A major energy disaster – exurban style

Posted: May 1, 2011 in Uncategorized

We love small towns, we love cities and we love farms. We have a great fondness for suburbs but find some of the more remote ones to be increasingly unsustainable in such a way that people EVERYWHERE end up footing the bill.
Everyone likes low taxes and better government services and if you own land, you probably like to see the value of it increase over time – unless you’re a speculator, in which case you want to see the value of it skyrocket.
Township supervisors and their hired administrators typically tout growth … it’s not hard to see why. The costs of providing town services tends to rise over time while the residents and businesspeople they serve balk at paying higher taxes.
Now we read that officials of various area small towns and cities are pointing to Wilton, NY, as an example of smart growth. This leaves us open-mouth stunned. We’re not saying Wilton isn’t wonderful – what we’re saying is that THAT ship has sailed.
The folks who live in Wilton should be proud of their community.
At this time of war, deep recession, rising food costs and increasing pollution concerns, we cannot afford MORE Wiltons.
Two decades ago Wilton was mostly farm and woodlands. Now even what might have been considered wetlands has been built upon (in some cases with resulting basement flooding). Apart from the loss of crop land and forest, Wilton living is automobile-dependent. Big-box and mall shopping is not a pedestrian affair. Apart from that, big-box and mall stores eke out profits (though not so much in this recession) which are not returned to the local community but are diverted from it to Wall Street, basically.
We NEED that farmland. We need woodlands and clean streams.
Wilton, furthermore, represents increasing distance between places of residence and places of work. This, in part, leads to increased energy demand and … dare I say higher gasoline prices at the pump? Oh, I know there’s a school of thought that says oil prices are manipulated … I remember George Bush (Sr.) saying that the oil cartel, not the market, forces oil prices up.
There are other considerations. Big-box and mall shopping has generally been the demise of small town and small city downtown businesses. One of the best-read pieces items in Saratoga Springs, for example, is not The Saratogian or other local paper, the Daily Racing Form or Time magazine. It is the sign on the door of the Borders bookstore marking the store’s closing.
Certainly online shopping has been a prime competitor for Borders, but the business media have also pointed to its rival … Barnes & Noble, which operates a store … in Wilton, of course.
You might have missed it but the suburban big-box store concept’s first downtown “victim” was probably your local office supply store. In Saratoga Springs that was Blackmer, which has been gone long enough so that most downtown business operators probably do not remember the store – although the building it occupied still bears its name. Competition for this type of shop eventually began to include truck delivery catalog stores as well as big boxes. More fossil fuel consumption for just a little bit of convenience.
Killing small city and small-town downtowns which tend to be pedestrian-friendly in turn, has lead to more fossil fuel use as those who would have been able to purchase what they needed find they must drive farther to get it. When people do more driving all of us pay in the form of more pollution, more foreign oil (and more war) and less local produce – which means poorer nutrition.


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