Re: urban sprawl/anthroecotecture etc.
From: Kyle Kuns (
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 1995 20:56:14 -0600
At 10:51 PM 10/25/95 -0500, Rob Sandelin (Exchange) wrote:
>I find an error in the following logic:
>"Urban sprawl presents the problem that the human population is
>increasing and spreading outward across the landscape.  Thus, there is
>increasing space taken up by people and thereby less space available for =
>community that supports people."
>WHile this statement is true, it is irrelevant. My understanding from =
>reading a couple of articles (not much basis for an opinion I know) =
>artificial growing of food (plants) in articifically lighted, =
>hydroponics systems is vastly more efficient than growing food outdoors. =
>Effiecient being defined as usable protein per unit of space.  So while =
>urban sprawl creates less space for outdoor food production, technology =
>makes it possible to grow food completely outside of natural conditions, =
>therefore loss of farmland doesn't matter.  In an article I read, an =
>80X40 foot building, using hydroponics systems, could produce more food =
>value than an acre of farm land. In the article  it pointed out that =
>natural growing systems waste large percentages of the plants biomass =
>and are subject to huge loses to predators and soil conditions, not to =
>mention limited growing season.  Extremely inefficient.  Hydroponics =
>grow food 24 hours a day, every day.  No predators, controlled growing =
>environment, minimal losses, maximum production.
>So, build a grow room in your commonhouse basement and you can produce =
>more usable protein in a year than a community garden twice the size.=20

Was this truely an error in logic?  Your argument appears to be that people
could survive by technological means of intensification therby decreasing
acreage needed for farming (that is the growing of domesticated plants and
animals for food use by humans).  Even if your hydroponic claims are true
(which I find unlikely because the nutrients needed to be added to a
hydroponic system have to come from somewhere outside of your 80X40
building); they don't get at the real issues of sustainability, climate
change, pollution, etc..  Your argument is also not one where values would
get in the way of profit motives.  If hydroponics are so efficient why
hasn't agribusiness made the switch?  Nor do your claims show how there
would not be less total space for the community that supports human life.
This includes non-domesticated species etc. that stabilize our climate.  One
of the negative effects of urban sprawl is the increase in temperature over
urbanized areas--also known as urban heat island.  Suburbia came about as a
response to urbanization.  The negative effects of urban sprawl are
associated with the fact that human settlements are too spread out.  Are you
suggesting that a mechanism to reduce the negative effects of urban sprawl
is to become more rural and more spread out?  If so, this goes against any
kind of solution to urban sprawl (or conception of the consequences of urban
sprawl) that I'm aware of.  So, if you think that having people more spread
out helps reduce urban sprawl; I'd like to know more about the logic behind
your thoughts.

Since you reduced my comments to irrlevance, I feel it's OK to use actual
numbers from your community at Sharingwood to illustrate the case that your
are actually making the situation worse.  You claim in a previous post that
a developer would have built 80 houses on the 39 acres of land now owned by
Sharingwood.  Your contribution is to put 25-29 homes on 14 acres of
development.  In the case of the developer one gets 2.05 homes per acre (80
houses/39 acres).  In the Sharingwood case one gets a range of 2.07-1.78
homes per acre depending on where in the 25-29 range the homes finally come
out to be.  The density of construction is essentially the same per acre.
However, at Sharingwood the site density is about 0.74 houses per acre (29
or so houses/39 acres) while the developers site density is 2.05 homes per
acre.  Sharingwood is far more spread out and will take even more sprawl for
commuters to get around it to get to the homes that someday will be built to
take up the slack created by your expansiveness.

My intent here is not to put you or Sharingwood down.  Indeed there is much
to commend in what you are doing.  However, if you really want to contribute
to reducing urban sprawl (which I haven't said you should be attempting to
do) you need to be aware that your making things worse--in regards to the
urban sprawl issue--rather than better.

Also if your community is really interested in reducing urban sprawl, some
long term planning can be used to develop a means to increase the density of
building on the amount of land you've agreed to develop--e.g. upper floor
additions could be designed etc..

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