What does it really take to experience development? What are the defining criteria for development? Is development quantitatively measured or qualitatively evaluated? What are the key indicators of a developing or developed country? The answers depend on the person’s priority and preference. The expansion of metropolitan areas has been referred to as urban development by those who are after the material indicators of development- high rise buildings, wider highways, more cars and more parks. For those who are concerned with the long-term environmental and health effects of urbanization, they call it urban sprawl.
For the purpose of having a common point of reference, let me use 1Dr. Howard Frumkin’s definition of urban sprawl: “the complex pattern of land use, transportation and social and economic development. ” This complex pattern requires the extension of urban areas to rural areas, and thus converting the latter to urbanized locality. Urbanization implies vast forest and agricultural lands to be converted to different land uses. Sad to say, the list includes recreational facilities and parks which, for investment and environmental considerations are to be of least priority.
Extensive roads construction which provides spaces for suburban dwellers to drive a car just to buy a pack of cigarette in the next block, is not suppose to be of immediate consideration. Besides this qualitative indicators of poor urban sprawl considerations, there are environmental threats of urban sprawl that are needed to be evaluated and be given high priority by the development advocates, as it concerns life of the present and future generations. 2“Automobile has been a prerequisite to urban sprawl. ” (J. E. Anderson)
The most adverse effect of heavy reliance to automobiles is obviously air pollution. In the United States, 3about 25% of all trips are shorter than one mile of these, 75% are by car. Another related 4study revealed that only 1% of trips in the US are on bicycle and 9% by foot. Do these figures present impressive urban development rates for the US? I am afraid not because the Netherlands has 30% accounting for transportation on bicycle. These facts rather provide proofs that vehicles are the leading source of air pollution.
Despite modern environmental standards, urban air quality remains to be greatly affected by the emission of air pollutants from transport. In the 5US alone, 30% of nitrogen oxide and 30% of hydrocarbon emissions are brought about by mobile sources. In addition, 5carbon dioxide emission, which is the end product of burning fuel such as gas, accounts for 80% emissions. Carbon dioxide is the major greenhouse gas, with global warming potential. Needless to explain, development should no be measured quantitatively, that is by the number of cars that are going to and fro the streets of the cities.
Rather, development should be measured qualitatively, that how much does it contribute to the quality of life the residents are to experience when programs relative to urban sprawl are push through. Housing development is a part of urban sprawl, which requires forest fragmentation. 6Chet Arnold of the Center for Land-use and Research at the University of Connecticut said forest fragmentation occurs when “large, continuous forests are divided into smaller blocks, either by roads, clearing for agriculture, urbanization, or other human development.
” This means that housing development requires animal populations in the cleared forests to be thrown out of their natural habitats. Destruction of natural habitats accounts for great loss of biodiversity, which results to ecological imbalance. I agree that man deserve to have decent life and part of it is having a more comfortable living. But humans are not the only residents of the earth. We also have to take into consideration the floras and faunas as part of biodiversity. Let us remember that earth creatures are dependent on each other.
Humans, being given the capacity to think and understand over the lower forms of life should see things beyond material and short-term comforts that development brings. Urban sprawl in this context alone is clearly an environmental injustice. Water resources are not exempted from the list of natural resources that are directly affected by urban sprawl. As requisite of urban sprawl deforestation brings forth water pollution. This is besides the effects of pollutants that directly come from factories, sewage treatment plants and local wastes, which are typical to urbanized cities.
Rainwater that runs through the deforested lands are not effectively absorbed and thus flows downstream. This process results to lesser groundwater recharge, then water supply shortage follows. Added to the list of negative effects of urban sprawl to natural resources are noise pollution, the heat island effect, soil erosion and the declining fertility rates of soils. The main point of all these is that urban sprawl is the root of many environmental injustices.
Air pollution, deforestation, water pollution, soil degradation and the destruction of biodiversity are results of a chain reaction from a single step to what others refer to as urban development. What humans failed to do and still refuse to consider is the future. Development projects, of which urban sprawl is a major player, are focused on comforts and pleasures of today and shortly after tomorrow. The next generation should be taken into serious consideration. There are things that still can be undone, but there are things that cannot.
Natural resources that were destroyed can still be replaced, but it takes a century to bring them back to where they used to be. By itself, there’s nothing wrong with development. What makes it undesirable is its planner to consider the future.
1. Frumkin, Howard. Urban Sprawl and Public Health. Public Health Reports. May-June 2002 issue. Volume 117. page 201 2. Anderson, J. Edward. Personal Rapid Transit and Urban Development. Retrieved from http://faculty. washington. edu/jbs/itrans/sprawl. htm on December 19, 2006 3.
Koplan, JP, Dietz. Caloric Imbalance and Public Health Policy. JAMA 1999. 282. pages 1579-81 4. Pucher, J. Bicycling Boom in Germany: A Revival Engineered by Public Policy. Transportation Q 1997:51. pages 31-46 5. US Environmental Agency. National Emission Inventory. Air Pollutant Emission Trends. Current Emission Trend Summaries. Retrieved from http://www. epa. gov/ttn/chief/trends/index. html on December 19, 2006 6. NASA. Urban Sprawl: The Big Picture. Retrieved from http://science. nasa. gov/headlines/y2002/11oct_sprawl. htm on December 19, 2006