Burbs vs. breathing

The truth of the matter is many of us care more about square footage and a backyard for the kids than we do about the air quality for the kids of our kids.

It’s really about values. Does your personal need to have a house in a suburban neighborhood outweigh your concern for the environment? Many people I know would characterize themselves as environmentalists, but there they are on a daily basis, adding to the sprawl and pollution of this place by living in the burbs and driving a station wagon.

It’s cool to slam the burbs now, but that’s where most of us are from. It was a reflection of our parents’ values to live the post-World War II dream by living in a three-bedroom box surrounded by green grass and accessorized by turquoise-colored refrigerators. It’s what we wanted then and, apparently, what we want now. You only need to travel to the outer edges of just about any city or town in the West to see continued suburban growth fueled by freeways and arterial roads (see “A desperate measure”). Yet, in California, air pollution is certainly the biggest threat to the environment and the supposed environmentalists and their children.

Despite the un-chic-ness of the burbs now, many young couples still salivate over low interest rates and jump into suburbia for the sake of their personal situation and ignore the long-term consequences.

How will this continuing sprawl trend turn around then? I think there is a deep-rooted communal need that has been ignored as the burbs push ever outward. The sprawl limits social contact and creates isolation. And soon, the burbs will be so far out that the cost of time and gas needed to get into the city will slow down the boom. And besides, those big, tacky boxes on small lots don’t provide much of a yard, or a future, for Junior.