Wales population increased by 38% while the proportion of greenfields land release sites decreased from an annual average of 20% of dwelling production to 5%. (20)

As a consequence of the resultant land shortage the land component in the price of a house in Sydney has increased from 32% in 1977 to 60% in 2002 (21) and to an estimated 70% today.

High-density policies increase the cost of housing, with special disadvantage to the younger generation by locking them out of the housing market. In addition, they disadvantage the economy by throttling the competitiveness of new business trying to set up in the region.

Conclusion
The evidence available so far indicates that Smart Growth policies forced into unwilling communities do not reduce greenhouse gas emissions, do not facilitate travel, do not improve health, do not increase housing choice and do not reduce overall costs.
It seems that planners are intent on sweeping us backwards into despotic, overcrowded Dickensian gloom.


Dr. Tony Recsei has a background in chemistry and is an environmental consultant. Since retiring he has taken an interest in community affairs and is president of the Save Our Suburbs community group which opposes over-development forced onto communities by the New South Wales State Government.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please see my own blog post on this editorial here.

FOOTNOTES:
1. Demographia, Housing Form in Australia and its Impact in Greenhouse Gas Emissions: An Analysis of Data from the Australian Conservation Foundation Conservation Atlas (2007)
2. http://www.acfonline.org.au/uploads/res/res_atlas_main_findings.pdf, Figure 1
3. Manfred Lenzen, Christopher Dey, Varney Foran, Energy requirements of Sydney Households, Ecological Economics, 49 (2004) 375-379. See table 4.
4. Paul Myors, EnergyAustralia, with Rachel O'Leary and Rob Helstroom, Multi-Unit Residential Building Energy & Peak Demand Study. NSW Department of Planning (October 2005), Energy News VOl 23 no 4 Dec 05
5. Perkins, Alan, Hamnett, Steve, Pullen, Stephen, Zito, Rocco and Trebilcock, David(2009), Transport, Housing and Urban Form: The Life Cycle Energy Consumption and Emissions of City Centre Apartments Compared with Suburban Dwellings, Urban Policy and Research, 27: 4, 377 - 396
6. RailCorp letter 28 October 2007 in response to a Freedom of Information application by the author
7. Hodgetts, C.J.B. (2004) Urban Consolidation and Transport, Masters Thesis (Melbourne, University of Melbourne).
8. B. Birrell , K. O'Connor, V. Rapson, H. Healy, Planning Rhetoric Versus Urban Reality, Melbourne 2030, Monash University Press, Victoria, 2005, pp. 2-17
9. M. Melish, Moore sticks to her community mandate, Australian Financial Review, 24-28 March 2005
10. For data see Air Quality Criteria for Particulate Matter, US EPA/600/P-99/002aC, April 2002, Third External Review Draft, Volume II, page 284 on particulates associated with a reduction of life of 1.31 years and US Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstracts of the United States, 1999 which gives the number of traffic accidents as 42,400.)
11. Kristina Sundquist, Golin Frank, Jan Sundquist, Urbanisation and incidence of psychosis and depression, British Journal of Psychiatry (2004), 184, 293-298.
12. Maas J, Verhej RA, de Vries S et al. J Epidemiol Community Health published online 15 Oct 2009
13. Bill Randolph, Children in the Compact City. Fairfield (Sydney) as a suburban case study, University of NSW, Paper Commissioned by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, October
14. 2006 Sydney Morning Herald 13 February 2006
15. UMR Omnibus Results, UMR Research, Wellington, March 2009
16. Hazel Easthope, Andrew Tice & Bill Randolph, The Desirable Apartment Life?, City Futures Research Centre, University of NSW, Housing and Urban Form Workshop (W05), 2009 Housing Researchers' Conference, Sydney, Australia
17. R. D. Putnam, Bowling Alone, Simon and Schuster, New York, 2000, p. 283
18. Average of % who have served as officer or committee member of local group and % who have attended a public meeting on town or school affairs.)
19. Urban Development Institute of Australia,The 2009 UDIA Sate of the Land, Canberra, 2009.
20. New South Wales Department of Planning Metropolitan Development Program 2007, Section 3, p 31, Figure 3.5: Sydney Region Dwelling Production - Existing Urban and Greenfield Areas (1981/82 - 2011/12)
21. Housing Industry Association, Restoring Housing Affordability – the housing industry's perspective, Housing Industry Association Ltd, Australia, July 2003.

Comments

Comments

Flawed

Where is the editor's blog post on this editorial? The link just points right back here. (Edit: it now points to the blog post.)

Anyway, here are two concerns with this editorial. First, it admits that "food and goods purchased account for most of the emissions and this amounts to more for wealthier high density dwellers" but doesn't correct for it. Why not compare wealthy city dwellers with wealthy suburbanites?

Then it doesn't correct for the fact that old, inner-city buildings are likely to be draftier than houses built more recently in the suburbs and therefore require more energy for heating and cooling simply by virtue of their age. Why not compare modern high rises with modern single-family houses?

The erroneous conclusions aren't surprising, because the study was flawed to begin with.

"smart" growth for dummies

If the study is comparing average values, and claims that that there are more wealthy urban dwellers, then the correction for income distributions has already been made. ON AVERAGE, high density dwellers emit more, and use more energy.

And, despite any speculation and wishful thinking about the future, this study seems to indicate the current REALITY about energy consumption.

In contrast, I have yet to see replicable studies from reputable sources that ANY of the claims of the "smart" growth social engineers are true, or that "smart" growth is somehow a better form, and will be sustainable in a post-carbon economy. To this point, it appears to be dogma and superstition, and apparently dangerous for our future.

