It wasn’t that long ago that the American Dream included a home in the suburbs that was located far away from the city. The mass exodus from American cities has created a suburban sprawl that just keeps growing, and growing right along with it is the negative environmental impact.
As people move away from the core areas that provide their educational, social and employment needs, they have to drive farther to get what they need and where they need to go. Also, as more people chase the antiquated American Dream, more land and other natural resources are required to build single family residences. The more we learn about how detrimental our actions and choices are to the environment, the less the stereotypical American Dream makes sense. It’s time for an Eco-friendly American Dream. It’s time to reverse course and take a look at the benefits of a true urban core way of life.
Urban Versus Suburban Crime
Those who oppose urban living point to crime, car and pedestrian accidents, and noise, among other things, as reasons they prefer suburban life. Crime is, of course, the biggest concern, but, according to a comprehensive study done by the Brookings Institution, between 1990 and 2008, the crime rates fell or rose together in most city and suburban metropolitan areas. So, crime is not strictly an urban problem, and the suburbs are not immune to it. Crime is a metropolitan problem that encompasses both suburban and urban areas.
As far as car accidents go, more vehicle fatalities happen in less populated areas than in cities. The reasons for this vary, but distance between destinations and speed play a big role. Of course, there are always exceptions. In Chicago, for example, there was a 17 percent increase in vehicle fatalities from January to July 2012, when compared to the same period in 2011. It certainly must have been a busy time to be a Chicago car accident lawyer.
Benefits of an Urban Core
Life in the city comes with an almost endless list of advantages, many of which include environmental benefits. As discussed earlier, less land is needed to house people, since most urban dwellers live in apartment homes.
Another benefit of urban living is that the infrastructure is already intact. City dwellers have the benefit of mass transit systems. They save gas and money, and in many cities, the transportation systems are so efficient that owning a car is literally an inconvenience. Libraries, hospitals, schools, and government buildings are all within easy reach by way of public transit, bicycle, or even walking.
Easy access to the arts and exposure to other cultures also count as advantage to living in an urban area. Since everything is so close, there’s no need to drive to the museum or theatre. The close proximity and effective public transit systems make it easy for people to expose themselves to the arts. Additionally, living in an urban area requires people of every walk of life to live and work with, and close to, each other. When we open ourselves up to the dynamic personal growth opportunities afforded to us by city living, we become more aware of the value of diversity.
Intertwined with the personal benefits of urban living are the environmental advantages. According to a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), those who live in an urban setting have smaller carbon footprints than those who live in less populated areas. In fact, the study, which looked at 11 major international cities, found significant differences between big city dwellers and their country’s respective national average. For example, those who live in New York had carbon footprints of 7.1 tons each. That’s less than one third of the U.S. average of 23.92 tons per person. Two primary reasons for the notable difference are denser housing and public transportation.
It’s clear that there are personal perks, such as convenient public transit systems, that make urban life attractive. For those who are eco-minded, however, the advantages are much broader. Those who choose to live in cities have a significantly less negative impact on the environment. So, for them it’s both a personal and an environmental win.