Urban Sprawl


ENVS 232


Test Essay


Urban sprawl has always been a problem in a sense; however not until the automobile was sprawl a serious issue. With the arrival of the automobile, people could live farther a way from work and not have to live in the city. Up until then mostly farmers and ranchers lived outside the city. So the issue became a bigger issue with faster and better cars. Many people were now able to live the American Dream, rural life. A house of their own, out of town enough to be quiet, but never too far from civilization. a. But then something happens, the open space that they fell in love with is slowly devoured by housing, shopping malls, and believe it or not other people. The rolling fields that once marked their freedom are now browning and dotted with homes. This makes the original homeowner unhappy. They write editorials asking questions and demanding answers. Both silently and aloud they fume: how dare the farmer sell out his heritage, the land is more valuable as farmland, right?, how dare the developer exploit the land (don’t they care about our earth?), how dare the politician allow this activity (aren’t we paying them to represent us?), and how dare the home buyer have the audacity to move there. So sure are they in their quest for justice that they never stop to consider one simple fact: they once were newcomers too. And before them, the land was open space or farmland. The developer exploited the land that they fell in love with, the politician allowed their home to be built, and they were audacious enough to inhabit it. So the circle begins. We as a country are facing an epidemic of unknown proportions: age-old expansionist attitudes. Urban sprawl has made a definite impact on environment, agriculture, and economy.


One of the strongest positions regarding urban sprawl belongs to that of those concerned with the environment. On such advocate is Kathryn Hohmann, the Sierra Club’s Director of the Environmental Quality Program. The Sierra Club is a national, grassroots environmental organization, with more than a half-million members. She stated in her testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that: The problems of sprawl can only be solved by a concerted and continuing effort at the local, state, and federal levels. Hohmann goes on to point out several of the main issues intertwined with sprawl, such as that of traffic congestion. She states that sprawl gives us no choice but to drive further to get home from work, hence more air pollution. Worsening water pollution is another example that Hohmann gives. As more of the earth is paved, more toxic chemicals run off in to our waterways, degrading our water supplies. Furthermore, habitat for animals is also being lost, every day. It is estimated that every year with the expansion of humans that approximately 7 species are made extinct and the list can go on. Now let’s discuss agricultural issues. Sprawl threatens our rural legacy, too. The American Farmland Trust reports that we are losing 1 million acres of farmland per year to sprawl. But how does this affect us? If acres upon acres of farmland are being devoured by developers, how and where are we going to grow our food? Don Phillips, from the American Farmland Trust stated, “Agriculture is too bad of a state already, both economically and socially, to be biting the hand that feeds us.”


In conclusion Urban sprawl is an issue that affects every single American, from the taxes we pay to where we live. As the world population expands, the demand for housing increases. Because of institutions such as the Federal Housing Administration, Americans are finding it easier every day to buy their own homes. We collectively have more money to spend, and wish it on the living conditions we truly desire. However, these aspects are offset by the fact that we decrease our food supply and degrade our earth with every foundation poured, nail pounded, and real estate deal closed.


Sierra Club Website


American Farmland Trust Website


National Geographic Website