There are a number of issues that are becoming increasingly important and yes, even urgent, as we press forward into the 21st century. Peak oil is one of these and I’ve written about it numerous times. Additionally, global warming and climate change is an issue that requires society’s focus, as are the issues of out of control sprawl, which threatens our farmlands and wilderness habitats and in more populated areas, creates large scale traffic congestion, which further adds to wasteful use of dwindling petroleum stocks.
New Urbanism is a design movement where these issues are openly addressed and alternatives are offered to sprawl (which Jim Kunstler calls, “the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world) and big box development. In fact, Kunstler has one of his more trenchant (and less polemical) posts on the importance of this visionary design movement.
While in Wisconsin for the College World Series, in Appleton, I spent some time walking the downtown area and visiting the neighborhoods just off West College Avenue (near Lawrence University). I’ve always enjoyed the grid like design of the Midwest, with its criss-crossed neighborhoods. What I liked about the city center of this community of 70,000, was the number of parks, neighborhood schools and areas that could be accessed by foot, or bicycle. Maine’s very own city of Portland, a city that is composed of various neighborhoods (Deering, Munjoy Hill, the West End, Bayside) is another good example of walkable design, although the I-295 spur that brings the suburban workers, from their McMansions, into the city, continues to become a greater and greater area of concern. One disastrous solution being proposed is adding additional lanes for traffic into the city, which will only enable those commuters traveling one to a car, each morning.
While there might be discussion and debate about the seriousness about some of the above mentioned issues and how far along we are on the peak oil continuum, New Urbanism offers proactive solutions that are workable and community-based. I urge readers to familiarize themselves with this movement because in my opinion, it offers reasonable and non-ideological answers to many questions and pressing concerns that are facing America, at this crucial juncture.