Planning Sustainable Communities and Regions: Bits and Pieces


This semester, I enrolled in an upper level Geography course called Planning Sustainable Communities and Regions.  I had never taken a class in land use/urban planning before, so I found the material new and interesting.  Here are a few bits and pieces that I learned:

  • By 1965, 20% of general goods were already being sold in big box stores.
  • The Delaware Coastal Zone Management Act completely redefined zoning in the state of Delaware.
  • Magical Urbanism: Latinos Reinvent American City did an excellent job of explaining the outsourcing of production to countries with poor environmental policies. The “2,000 mile Love Canal” in Mexico is a good example of this international policy issue.
  • It is important to look at how buildings move through time; how certain features are added depending the style of the era.
  • The TA presented his research on “aeromobility.” I had never considered the impact of airports on the surrounding geography in such detail. It has such a strong influence on the immediate spatial geography; an increase in hotels, parking lots, restaurants and shopping malls, but also the human geography. I thought it was really interesting how Los Angeles names airports after actors to further embed entertainment into their culture.
  • I was particularly alarmed by the readings that talked about man-made mountains being constructed for airports. On the one hand, I feel like it goes against the grains of nature to create a mountain without subduction or convergence zones and a handful of other concepts I can recall from Geology 107, but on the other hand, it seems logical to manipulate a new space so the new airport does not affect the geography or the people in a certain region. I do wonder about the effects of Kansai on the marine life and aquatic systems. I also wonder whether it affects the gyres. Then again, how is this different from all of the other man-made interactions that we have incorporated into ecological systems?
  • Phoenix, Arizona, with all of its sprawl issues, is now bigger than Manhattan, Paris, San Francisco and Rome combined.
  • Food stamps are now being accepted at farmers markets!
  • I think what I learned most from our field trip to Wilmington on Saturday morning was to think holistically about city planning. I think you could even apply philosophical theories like Leopold’s the Land Ethic to city planning. The city functions as an entire ecosystem, so each block and each district should flow as one unit. The block with the Opera House was pretty fluid, until the new office building with the Subway was put in. This building looked completely out of place and disrupted the flow of the natural system already present. Areas like the “Government Ghetto” seem separate from the Central Business District and areas with a lot of historic preservation. Big interstates further the habitat fragmentation and allow for travelers to come into one area and out again, without ever seeing other pieces of the puzzle.
  • An article mentioned that Chicago was originally named Chigagou, meaning “wild garlic place.” In the days of suburbia and arguably metroburbia, it is easy to forget that places were once named after the resources that were abundant and native to that area, not named after the trees we cut down to put up sub-divisions. The article also brought to my attention the idea of the river being the first natural feature defined in a new area; as the river would prove vital for all life.
  • Before the “City and Nature” essay, I never really thought of nature as a continuum, with wilderness as one extreme and the city as another. I always think of living in the countryside or even in less dense suburban areas as living closer to nature, and the “concrete jungle” of cities, as just that, concrete jungles. The essay helped remind me that natural cycles and interactions among organisms still occur in urban areas. I have always been interested in studying the difference between the Eastern Gray Squirrel (or even the raccoon, blackbirds, other generalist species) present in woodland areas and the Eastern Gray Squirrel in urban areas and whether or not their genetic makeup is the same, or if they have evolved differently. Maybe one day they will even be two different species. Just a thought on the subject, although nature is a continuum, the interactions facing a squirrel in the city are much different than a squirrel in the forest.
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5 thoughts on “Planning Sustainable Communities and Regions: Bits and Pieces

  1. Very interesting course you’re taking. I feel unfortunate to live within the sprawl you’ve identified but happy because our markets do take SNAP (formerly food stamps).

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