What documentation?

Where is the documentation that this author said he would include at the top of this editorial?

"Many have asked me to expand upon the arguments and provide documentation (such as Michael Dudley in this space), which was not possible in a preface. This I am pleased to do."

I would have taken this to mean that he intended to source his arguments. However, refering to:

"A 2008 Canadian study on the relationship between density and transit use does not alter the above assessment."

What study? Am i missing a list of references somewhere?

More examples:

"A study of over 4 million Swedes has shown that the rates for psychosis were 70% greater for the denser areas. There was also a 16% greater risk of developing depression. The paper discusses various reasons for this finding but the conclusion is compelling: "A high level of urbanisation is associated with increased risk of psychosis and depression in both men and women"."

"Another study of a population of 350,000 people in Holland also finds adverse mental (and other) health consequences. After allowing for demographic and socio-economic characteristics, for those living in areas with only 10% green space the prevalence of depression and anxiety was 32% and 26% respectively. For those with 90% green space the prevalence was respectively 24% and 18%, a significant difference for an increasingly serious problem."

"Research also indicates that bringing up young children in apartments can have adverse consequences . Keeping children quiet emphasizes activities that are sedentary. There is a lack of safe active play space outside the home - parks and other public open space offer poor security."

What studies? What research? Why not just give his sources?

Anyway, there are more examples but i won't go on.

Tim Halbur's picture
Blogger / Alum

Footnotes added

Can_Urban, the footnotes failed to copy over when I first posted the article. I've gone back and added the footnotes. They refer to the studies you are asking about. I cannot vouch for the sources, however.

What People Actually Want

"What we are arguing against, is the forced imposition of high-density policies, such as is occurring in Australia and other countries, to the overall detriment of their citizens and the environment. It appears from deprecating comments about the "free market" and "libertarian" views that Smart Growth advocates are unconcerned about what people actually want."

I hope someone looks into some of his empirical studies, since I suspect that they flawed and cherry-picked. I will just point out the very obvious error in the claim quoted above.

People actually want many things, some of which are mutually contradictory. People want to consume energy as if there were no tomorrow, but they also want low energy prices and a clean environment. People want to live in low density houses, but they also want to preserve open space from being developed. People want to drive, but they also want fewer cars congesting the roads and competing for parking spaces.

Some of the things that people want can be achieved by individual action, and others require government action. Going through the examples above, people can decide for themselves to consume energy, to live at low densities, and to drive, but it requires government action to get a clean environment, to preserve open space, or to reduce congestion.

The obvious logical error of libertarians is that, when they talk about what people want, they are thinking only of the things that people want and can get through individual action, and they ignore the things that people want and that require government action.

It is easy to devise a reductio ad absurdum of this view. For example:

"Studies show that many people and businesses pour toxic wastes down the drain. What we are arguing against is the forced imposition of clean water policies: people who want to dispose of toxics safely can choose to do so, and people who want to pour toxics down the drain should also be able to choose to do so. Libertarians are opposed to clean water laws, and when environmentalists criticize us, they show that they are unconcerned about what people actually want."

In reality, of course, people want to protect clean water more than they want the right to pour toxics down the drain, which is why we have clean water laws.

The libertarians' blind spot is that they can't admit that people sometimes act through government to get what they actually want.

Charles Siegel

blind is as blind does

And yet, Charles, "government" action often reflects the views of an elite minority, and has led to the collapses of various civilizations in the past.

The "smart" growth zealots' blind spot is that they can't admit that the prevailing dogma may in fact be quite wrong, and may actually stand in the way of truly solving the problems on this planet.

Attempts at social engineering are always fraught with danger and unintended consequences, and "smart" growth is no exception.

"In fact quite wrong" where?

Pasting talking points as argumentation notwithstanding, the latest JAPA has a discussion of the scale of the "in fact quite wrong" assertion on pg 126 in a review of the new book Smart Growth Policies: An evaluation of programs and outcomes.

Can you read the review, reflect, and get back to us about the robustness of your premise?

Thank you so much in advance!

Best,

D

Not worth much comment

Dano, I didn't have to go any farther than the list of contributors to see the bias. And the executive summary points more to failures of "smart" growth than to successes. Wendell Cox's criticisms appear to be more and more valid all the time.

But, having read the rest, I see nothing there that could not have been done by means other than "smart" growth dogma.

unanswered questions

And again, I have to ask, exactly how is "smart" growth sustainable?

Not much of a surprise.

I appreciate you being so honest about being unable to address the substance of the analysis, Rick, and using scare quotes and talking points while changing the subject. Well done.

And are you comparing 'sustainable' to dumb growth - growth that does not efficiently use resources? Srsly? Parody question, right?

Thanks!

Best,

D

"smart" avoidance tactics?

One of the main points of Recsei's comments is that "smart" growth seems to use resources less efficiently than even "dumb" growth. With no comprehensive, independent, unbiased, replicable, and peer-reviewed studies to the contrary, I'm tending to agree at this point.

If there was any unbiased substance, Dano, I would have addressed it. But I won't waste my time on nonsense. Speaking of which, how exactly is "smart" growth in and of itself sustainable?

Avoiding the question won't make it go away.

Hand-fluttering as avoidance strategy.

Avoiding the question won't make it go away.

Indeed! We agree!

So I'll repeat the question upthread:

    the latest JAPA has a discussion of the scale of the "in fact quite wrong" assertion on pg 126 in a review of the new book Smart Growth Policies: An evaluation of programs and outcomes.

    Can you read the review, reflect, and get back to us about the robustness of your premise?

