I’ve been harping on this for years: To live easy on the earth, live densely — which is to say, in densely built neighborhoods. This Times Economix column describes a study showing just that. Other studies have shown living more densely creates richer social lives and stronger communities. Yet we continue to spread out willy-nilly.
I see this to my dismay here in Vermont, where I live, in Montpelier — the country’s smallest state capital, and the only one without a McDonald’s — in a neighborhood of single- and multi-family houses so densely built that today you couldn’t build it here, or most other places, without getting an exception from minimum lot-size zoning requirements. Yet it’s one of the most popular neighborhoods in town, because you get to know your neighbors — both because you’re close to more of them and because we’re all more likely to walk the 3 blocks to town rather than drive, so we walk by each others’ porches.
Meanwhile, most people who move to Vermont move to the country, the more acres the better; but most buy 10 or 20, and the houses eat up the landscape, destroying the thing they’re moving to, and in short order they find they’re driving into town all the time, and not just for groceries and driveway salt but because it’s too lonely out in the country. And pumping out carbon like crazy. We go to town regularly, too; but when we do, our car stays in the driveway.
One day we’ll get it.