Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Driving is the New Smoking?

For Doug Farr, sustainable urbanism is the new American dream.

The author of Sustainable Urbanism: Urban Design with Nature, Farr defines the concept as walkable, transit-served urbanism integrated with high-performance buildings and high-performance infrastructure. Farr thinks this will be the norm by 2030.

"It's in the public's interest; it's in each individual's interest; and developers can make money off of it," he said.

In front of the packed room at the Memphis Botanic Garden yesterday, Farr said that communities (okay, he may have used the words "the media") have to get past the compact fluorescent lightbulb, the hybrid car, and more energy efficient buildings, because while those things are good, they're not enough.

Which brings us to the local Sustainable Shelby initiative.

Shelby County mayor A C Wharton said that when he was first elected, it became clear to him that we were "creating disposable neighborhoods."

That realization eventually led to his Sustainable Shelby initiative, which included yesterday's call to action.

"A few years ago, people thought they looked stupid if they rode a bicycle," Wharton said of Germany, a country he just visited and where a gallon of gas costs $8. "Now the only people who look stupid are those driving to work alone in their car."

From the Sustainable Shelby report — recommendations put together by seven committees and rated by both committee members and a survey of the general public — Wharton said he drew several conclusions: that there is a strong sentiment for revitalizing existing neighborhoods, that people care about the public realm and want to have parks, streets, and plazas that are special, that people want to protect the natural environment, that they want walkable communities, and they want the local government to stop talking about sustainability and start leading the charge.

"While there are noble and idealistic reasons for sustainability, in the end, it is in our own enlightened self-interest," Wharton said.

The administration will develop plans for how to implement the top 52 recommendations within the next 90 days. If you're interested in Sustainable Shelby's full report and top recommendations, visit Or here's a better link.

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