There’s a new conversation circulating in the midst of the economic slowdown and the uncertainties of our global environmental future. Doug Farr (www.farrside.com), architect, urban planner, author, and environmentalist spoke to a crowded theater of business leaders, civic leaders, educators, students, and anyone else who was interested in the sustainable future of our community on Monday evening (October 20, 2008) at the San Jose Repertory Theater. It was a straight forward, no-nonsense dialog of how we live, work and play and the consequences of our “excessive lifestyle”.
For newbies, it was an enlightened view into the LEED rating system for buildings and what the current trends and programs are to reduce our impact on the environment.
Yet, LEED does not go far enough, as Doug points out. We need to re-look at the total urban environment, not just a single building, and restructure our urban landscape.
As we struggle with the concept of paying millions for new public transportation systems, it is clear that the system alone won’t solve our problems, let alone coax us out of our beloved cars. We need to create new urban environments, or “Transit Oriented Developments (TOD)” where “it just doesn’t make sense to drive a car”.
We need to increase densities of housing in neighborhoods to be able to sustain businesses and services for that neighborhood. And create compelling environments that make pedestrian lifestyle the mode of choice.
The move to create sustainable neighborhoods and clusters of LEED buildings is being promoted by the U.S. Green Building Council as LEED-ND (LEED for Neighborhood Development).
Although not the only “solution”, it provides a positive goal for create a quality of life “live/work environment” for the next generation of urbanites. He presents the case that it’s not only good for the environment and economy, but it is important for our individual health. With grim statistics on the growing obesity rates in our country, Farr shows that the pedestrian lifestyle has positive benefits for our health and well-being.
Still, we have a long way to go to alter our way of life on this road to sustainability. We need to stop the worship of our cars and consider alternatives to almost everything we do on a daily basis. And it needs to be adopted by everyone in our society, locally, nationally, and globally.
This warning message is not just for us, but for our children and the future generations. What can we do? At minimum, we need to educate ourselves and dialog with our friends, neighbors, business associates, educators and government officials. As Doug has presented his viewpoints on Sustainable Urbanism, we need to take the lead and start the conversation.