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Wednesday, November 25,2009

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by Readers
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On the sprawl cover story

Changing the zoning codes is a good start, but to get anything substantial done, you need to get the full support of policymakers (we´re getting there), the private sector and the public. To do that, people have to be educated, starting with just why auto-addicted suburbia is bad: bad for our bodies, cities, farms, watersheds, security, economy, culture, and, ultimately, our prospects for survival. Like the creeping advance of sprawl itself, that kind of education is a slow, incremental process. It helps to have articles like this in the Pulse, but the authors don’t do a very good job explaining just why auto dependency is bad and why anyone should care that sprawl forces pedestrians to gamble their lives every time they cross the street to buy a loaf of bread. (To misquote Marie Antoinette, “Let them get cars.”) It isn’t self-evident, and it wasn’t just zoning codes and the big bad government that caused it. Like booze and cigarettes, sprawl is bad for people, but people like it. Cars are convenient. McMansions are spacious and shiny and new. Big-box stores have bargain shopping. Oil companies are drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, and Michigan State University researchers are developing exotic biofuels that will keep us puttering around in our cars until the cows come home (or the sun burns out). You have got to show them why that’s not such a good thing, and it has to be done with facts. So here’s an idea: why not start a regular column focusing on aspects of Lansing’s built environment and using it to demonstrate exactly why sprawl sucks and New Urbanism is nifty?

Urban planning gets a lot more real when it deals with the subtle aspects of a neighborhood or business district we all know well.

—Anonymous From www.LansingCityPulse.com


It was exciting to read “Curing Sprawlitis” (City Pulse, Nov. 18).
“Lansing needs to establish community centers or plazas in the neighborhoods; this can be a park, farmers market, or anything to establish a place of activity for residents to meeting,” Leslie Kettren was quoted as saying in the article.

Community garden spaces also need to be included in quality, sustainable urban living and garden space was an integral aspect of past urban living.

This past summer I visited a parkedsized community garden in a south side Chicago neighborhood. It was such fun to see all ages, hues, differently-abled people working, chatting, sharing information, and playing in their individual plots or areas within the community garden. It truly was a vital communitygathering place, adjacent to a farmers and craft market with a local restaurant around the corner. Some folks chose to plant perennials, like strawberry beds, asparagus, rhubarb, or raspberry bushes: some mostly had flowers; there were herbs and many a variety of annual vegetables.

Quality, sustainable urban living needs a variety of garden spaces: some small, and individual plots to larger plots that can include eye appealing raised beds in different heights. Lansing could have a cornucopia of color, textures, shapes and heights.

We can experience increased control in our lives and a greater appreciation for our environment and living spaces when we have the opportunity to grow some of our own food. This also can allow us to take increased ownership for our own, and our family’s, well being.

I look forward to seeing an enjoying lush food growing and healthy-feeling people in our revitalized, beautiful urban Lansing.

—Carol Ingall Haslett


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