    Thank you so much in advance!

This question does two things: bounds the 'sustainability' distraction, and it prebunked the baseless no comprehensive, independent, unbiased, replicable, and peer-reviewed studies (as does Reid Ewing's piece in the latest Planning on pg 42, a rare instance of something usable in that mag).

But one marvels at your consistency, Rick, and thank you for eschewing the standard 9 talking points sprinkled throughout the comment.

Best,

D

It's a simple question, Dano. How about an answer?

Nice dodge again, Dano. And if you believe that "sustainability" is a distraction, then I truly feel sorry for you.

My premise remains far more robust than any of the blather, nonsense, and outright lies I hear from the "smart" growth crowd. There. Question answered. Your turn.

One of the overarching claims of "smart" growth is that it will contributes to sustainability. How exactly is "smart" growth sustainable?

Unable to comprehend the argument.

I'm beginning to think the reading incomprehension or some other form of incompetence impedes certain commenters from following the argument.

This is therefore a time-suck and my attempting to convey incomprehension or poor argument or false premise is redundant and obvious at this point.

Best,

D

good points

we have had similar discussions, but you are touching on a key point - trade offs. People do want conflicting things. I think true libertarians want government to price these trade-offs and act as a referree, not a participant or inhibitor. So, in your example about energy, the obvious role of government would be to tax the use of polluting energy or more directly tax the pollution. You probably only need to price the externalities since the pricing of the actual good will react to market forces. For example, if oil has an increasing physical or economic scarcity, its price will rise in the marketplace thus affecting comsumption. Thus, you don't need to tax oil, just the VOCs or CO from burning it.

a tax by any other name

In other words, we can use as much as we want, as long as we don't pollute. But what about the enormous amounts of pollution created from the extraction and processing of oil, and in particular from the Canadian oil sands? Are you proposing similar user taxes on the industry? If so, does that not constitute a tax, hidden though it is, to be paid by the end user anyway?

That may be an obvious role to you, however another role obvious to me is for governments to begin the process of actually reducing dependence on, and use of, oil and other fossil fuels. And that is one point of contention in the article above. With no clear evidence to the contrary, it seems as though the claims about "smart" growth reducing emissions, or reducing that dependence, are spurious and wishful thinking. If we truly wish to resolve some of the problems we are creating on this planet, then we need to look for real solutions, and not dogmatic propaganda.

Speaking of dogmatic propaganda, what's the latest on Peak Oil? One calculation about a post-carbon economy is that a city of one million people would require an area of agricultural land with a radius of 85 kilometers just for food production alone (detailed calculation available on request), let alone the other components of the ecological footprint. Yes, we currently transport food thousands of kilometers, but how is even a distance of 85 kilometers (and much more if we look at all the required land) feasible in a post-carbon economy for the quantities of foods required. And that 85 kilometers assumes present rates of food production. We all know that those rates could not continue without fossil fuels. So how is packing even more people into a city like this sustainable?

In fact, I suppose my main question is this: All comparisons aside, and without reference to other urban forms, exactly how will "smart" growth make cities sustainable, and especially large cities which are already encroaching on other cities?

True Libertarians

CP: We have had similar discussions, and I appreciate the fact that you are what you call a "true libertarian" (and what I would call a logically consistent libertarian) who does want to deal honestly with the market's failure to control externalities.

I don't see any indication of this sort of logical consistency in this article. where the writer just talks about what people want without mentioning externalities and trade-offs.

I think we could deal with most but not all of our environmental problems through pricing. IMO, the best way to do it is cap and trade: cap emissions at some sustainable level, and let people pay market price for the right to emit up to that level. This would have to apply not only to emissions but also to some resources threatened by depletion, such as fisheries, top soil, and ground water. By definition, if we set the caps at sustainable levels, this would give us a sustainable economy, and the market would allocate resources efficiently. Very difficult politically, but not difficult in theory.

However, there are some issues where pricing does not work. Eg, I could imagine a case where the great majority of the people in New York do not want a freeway across Manhattan, but where a developer could pay to build that freeway and pay for the externalities it causes by charging tolls. In this case, I think the majority should rule and should not be outweighed by the market; I think most people would agree with me on that.

In the case of sprawl, I would say that everyone should have access to the entire region. If people want to live in suburbs, and if they are willing to pay the full price including the price of externalities, let them live in suburbs - if the suburbs are also accessible by public transportation so the opportunity of going there is not denied to people who do not own cars. That would mean building transit-oriented suburbs, similar to some that new urbanists have already built (such as Orenco Station). Needless to say, I don't think most people would agree with me on this one - I don't think most people have even thought about it - but if the majority did want transit-accessible cities, then this is another case where I think the majority should rule and should not be outweighed by the market.

Charles Siegel

Markets vs. democracy

It's tangential, but in regards to your NYC example, you have a markets vs. democracy case. People may not want the freeway, but will they collectively via the city or region, buy that land? That would be the markets argument. If they won't pony up, then there is conflict between what they say via the ballot box and how they act via their wallets. I'm much more suspect of the "democratic" process because so few participate and it has far more potential than even markets of being corrupted. Most people probably would agree with you because they actually think the democratic process protects the little guy. If they still think that after TARP I, TARP II, TALF, etc, they are deluded. The market process actually gives them more collective influence and not allow the road in this case. People have already started to confuse crony capitalism and free markets. With free markets, we would never have known TARP, for example, and our lives would basically be the same.

Re: Markets vs. Democracy

A democracy can simply pass a law preventing people from doing something that the majority believes is harmful. We don't have to pay someone for not doing something that harms us.

