An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of April 25, 2006
issued from Polly's Bend in Kentucky's Bluegrass Region, Garrard County, USA

SPRAWL

Central Kentucky, like so much of the US, is succumbing to urban sprawl. The landscape of gently rolling hills of grass crisscrossed by white board fences and interspersed with little woodlots, forested ravines and neighborly small towns, which I vividly recall from my days as a graduate student at the University of Kentucky in Lexington back in the early 1970s, is being converted to side-by-side real-estate developments cluttered with look-alike houses.

This is the week, by the way, when it was announced that for the first time in our history, more people in the US live in "suburbs" than in cities and rural areas.

Why have we chosen to change the land in this manner, and to live like this?

I don't believe that anyone has chosen anything. What's happened is that society has thoroughly programmed us to expertly navigate the complex web of national and international commerce, but there's been hardly any teaching, preaching, politicking and other forms of social programming relating to our human relations with the biological Web of Life. Few among us doubt that a good citizen must work for his or her money and spend it wisely, but who among us invests much time or energy really concerned about such things as the disastrous ecological effects of such things as sprawl?

What's worse is that so much of sprawl's environmental destruction is funded by people doing things on credit -- in a society itself perilously in debt. If my understanding about how homebuilding and home buying works is accurate, the ecosystem-killing sprawl encircling Polly's Bend is mostly done on credit and/or on speculation by people guessing or at least hoping that they'll eventually be able to pay off enormous debts. And these debts are being incurred to finance ways of life that are themselves destructive and unsustainable.

Thus sprawl arises from two patently unsustainable and some would say dishonest and immoral features of current citizen behavior. One is that of incurring enormous debt in a chancy world where there's a reasonable possibility that much of it will never be repaid, and the other is consuming many, many more natural resources than an adequately happy, healthy person needs.

To save Life on Earth each of us, one human being at a time, must reexamine our own behavior, shake off that part of our social programming we ourselves find to be unacceptable, sensitize ourselves to what we truly believe to be the beautiful and meaningful things on this planet, and then we must live our lives advocating and protecting those things we most care about and love.