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Once There Were Greenfields: How Urban Sprawl is Undermining America's Environment, Economy, and Social Fabric

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1893340176
ISBN-10: 1893340171
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Once There Were Greenfields is a terrific book, and NRDC and STPP are to be commended for writing it. I think it will be extremely useful to people involved in struggles against sprawl in various communities around the country." -- Constance Beaumont, Director for State and Local Policy, National Trust for Historic Preservation

"Once There Were Greenfields provides a balanced and insightful assessment of what we know about the issue of suburban sprawl. It will be an important contribution to the search for solutions to the problems generated by sprawl." -- Professor Susan Handy, University of Texas School of Architecture

"The prose is elegant, and the information is very clearly presented. Once There Were Greenfields should be a valuable addition to the literature, as something that is both fact-filled and easy to read." -- Bruce Katz, Director, The Brookings Institution Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy

From the Publisher

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a nonprofit environmental membership organization with 400,000 members nationwide. Since 1970, NRDC's lawyers, scientists, and staff have been working to protect the world's natural resources and to improve the quality of the human environment.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Nrdc (March 24, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893340171
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893340176
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,626,606 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
What do road rage, farmland loss, inner-city poverty, and air pollution have in common? They are all part of "sprawl," a thoroughly American phenomenon of poorly-planned scattershot development.
"Once There Were Greenfields" provides a comprehensive review of sprawl: its causes, its consequences, and most importantly, its solutions. If Benfield's book had been printed 50 years ago, perhaps much of the destruction of America's farms and city centers would have been avoided.
The book reviews a number of public policies that favor unlimited consumption of land and drive development out of America's cities. Benfield reminds us that while most of the policy decisions that lead to sprawl are made at the state and local level, these decisions are often based on economic incentives created by federal activity. The sad fact is that our current patterns of low-density development are the result of fifty years of government policy decisions, direct government funding, and government-influenced private finance and credit decisions. In most American cities, the mix of these policies and market forces creates a strong economic push toward an ever-expanding suburbia at the expense of our core urban and inner suburban areas.
The results of sprawl have been disastrous for environmental quality and for the economic well-being of cities. Sprawl is even costly to suburban residents that unknowingly subsidize the process, such as the paving of more than one million acres of farmland per year, through increases in their property taxes and other mechanisms.
Despite the book's detailed review of policies ranging from taxation and transportation to agriculture and water quality, it remains extremely accessible.
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Format: Paperback
If you want a fairly definitive guide to all the disadvantages of suburban sprawl, read this book. I also recommend it as a source guide, because it cites a lot of sources on both sides of the issue.
It does have some imperfections: it is very focused on environmental issues, so I wouldn't pretend that it is the definitive guide on other sprawl related problems (e.g. social justice issues), though it does address such issues to some extent. Also, I think it is a bit more biased towards "big government" solutions to sprawl than I would be if I were writing a book on the subject. But by and large, I recommend it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Once There Were Greenfields" is the product of a small team of researchers working for The National Resouces Defense Council (NRDC) and the Surface Transportation Policy Project. The result is a well-researched, balanced and highly readable review of suburban sprawl and its effects on the community, economy and environment. It also suggests ways we might mitigate sprawl by opting for policies that encourage "smart growth", i.e. development that takes a holistic view of the community and its role within the larger society in which we all live.
With thorough documentation, charts and illustrations to support the author's work, one can easily imagine the book serving well as an introductory college textbook on the subject. It should also be welcomed by community activists and concerned citizens alike who may want to prepare themselves for intelligent discussion and engagement when faced with the problem of sprawl in their own local communities.
The authors discuss the numerous reasons why sprawl has become such a big problem in our country. Of course the closely related and interconnected topics of the American love affair with the automobile, the building of the interstate highway system and the dismantling of big city public transportation systems by General Motors are cited as factors that enabled and encouraged the post-WW II mass exodus from most major cities to their surrounding suburban areas. But the authors also point out that uncoordinated local governments generally make it difficult for America to develop comprehensive land use policies, allowing land developers and corporations to run amok and get what they wanted with respect to tax breaks, permits, and so on.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In this book the Natural Resources Defense Council takes on urban sprawl. They lay our the scope of the problem, describe its fiscal and environmental impacts and describe a vision for the future. Sprawl is an important environmental, fiscal and social issue and this is a good book to start with in understanding its impact.
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I strongly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the effects of sprawl on our society. It is filled with information from a number of significant research studies. The book focuses on statistics, not opinion, to make its arguments against sprawl
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