Eg, if the majority finds that a certain level of noise is a nuisance, we can just pass a law forbidding noise above that level. We don't have to pay people for not making noise. We don't even have to pay then for the extra cost they incur by doing their business in a way that does not create a public nuisance.

Likewise, if the majority finds that a freeway through Manhattan is a nuisance, we can just pass a law banning freeways across Manhattan. If a developer wants to buy a swath of Manhattan real estate to build a freeway, we don't have to pay the developer or the land owners to refrain from building the freeway.

I think that is the most common view of the relationship between the market and democracy.

Charles Siegel

lip service to "sustainability?"

Charles, can you please detail what a "sustainable level" for emissions would be? According to Bill Rees (you know, the "ecological footprint") our economy is simply unsustainable at present. Within limits, emissions are roughly proportional to economic activity at present. If, as claimed by Rees, we have to reduce our economic activity/emissions to less than a third of what they are at present, then how will any of what we do in cities be sustainable?

And wouldn't price-driven emissions levels, especially if capped, further widen the disparities between rich and poor? Would we end up with the carbon-elite?

Sustainable Level For Emissions

is 350 ppm, just as Bill McKibben says. We are already above that, so it certainly is true that our economy is unsustainable at present.

Charles Siegel

apples and oranges

Sorry, Charles, let me be clear. I am not talking about total atmospheric levels and so on, but rather about how much we can emit on an ongoing basis ourselves? We have so little control over how much other countries emit, and some very large countries are intent on increasing their standard of living/emissions. So wouldn't we have to keep adjusting our own emissions downward if we want to keep the global total "sustainable?" In the short term, would reducing our own emissions even to zero lead to a sustainable global level?

Michael Lewyn's picture
Blogger

The problem with pricing externalities

Its all very well and good to say "we should price externalities." The problem with that argument is that we often don't know how expensive the externalities are.

Climate change presents an extreme example of the difficulty: we can't even reach a popular consensus as to (a) whether it is even a serious problem, let alone (b) how serious.expensive it is, or (c) how much any given activity contributes to it. (I am perfectly wiling to assume that there is a consensus of educated opinion re (a)- but that still leaves us with (b) and (c)).

Even in less extreme examples such as localized air pollution, I'm not sure there's any clear way to calculate costs. If you drive instead of riding the bus, how much (if at all) does that contribute to local pollution?

Unfortunately, I have no solution to this difficulty.

The cost of what we do

The other problem (neo-classical economists' jargon aside) is the mindset that sees them as "externalities" in the first place. Our economy is a subset of the natural world, not the reverse, and we rely on a healthy natural world for our very survival. As such, everything we do can be seen as an "internality."

And, if we don't find a solution to our difficulties voluntarily before we chop down that last tree, Mother Nature will most certainly impose one on us, just as with so many past civilizations.

Pricing externalities

You have the same problem with command and control policy. If you don't know how bad climate change is or its for real in terms of man made contributions, how could you effectively regulate it? The thing about pricing and markets is that it won't be a binary decision. The regulatory framework postulates "one or the other" scenarios such as: regulate energy, it will cost us 10% of GDP and associted higher taxes and we will have no significant climate change emissions or we can do nothing and have lots of pollution. Pricing determines how much of each society really wants.

If we told every person that they could pay 75% of their income for a pristine environment or 0% for Mexico City like or worse air quality, they wouldn't want to choose either. They would find a balance where they would reduce costly polluting activities as low as possible reducing their tax burden to the point where they have a good enough environment and a low enough tax burden.

the best laid plans

contrarianplanner says "They would find a balance where they would reduce costly polluting activities as low as possible reducing their tax burden to the point where they have a good enough environment and a low enough tax burden."

Given the histories of many failed civilizations, and given our current hyperconsumerist society, I believe that that is an overly optimistic assessment of how people would respond.

And those who could "afford" to pollute more would simply continue to do so - that "carbon-elite" I mentioned earlier - leaving the bulk of the burden to the rest of us. As mentioned, we are not the only polluters on this planet. A "good enough environment" depends upon what other countries do too, especially those developing countries with billions of people in total.

No Middle Ground On Global Warming

"They would find a balance ... a good enough environment and a low enough tax burden."

Because of intensifying feedback loops, global warming leaves us with a choice between extremes. The middle ground that you want is not available.

Eg, global warming causes:
- melting of arctic ice, which reduces reflection of sunlight and increases global warming
- melting of permafrost, which releases methane and increases global warming.
- reduction of cloud cover, which reduces reflection of sunlight and increases global warming. (This one was in doubt until recently.)

Because of these intensifying feedback loops, if CO2 exceeds 450 ppm or even remains at 450 ppm for an extended time, global temperatures will rise to catastrophic levels - increasing by about 10 degrees F or more.

That would mean a world with massive dust-bowlification, extreme weather events, widespread famine caused by desertification, and hundreds of millions of people turned into refugees to escape rising sea levels and food shortages. You think Mexico City looks bad, but it will look like paradise compared with this.

Latest research (eg, by James Hansen) shows that even 450 ppm is dangerous. We should get down to 350 ppm, lower than the current level.

As I said earlier, cap and trade can do this using a market mechanism with the efficiencies that you want. The higher cost of energy would be only a few percent of GDP, and the benefits of avoiding catastrophic global warming would be incalculable.

Charles Siegel

Pricing Externalities

Michael, it is true that economists talk very glibly about pricing externalities, though we obviously cannot set a price on many externalities, such as esthetic costs and the massive changes caused by global warming.

