O beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties and… ever growing Urban Sprawl?

Urban Sprawl Photo By keepwaddling1
The outward spread of both city and suburban landscapes has become a harsh truth of modern life. While the lyrics to “America the Beautiful” have yet to be altered, the evidence of this sprawl is apparent to the most novice of Environmentalists. Driving through the suburbs, from state to state, coast to coast, one can not help but to note the formerly varying landscapes of the United States have taken on a more homogeneous aesthetic over the past half century or so. As strip malls and the chain stores spread their outreach, it is hard to know whether one is in the suburbs of New York state or California when parking lots and carbon copies of the same chain stores are all that are left to mark your surroundings. Even the suburban standby, of using regional coffee chains as a compass in deciding where the strip mall in question is likely located, such as: Coffee Shop A suggesting a Northeast area versus Coffee chain B suggesting a West Coast one, is becoming obsolete as these caffeinated chains spread their jittery wings to pepper the country with new, “convenient” locations.

Dead End in the Burbs Photo By √oхέƒx™

The ultimate staple of success in the U.S; the home in a quiet neighborhood with a large yard featuring a two car garage to house your families numerous vehicles, has become the main trapping of a modern life that encourages this sprawl. The reality of a life lived in the sprawl is one that entails longer commutes, often with one person per one vehicle sitting in traffic on a highway for long spans of time. In addition to, and largely because of these increased solitary vehicle commutes, pollution increases in these areas, which has serious impacts on the health of its citizens. Low air quality stimulates respiratory ailments. The lack of exercise, due to the lack of walk ways and bike ways available in these areas, which make driving a mandatory means of transportation, cause a rise in obesity and in turn, an increase the abundance of negative health effects that are associated with such weight increases. Not to mention the financial burden of needing to purchase new and larger slacks every few months or so. (Which may not be a problem when one can get a twelve pack of pants at their local Sprawl-Mart for the low, low price of $9.99.)

Deer Crossing Photo By shouldbecleaning

The improper allotment of land Urban Sprawl calls for leaves less and less area for natural environments to be maintained or developed. This burden weighs not only on the physical health of humans, with less space to be physically active, but the mental health as well, as decreased activity sees an increase in depression. Humans are not the only ones blue over these harmful uses of land, wild life is being squeezed out of modern America. Many species have become extinct and many of those who fight for survival must adapt the world we have created, even seeking food and shelter in our neighborhoods, invading the landscapes of our American dreams due to their dreams of survival. When one wonders why a coyote is wandering through their neighbor’s yard, the answer probably lies within the reality of Urban Sprawl. Wild animals would much rather be frolicking in the forest than running across our highways and sorting through our old issues of Life magazine as they search for food in a Hefty bag.

Golden Forest Photo By *MickyThis seemingly endless unfurling of Urban sprawl occurring in our nation is on the radar of even our most powerful of citizens, with President Obama recently asserting, “For too long federal policy has actually encouraged sprawl and congestion and pollution, rather than quality public transportation and smart sustainable development” and further stating, “And we’ve been keeping communities isolated when we should have been bringing them together.” Sentiments that are a clear call for change in our Nation’s Urban policy. These strong words will hopefully, for the sake of the preservation of our nation, heed aggressive action. For as cliché as it may sound, actions speak louder than words, no matter how eloquent and truthful those words may be.

The Town of Middleburg Photo By La Citta VitaOur actions as citizens of this country are equally as important as that of our leaders. We need to encourage our leaders to change, supporting candidates who will support the legislature we need to prevent future harm to our nation, those who will seek preservation of natural habitats and encourage the development of public transportation, walkways and bike ways. Financially we can shop locally and shut out super store giants that push out small business owners, those slacks may be dirt cheap, but at what cost to our fellow man and our environment? We can even make simple choices, such as walking places when it is possible, or car pooling when it is not.

We owe it to ourselves, to our spacious skies, to our amber waves of grain, to our purple mountain’s majesty….and to that coyote out back rummaging through your rubbish.

-Meghan Hurley