It's Sprawl For Nothing

In an excerpt from her new book, 'The Place You Love Is Gone: Progress Took It Away', author Melissa Holbrook Pierson offers her lament for a sprawling nation.
January 27, 2006, 1pm PST | Michael Dudley
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"Anything that was here at the Dawn of Time finally gets the heave-ho in favor of something people can turn into money. It has taken the form of an addiction: we just can't help ourselves. Finally we fall backward, heads dully throbbing, with figures and incomprehensible trivia drooling down our chins: America has paved 3.9 million miles of road, equivalent to 157 times around the equator; every 5 new cars we make, a football-field-size bit of land gets covered with asphalt; 3 million, yes million, acres of open space are developed each year in this country; farmland is lost at the rate of 2 acres per minute; someone just entering middle age now who grew up in, say, Rockland County, New York, lived in a place with 17,360 acres of farmlandâ€"now there are 250, but check back in a few minutes. We can only compile the statistics and get out of the way, dumbfounded. No one knows what to do about it. There is nothing to do about it. The newspapers fill with stories containing incredible facts; apparently no one reads them. Occasionally there is an account of some monumental fight actually won, costing years of sweaty effort, and the prize is one development scaled back, one farm saved, a few acres that won't be logged, a Civil War battlefield protected though with givebacks, a single Wal-Mart backburnered. Meanwhile, scores of houses, health clubs, hospitals, and convenience stores and 2,378 Wal-Marts went up elsewhere."

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Published on Wednesday, January 25, 2006 in Orion
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