But the the rough-and-ready solution is cap and trade. Set a level of emissions that is tolerable, and set up a market that lets people bid for the right to produce those emissions.

In the case of global warming, the cap should ideally be at a level that puts us on a path to 350ppm, as recommended by 350.org. Issue enough emission permits each year to put us on this path, and let the market set the price of these permits.

Then we would control global warming with the efficiencies of a market mechanism, as CP recommends.

Charles Siegel

Michael Lewyn's picture
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completely out of touch with my reality

The main article implies that anything other than sprawl is "Dickensian gloom" leading to higher levels of mental illness, congestion, and everything bad.

But oddly enough, Toronto (where I live now) is about ten times as dense as Jacksonville (where I am returning to) and three times as dense as Atlanta (where I grew up). I don't feel that Toronto is particularly gloomy or Dickensian, nor do I feel like life in Toronto involves (in the author's words) "cramming people together like sardines."

Most of the studies etc cited are not easily available, so it is difficult to comment. But here are a few thoughts:

1. The "Swedish psychosis" study ( http://bjp.rcpsych.org/cgi/reprint/184/4/293.pdf) is clearly meant to contrast rural and urban areas. It is not clear from the study whether the differences between city and suburb are at all relevant to the study.

More importantly, the study acknowledges that the academic literature outside Sweden is divided, suggesting that the results may not be replicable outside Sweden. Moreover, the American Age of Sprawl does not seem to have caused any discernible reduction in psychotic activity.

The Dutch study ( http://jech.bmj.com/content/60/7/587.full.pdf )refers to "green space" not density- in my limited experience, dense areas are as likely to have more parks as less dense areas, since suburbs sometimes let backyards substitute for parks. The Dutch study contains no guidance as to which type of green space is more healthful.

2. The claim that density doesn't contribute to transit use is simply silly. Among the American cities where over 25% of central city residents use transit, nearly all have at least nine or ten thousand people per square mile. Similarly, in Canada the two cities with the highest levels of transit use (Toronto and Montreal) both have 10,000+ people per square mile, while more automobile-dependent cities such as Calgary and Edmonton have around 3000 people per square mile.

3. The author leaps from the (wholly correct) statement that commute times are as high in higher-density as in lower-density cities to an assertion that congestion and pollution are a result of higher density.

The conclusion here simply does not follow from the assertion, because (a) the author has not proven that commutes are actually LONGER in higher-density areas, and (b) even if this was so, commute times are not the same as congestion- one could have a long but congestion-free commute or could have a short but congested commute. There might be a case for the congestion/density link but this article hasn't made it.

In fact, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, Atlanta (the lowest metro area listed in the table) has MORE congestion than New York. ( http://mobility.tamu.edu/ums/congestion_data/tables/national/table_4.pdf )

4. The study on apartments and children ( http://www.fbe.unsw.edu.au/cf/publications/cfprojectreports/attachments/... ) is far less conclusive than the author implies. Many of the problems identified by the study (pp. 14-15) such as a sedentary lifestyle (p. 25), the lack of access to public space (p.26) and heavy traffic (p. 26) are also problems in auto-dependent suburbia, while others, such as the use of the ground floor for parking (p. 24) are actually results of attempts to accommodate cars.

5. The author's claim, based on an example in Sydney, that consumer demand for parking is malleable is rebuttable by counterexamples: for example, in downtown Toronto a 42-story condo is being built without parking. (http://www.thestar.com/article/696394 ) And anyone who has lived in Manhattan or Center City Philadelphia knows that in such neighborhoods, the majority of households do not own cars.

6. Regarding self-identified quality of life and density: The Australian Quality of Life study at http://acqol.deakin.edu.au/index_wellbeing/report-19-1-part-a.pdf does, at first glance, appear to identify some negative relationship between subjective well being and density. Respondents were divided into ten groups from least dense to most dense, and well-being was rated on a 0-100 scale, and the happiest places (in the 76-77 range) are truly rural places, with under 28 people per square kilometer (or about 75 people per square mile).

But... the differences between suburban and urban densities are small or nonexistent. The third most rural group, at 75.2, was almost indistinguishable from the three most urban (which ranged from 73.6 to 75.1)

7. Studies about apartments vs. houses are not relevant to any discussion of compact development, since they overlook the possibility that people may say they prefer houses because they prefer owning to buying, rather than because they prefer a specific housing form. A more interesting question would be how many people prefer condominiums to either houses or apartments.

Moreover, people who want a house are not specifying the type of house that the author is promoting (low density sprawl). The notion that single family house equals sprawl is factually incorrect, as anyone who has ever visited a pre-1950 neighborhood in Toronto would notice. These neighborhoods tend to have plenty of single family housing (or units that at one time were single-family housing) - both in the form of rowhouses and in the form of detached houses with relatively small front yards.

8. The author's use of Bowling Alone data is not tremendously persuasive. It is apparently the case that suburbanites are somewhat more involved in community activities than urbanites- but this may be a function of age or stability. If a middle-aged, homeowning parent is more likely to attend zoning board meetings than a single 20-year-old, this may be equally true in city or suburb- we simply don't know (at least not based on the figures provided above).

Finally, I want to comment about the accusations of "social engineering." If Recsei's arguments are treated as gospel, a civilization would be well advised to evacuate the cities and herd its members away from the city to the country. This strategy was tried by the Khmer Rouge, and it doesn't seem particularly libertarian to me.

Onus of proof – response to Michael Lewyn

Lewyn gives Toronto as an example of a city that is not gloomy but Toronto (2300 persons per square km) is hardly an example of a dense city and, as far as I am aware, is not one in which high-density is being forced onto communities who do not want it.

