Saturday, April 25, 2009

Urban Development

Our class discussion about urban development last Monday, April 20, really left me thinking. It was interesting to see all the aspects of urbanization the textbook mentioned to play out in one form or another in Orlando. For example, Orlando is a good example of how different suburban areas melt into an “urban corridor” or “metropolitan strip.” In addition, several people have chosen to settle in so-called “exurbs,” areas at the edge of cities, where land and home construction was available for relatively inexpensive prices. Exurbs in turn encouraged urban sprawl, a phenomenon that can be witnessed in many places around Orlando. For instance, I live in the Lake Mary/Longwood area where the majority of housing consist of large, single family homes on large property. Accordingly, energy and water use of these houses is rather high; and many of the people that live in Lake Mary may have to commute long distances to work, experiencing the rush-hour traffic on I-4 and therefore consuming further energy (gasoline) as well as emitting CO2.
Thinking about urban development in terms of urban sprawl got me thinking about a larger problem we as a society face today: one of energy efficiency and climate change. I realized that our current way of life in Orlando -urban sprawl where single-family homes consume significantly more electricity, water etc than other housing developments – added significantly to the emission of greenhouse gases and therefore encouraged global warming. In addition, I recently read Thomas L. Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, and Crowded,” a book that really gives detailed information on what impact this lifestyle has on the globe.
Consequently, I became much more aware of the fact that any urban planning for the future needs to have the question of sustainability and energy efficiency at its core. Therefore I found it very interesting to see Professor Chambliss’ slides of how Orlando is supposed to look in the future. In these models, urban sprawl was significantly contained and people concentrated in select urban centers throughout the Central Florida region. All of these centers were easily connected to highways, as well as public transportation, significantly reducing commute time and CO2 emissions.
Taking this class discussion / lecture and relating it to Friedman’s book was really a revelation to me in some way. Seeing the models of urban development on Professor Chambliss’ slides and thinking about what I read in the book really emphasized for me that mitigation of global warming through increased energy efficiency really could not only be achieved by making our current suburban single-family homes more efficient. It will require us to radically redesign the way in which we currently live and ask us to live in areas with a higher population concentration, ending the consistent practice of urban sprawl.

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