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It's a Sprawl World After All: The Human Cost of Unplanned Growth -- and Visions of a Better Future Paperback – September 1, 2005
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The United States and Europe have taken very different paths since the conclusion of World War II. Spurred by an amalgamation of big money interests that included the construction industry, the automobile industry and the airlines, the U.S. government promoted policies that unleashed what would ulimately result in the unchecked growth that we have experienced over the past several decades. In the meantime the folks in Europe have largely rejected these approaches our government so unabashedly promotes. "It's A Sprawl World After All" cites example after example why the quality of life in Europe is so much better that it is for us in the U.S. Even the most skeptical reader would have to cede Morris some points here.
Having been born in 1951, I am old enough to remember what real community is like. I grew up in a blue collar neighborhood where I knew just about everybody. People rarely moved. There was a neighborhood grocery store (we did not need 30000 items!) and a variety store with a soda fountain. In the summer we played baseball three times a day in a vacant lot. We used to cut the grass ourselves! I am still in touch with many of the folks from that neighborhood. Contrast this to the way most youngsters are growing up today. They are rarely home and even when they are they never go outside. The houses they live in are much bigger than they used to be and equipped with all sorts of gadgets. But are these kids really happier than we were? Douglas Morris agrees with the preponderance of data that would suggest that they certainly are not.
If you have never taken the time to consider the subject of sprawl and the social, economic and psychological effect it has on all of us then "It's A Sprawl World After All" would be a great place to start. Douglas Morris has done a great job of explaining how sprawl came to be and why it is so destructive. He goes on to make numerous practical suggestions on how each one of us can help to reverse these trends. Finally, there is a valuable appendix included that cites a number of websites for those who wish to explore this subject more extensively. "It's A Sprawl World After All: The Human Cost of Unplanned Growth--And Visions of A Better Future" challenges the way most Americans live today. Unlike some books that are prone to be full of jargon, Morris makes his case in easy to understand language. A great book to provoke discussion in high school and college classrooms or at the dinner table with your teenagers. Highly recommended!
Morris presents a very compelling argument regarding the reasons urban sprawl is an undesirable force in our land development patterns. He moves beyond traditional arguments relating to increased infrastructure costs and increased environmental degradation and explains how sprawl affects us at a social level. The information presented links sprawl to a plethora of negative externalities including increased crime rates, incivility, and distance in personal relationships. He reinforces the argument that sprawl is inhibiting our ability to function as social creatures.
Instead of simply advocating that we raze our sprawling cities and start over again with vibrant downtowns and small villages, Morris offers solutions relating to how we can cope with sprawl. It's a Sprawl World After All removes our ability to become complacent victims of sprawl and places the impetus on us to become champions for better communities. Morris presents an empowering view of the problem that allows us to move forward in reality rather than aimlessly hoping that sprawl will vanish.
From an institutional perspective, It's a Sprawl World After All also offers a variety of suggestions on how we can prevent further sprawl. These suggestions move beyond draconian changes to land development regulations and instead propose a more holistic set of changes that would cause us to re-envision the way we live. The appendix summarizes the changes that helped to encourage sprawl in the first place and allows the reader to understand how those changes might be reversed in order to inspire livable communities.
This book is an excellent read for anyone interested in urban planning and community development because it combines the work of professional urban planners with the actions of citizens and illustrates how combined efforts can yield the types of robust communities that we desire to live in.