1. Contrary to Lewyn’s assertion, the Swedish study on the incidence of psychosis and depression does not assert it is meant to contrast rural and urban areas. The study states “There was a clear gradient between level of urbanisation and incidence rates of psychosis and depression of both men and women”.
With regard to inconsistencies with previous studies this study states “However our findings ….. shed new light on this inconsistency because our study population consisted of the entire population of Sweden, and we used incidence rates rather than prevalence rates, as our outcome”
The Dutch study compared prevalence rates in areas with 10% green space with those with 90% green space. The paper states that for technical reasons gardens were not regarded as green space and “consequently the relation might be slightly understated”. It may be worth noting that people with children highly value green space in the back yard for reasons such as security, safety and time, Interestingly the study states: “In very strongly urban areas there was no relation with the annual prevalence of disease clusters. This may be related to the fact that green spaces in highly urban areas are more often found to evoke feelings of insecurity, thereby inhibiting their use”.

2. Lewyn asserts I claimed that density does not contribute to transit use whereas in fact I maintained that density contributes very little to a reduction of automobile use and it is difficult to understand how this justifies cramming people together like sardines. Lewyn’s comparison of congestion in New York and Atlanta is unrepresentative. In fact any comparison of major urban areas in the US shows greater traffic congestion to be strongly associated with higher population density. Atlanta is an outlier. One swallow does not make a summer.

3. A reference to congestion and pollution resulting from increased density is http://www.publicpurpose.com/charlotte.htm and is calculated from US EPA attainment classification data. For Australian cities, combining delay data from Road Facts, Ausroads, Sydney 2000 with density data from Sustainability & Cities, Newman and Kenworthy, Island Press, Washington 1999, shows congestion increasing as density increases.

4. With regard to bringing up children in apartments, additional problems from other causes do not negate the identified undesirability of the restrictions of an apartment environment in bringing up young children.

5. Several references to the demand for parking spaces by apartment dwellers were provided. In general, both in Sydney and in Melbourne apartments are built with car spaces – otherwise they do not sell.

6. It seems preferable to accept the assessment of the author of the Australian Quality of Life study. The author is likely to have better understanding of the significance of the personal well-being measure. The author states: “From this it can be concluded that well-being falls as population density increases. However, these differences are confined to the extremes.” The extreme end density used in the study is not great, the high being taken as 2,550 to 4,050 persons per square kilometer - way below that of New York City at 10,116.

7. It is possible to postulate thousands of reasons why people prefer houses but that does not mean studies of their preferences are irrelevant. If Lewyn wishes to claim the driving factor for their preference is between owning and (I assume he means) renting, it is up to him to substantiate this. Contrary to Lewyn’s assertion I am not promoting any particular type of housing. I am saying that within reasonable limits people should be allowed to choose to live in the type of houses they prefer unless it can be undisputedly proved that this is significantly not to the overall public good.

8. Again, if Lewyn wishes to claim the data in Bowling Alone are caused by special factors such as age or stability let him prove this. What is noteworthy here is that the author’s stated conclusion appears to be directly contradicted by the facts presented in the book.

It appears to me that Lewyn’s reference to the Khmer Rouge, one of the world’s most intense examples of social engineering, is a non-sequiter. The image of the Khmer Rouge is more applicable to high-density advocates in Australia forcing high-density onto communities who do not want it than to my suggesting that communities should be allowed to choose the type of living they prefer.

Finally, where in the world is there an example of a large modern high-density city (and not a mere artificial precinct) that does not suffer from the ills high-density advocates claim their proposals will alleviate?

Surely the onus of proof about the desirability or otherwise of high-density should not lie with resident action groups. We do not have access to the funding and resources that government and academia enjoy, from the public purse as well as via political donations from developers in some cases. The responsibility of proving high density to be beneficial lies squarely with the proponents of these policies, who have ready access to taxpayer funding.

Where's the beef?

Thanks, Tony.

As I have been saying all along, "smart" growth is unfounded quackery and wishful thinking, but with access to public purse strings.

Non Sequitur

Not non sequiter.
It's Latin for "it does not follow."

Charles Siegel

social engineering on The Rock

Tony Recsei comments "The image of the Khmer Rouge is more applicable to high-density advocates in Australia forcing high-density onto communities who do not want it than to my suggesting that communities should be allowed to choose the type of living they prefer."

You might wish as well to look back to 1949 in Newfoundland, Canada, when Joey Smallwood forced/coerced/bribed the rugged and very independent people living in small outports to move to larger centres, thus decimating much of Newfoundland culture in the process.

The Onus Of Proof About Smart Growth

"Surely the onus of proof about the desirability or otherwise of high-density should not lie with resident action groups. ... The responsibility of proving high density to be beneficial lies squarely with the proponents of these policies who have ready access to taxpayer funding."

Where I live, neighborhood groups ("resident action groups") who oppose smart growth also think that they represent the people and they are fighting against an elite of government, developers, and academics. (They never explain why academics, who tend to be progressive, have joined this sinister developer conspiracy.)

Actually, in the SF Bay Area, the smart growth movement was started by a citizens' group named People for Open Space (now renamed The Greenbelt Alliance) long before the term "smart growth" was invented. Smart growth is now supported by virtually every environmental group, including the Sierra Club. In Berkeley, where I live, I believe the Sierra Club has more members than all the neighborhood groups combined.

I don't see why there should be a higher burden of proof on citizens' groups that care about the environment than there is on citizen groups who care about protecting their own turf. On the contrary, we should be more skeptical of neighborhood groups' claims, because they are motivated by self-interest.

