Urban sprawl is more often than not referred to in a negative sense – even the word “sprawl” inherently has a negative connotation. As defined by the Sierra Club, an environmental organization that is undoubtedly not a proponent of urban sprawl, it is “low density development beyond the edge of service and employment, which separates where people live from where they shop, work, recreate, and educate – thus requiring cars to move between zones.” Essentially, residential sprawl is a community of single-family, detached homes that are built far apart and beyond the walking distance of goods and services. This creates a reliance on cars, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to live without them. While there are a lot of disadvantages to urban sprawl, I am a proponent of this form of development and believe that this is an irreversible trend that communities throughout the country must adapt to.
Urban sprawl has been vilified since its inception and is blamed for causing environmental degradation, a sedentary lifestyle and unhealthier general population, the loss of agricultural and forested lands, and more. I acknowledge that these are all genuine and serious issues, but that the benefits far outweigh these rectifiable problems. I think that suburbanization has already made a lasting impact on our nation’s lifestyle and it would be completely impossible to revert back to communities free of any type of sprawl, so we should now embrace it. As residents of a first world country we now want everything instantaneously, and I believe that even if things were within walking distance, we would still drive – most people already have cars, and I personally would drive five minutes to get somewhere, even if I could walk there in thirty minutes, for the pure convenience of it. Additionally, if we were to reduce our dependency upon cars, the automotive industry, one of the world’s most important economic sectors, would suffer greatly and affect millions of workers. In the U.S. alone, which is not even the world’s largest automotive industry, consumers spent $570 billion on cars.
Ultimately, I believe that urban sprawl has been unfairly disparaged by environmentalists and other groups to be made out as irreparably destructive, when in reality it is does have its redeeming qualities.