Thoughts On An Impending Development

In a frequent sequence of events, a developer is applying for a zoning variance to build a residential development on their land. This piece of land is located within an area that has been defined by the city and state as a “Wildlife Corridor” or “Conservation Corridor.” This allows the public to ward off development by purchasing conservation easements rather than have to buy the land outright. And it means the owner gets to keep their land rather than feel forced by development pressure to sell. Which all sounds great to me!

At the same time, as I wrote in my local eco Facebook group just now (and will also be emailing local government officials):

More and more, my thoughts are turning to how we need to get beyond the “nature OR housing” struggle … it is a zero-sum game. What we need is new modes of development in which nature is more fully preserved/integrated IN the housing development or shopping plaza or whatever.

The two perennial worst things I notice about the mainstream approach to development are:

1) the so-called “landscaping” (causing wildlife habitat loss, vastly increased water consumption, pollinator deaths, water pollution, death of aquatic/marine life, and a host of other woes), increased car traffic;

2) the car-dependent design (causing traffic congestion, chronic illnesses from sedentary lifestyles, disempowerment of kids and nondriving elderly folks and others who don’t drive, water pollution and intensified heat from asphalt runoff, and many more woes).

We need to start insisting that all new developments really get beyond these toxic and destructive patterns. Eco-minded folk can and should be offering creative suggestions to developers. People and wildlife can and do live side by side, if the humans are required to learn about and respect the plants and animals.

I’m not expressing myself in a manner that anywhere near adequately encompasses the expert perspectives I’ve been tuning into over the past couple of years. A conference called The Nature of Cities in particular was a huge turning point for me. 2000 people from 70 countries — connected by Zoom in a multi-day conference. There are so many examples of human settlements all over the world that don’t wreck the landscape or kill wildlife.

Nature needs to be (re)integrated into human settlements, for our benefit as well as that of other species.

What might a housing development along a wildlife corridor look like? Tiny houses closely clustered along a walk/bike path and transit route to reduce car-dependency and encourage people to get outdoors and enjoy nature? Covenant restrictions to minimize private yard space and maximize preservation of large areas of trees and other native vegetation? “Strong Towns”-y emphasis on compact street layouts, eliminating sprawl? What else?

We have lots of local expertise and I have a feeling that if a bunch of the local environmental experts I most admire were to all get together, they could design a gorgeous “Wildlife Corridor Neighborhood”. [Tagged list of local eco folk] and anyone else who would want to be involved — how bout it? Creative eco housing complex design collab, anyone?

PS. AND i bet people would be lining up to live there even with the restrictions! Maybe even BECAUSE of the restrictions!! (Oh – how about no herbicides, pesticides, etc.)