In addition, I don't think there is any reasonable standard of proof that the neighborhood groups would accept.

In general, a point is considered to be proven if the overwhelming majority of those who are qualified to judge believe that it has proven. In fact, the overwhelming majority of people who have studied city planning believe that the case for smart growth has been proven.

About issues that affect the way people live, there is always going to be a minority of deniers who refuse to accept the evidence. You will always be able to cherry-pick quotations from Wendell Cox and the like arguing that smart growth has not been proven to work, just as you can cherry-pick quotations from Lord Monckton and the like arguing that global warming has not been proven.

But the overwhelming majority of academics studying city planning believe that smart growth has been proven effective, just as the overwhelming majority of climate scientists believe that global warming has been proven.

That overwhelming consensus sounds to me like evidence that they have been proven. The only recourse of deniers is to claim that all the environmentalist professors of city planning are actually part of a sinister developer conspiracy, or to claim that all the climate scientists in the world are conspiring to perpetrate a hoax.

In summary, your argument is wrong because:

- You place the entire onus of proof on smart growth advocates - as if people who are members of neighborhood groups counted as citizens, but people who are members of environmental groups don't count.

- You set an impossible standard of proof - demanding unanimity and claiming there is no proof as long as there is a small minority of deniers you can quote.

(See the recent Toles cartoon about what constitutes proof at http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/22/toles-on-scientific-uncertainty/ )

Charles Siegel

illogic as a last refuge?

Charles, your post is so full of logical fallacies that it's difficult to know where to begin.

If you want to talk about self-interest, how about the self-interest of developers in reaping their profits, of planners in keeping their jobs and maintaining the "integrity" of their delusional paradigm, of academics in maintaining their employment/funding and that same delusion. The "overwhelming majority" of those who have studied planning have a vested interest in more and more growth (the paradigm of "growthism"), and are most certainly not independent and impartial in this regard.

When it gets right down to it, "smart" growth advocates are promoting an enormous social engineering experiment, with no hard data to justify their claims. Arguments from authority are just another logical fallacy. To echo Tony, where are your examples?

What do you mean "hard data?"

"When it gets right down to it, "smart" growth advocates are promoting an enormous social engineering experiment, with no hard data to justify their claims." - Rick Shea

All the "hard data" is in the simple fact that thoroughly modern, thriving, multistory, densely populated, mass transit-rich, walkable cities existed prior to the invention of the automobile.

Since then, things have gone downhill---and fast---for cities, for suburbs, for the economy, for the environment and for humanity, itself.

Anti-smart growth political conservatives should abide by their own allegedly conservative worldview and acknowledge the importance of conserving traditional city building values.

sure, sure

We did not evolve living in termite colonies.

Anti-ecology, anti-nature, and misanthropic political conservatives should abide by their own allegedly conservative worldview and acknowledge the importance of conserving traditional ways of living within the ecological boundaries of this planet. That does not consist of packing more and more people into less and less space. Nor does it consist of promoting the idea of infinite growth on a finite planet.

How exactly is "smart" growth sustainable?

Smart growth is certainly more sustainable than sprawl

Smart growth is certainly more sustainable than the unrestrained, unregulated, addictive, alienated, lily-white, low-density, car-dependent, government-subsidized, oil war-causing, environmentally-damaging sprawl you apparently prefer.

If that's what you want, knock yourself out. Just don't expect the two thirds of us that you compare to "termites," and who either want or would benefit from urban living, to pay for your dangerous, destructive, expensive, suburban lifestyle choice.

Got it?

Just a clarification

Actually sprawl is heavily regulated. Sprawl would not exist in it's current form or magnitude without all the government regulations, subsidies and codes that perpetuate/enforce it. It is definitely a mistake to call it "unregulated".... similiar to referring to the finacial sector as "unregulated" during the current credit crisis.

The only real unregulated development we've had in America actually produced the cities and urbanity that we all find so desirable nowadays (although that also has its drawbacks).

Despite Chrysler's cancellation, dodges are alive and well.

mmc2068, saying that something is "more sustainable" is meaningless. It is either sustainable, or it isn't. It's like saying that someone is "more pregnant" or "more dead" than someone else. That is why, if you had bothered to read my earlier posts, I asked replies to deal only with "smart" growth and not try any comparative analysis.

Nice dodge of the question, though.

To put it in perspective, after we have densified cities to the point where residents rebel against further densification (as is already happening in cities where "smart" growth has been around for a while), then what? Do you envision the entire country been covered by one huge, moderately dense city in the future?

How is "smart" growth sustainable?

We're a long way off from one, big city covering the planet.

Humanity can learn to contain its growth. Cultures that acknowlege the worth and equality of women, for example, and even gays, show population rates slowing on their own and without draconian intervention.

The threat to the planet, right now, comes not from tall, slender cities with small geographic footprints, but from short, fat, sprawling cities.

Leave planning to guys like you---who probably don't "get" women and gays, either---and the threat is clear.

sure, sure

mmc2068 says "Humanity can learn to contain its growth."

Given the histories of many failed civilizations, I sincerely doubt that that will be the case. But, if you truly believe that, then why not now?

"Tall, slender cities" have an enormous urban shadow/appropriated ecological footprint (whichever you wish) that extends far beyond their boundaries and into other countries. Why don't "smart" growth cultists ever talk about that fact?

And the denser the city, the farther food has to be transported. How will that be sustainable in a post-carbon economy?

slippery slopes?

Incidentally, mmc2068, what exactly did you mean to imply by "Since then, things have gone downhill---and fast---for cities, for suburbs, for the economy, for the environment and for humanity, itself."

Is this just Chicken Little histrionics, illogically blaming sprawl for all the ills of the planet? Or is it simply meaningless nonsense in the context of this discussion?

Self-Interest, Logic, and Smart Growth

Dont' forget the Sierra Club and the hundreds of other environmental groups that support smart growth, which all are obviously just motivated by self-interest. And all the city planners and city planning professors went into that field solely because of greed.

Yes, the mistakenly named "argument from authority" is obviously a logical fallacy. As Tom Tomorrow says, "Why should we believe the earth is round, just because scientists say so?" http://climateprogress.org/2010/02/20/tom-tomorrow-why-should-we-believe...

The onus of proof is entirely on those who claim the earth is round. Those of us who believe the earth is flat don't have to produce any data at all. To win the argument, we just have to say that we are not satisfied by the data that the scientists produce.

You cannot absolutely prove what you claim. Therefore, it follows that you are wrong and I am right. That is logic for you!

In fact, there is a huge amount of hard data showing that higher density means less automobile use, less energy use, and lower ghg emissions, beginning with the extensive international comparisons by Peter Newman and Jeff Kenworthy. There is enough data that virtually everyone who has studied the subject thinks the case is proven.

But we know better. We know that the case is not proven as long as one NIMBY claims that the case is not proven or as long as one professional denialist at a conservative think-tank claims that the case in not proven.

Charles Siegel

A big pile of.....hay.

Ah, the usual straw man argument now too.

It is completely dishonest to say that higher density means "less automobile use." What is more correct to say is that higher density may mitigate the INCREASE in automobile use, but there is still an increase.

And us NIMBIs (Now I Must Become Involved) are fed up with the radical social engineering experiments that are being foisted on us by the "smart" growth extremists.

So, again, please provide the example(s) per Dr. Recsei's request.

Thanks.

Oh, and please don't continue with your example of the Sierra Club and others. They have sold us and themselves out in the name of continued funding, and in fact are standing in the way of truly solving the problems of this planet.

If urbanism is a "social engineering experiment" what is sprawl?

You say you're "fed up with the radical social engineering experiments that are being foisted on us by the 'smart' growth extremists"?

Give me a break!

We've had over 2000 years of ever larger and ever more economically and culturally productive cities and just 50 years of automotive, low-density sprawl and yet you want to rewrite history to say that returning to the traditional values of good city planning is the experiment.

You're either a complete idiot or you're or a shill for the oil, auto and weapons industries.

Which is it?

pots and kettles

Um, mmc2068, 2000 years is just a blink in the history of humanity.

I suppose we heard the same arguments just before the collapse of the Anasazi civilizations, the Mayans, and so many others. "We've done this for a while now, so it must be sustainable." Nonsense.

Now I see your bias -- the infinite economic growth promoted by neo-classical economists who are bent upon destroying this planet.

Sad.

What do you want?

What do YOU want, Rick? You come off as wanting virtually unending, government-subsidized sprawl that requires equally unending road networks and oil wars, in the face of the consensus that growth must be contained and cities built up, instead of out.

If you can just wrap that little brain of yours around the efficiency, affordability and environmental sensitivity---indeed, the wisdom---of putting people near goods and services as much as is comfortably possible and without the use of the private passenger vehicle, you might be all right.

In the meantime, do tell us how you plan to put naturally growing populations in your vast sea of single family detached homes in the suburbs?

Or perhaps your plan is to control population growth? What method would you choose?

Something tells me forced sterilization is on your short list...

more dodges than Chrysler

Ah, mmc2068, for want of being able to answer the questions, you are now resorting to the usual ad hominems - just more of the logical fallacies that "underpin" the "smart" growth cult's agenda. Sad indeed.

So, exactly how is "smart" growth sustainable?

Why sprawl is a conservative issue

Posted as a reminder...

http://www.rep.org/news/GEvol6/ge6.1_sprawl1.html

by Michael E. Lewyn
Once upon a time, city and urban were not dirty words in America. But in the second half of the 20th century, American cities were transformed by (and sometimes ruined by) suburban sprawl—the movement of people and jobs away from older urban cores to newer, more thinly-populated, auto-dependent areas known as suburbs, whether they were within city limits or not.

In the last decade, the continued acceleration of sprawl has met with public resistance. Environmentalists complain that sprawl means more driving and the destruction of woodlands, wetlands and wildlife. Residents of cities and older suburbs complain that sprawl turns their communities into wastelands.

When I first got involved in sprawl related issues in the Rust Belt, sprawl was a nonpartisan issue, so it was easy for me to be both a Republican city committeeman and chair of the Sierra Club’s sprawl committee. But here in Atlanta, conservatives and libertarians tend to respond to public concerns about sprawl in one way: deny, deny, deny. Deny that sprawl is a problem, deny that concerns about sprawl are anything more than part of the vast left-wing conspiracy to regulate us to death.

Virginia Postrel wrote in Reason, “The anti-sprawl campaign is about telling Americans how they should live and work, about sacrificing individuals’ values to the values of their politically powerful betters.”

The conventional conservative wisdom seems to be: “Sprawl is the result of the free market at work. Conservatives have no good reason to worry about sprawl. Even if sprawl is somehow problematic and somehow related to statism, it cannot possibly be limited without making government bigger and more intrusive.”

My purpose here is to show that all three assumptions are wrong: that sprawl was in large part created by governmental intervention in the economy, that sprawl is in fact a conservative issue, and that sprawl has conservative solutions. Government has encouraged migration from cities to suburbs and newer areas through housing policy, transportation policy, and education policy.

Pages

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