Friday, March 6, 2009


Recently I posted a comment by Thomas Jefferson made a very long time ago, about those who would make us live cheek to jowl in urban feedlots, and do so today in the name of lowering our ecological footprints.

“When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.”

I concluded that “Given this sentiment, it must be supposed that if he were alive today, Thomas Jefferson would definitely not be taking out a membership in the Green party, Greenpeace, the Sierra Club or the host of environmental NGOs in the growth management industry.”

Subsequent to that observation, however, I received an email from Jehovah, with whom I apparently share a family connection, being of Irish Catholic stock. It was said by my father that Jesus was most certainly an Irishman for three reasons---he was 33 and still single, he liked to booze up with the lads and his mother thought he was the Son of God. It is rumoured that God wanted Jesus to be born in the United States, perhaps as an “anchor” baby protected under the 14th Amendment and preferably in the vicinity of the White House. But He couldn’t find even Three Wise Men. In any case, according to Him, quoting His own words in Isaiah, Chapter 5, Verse 8:

" Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, that there be no place, that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth!"

Now, despite His Celtic nature, some would question God’s credentials as a critic of land-use planning. After all, He authored no peer-reviewed studies and His economical summation of the folly of densification offers no empirical validation. And even He could not conjure up the miracle that our critics demand. He could not establish a formidable Think Thank devoted to stopping human population growth by eliciting the donations of institutions which have a vested interest in such growth. So therefore I would refer Him to another of His Irish media relations spokesmen---and my fellow British Columbian----Rick Shea, who wrote a definitive de-construction of the Smart Growth quack cure in “Smart Growth—the Worst Kind of Sprawl”.
As Rick explains in this excerpt:

“What then is wrong with the smart growth argument? Fundamentally, the energy and food requirements for suburban subdivisions and for very dense urban development are approximately the same. Indeed, many highrises use more energy per resident than a well-built townhouse, and not much less than a small well-built single family home. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation states that, “on a floor area basis, (highrises) consume more energy than single family dwellings - even though the highrise unit has much less exposed exterior surface. And when compared to the leading edge Advanced House standards for energy consumption, multi-unit residential buildings consume three times the amount of energy per unit of floor area.” (

With dense development, the food must come from farther and farther away. Each new person requires additional farmland somewhere else in the country, or on the planet. And the denser the development, the farther the food must be transported. In the words of William Rees, “cities necessarily appropriate the ecological output and life support functions of distant regions all over the world through commercial trade.” ( )

Then there is the issue of the “degraded land” portion of the ecological footprint. Degraded land is the land required for buildings, driveways, roads and highways, parking lots, businesses, public buildings, industrial infrastructure, railroads, airports, and garbage dumps (before reclamation, of course). A residential lot in suburbia is only a tiny portion of the degraded land footprint. Even highrise dwellers still require virtually all of that infrastructure, including highways and roads to escape the city for recreation (as there aren’t many golf courses and ski hills in the downtown cores of most large cities) and to bring in goods and services. As an example, those of us who live in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley and Shuswap area know full well how many Vancouverites, Calgarians, and Edmontonians drive hundreds of kilometers on a regular basis for our recreational opportunities, putting more and more pressure on our natural areas as the populations of those cities continue to grow. Highways and roads seem to be under construction continually as traffic increases, with lanes added each year.

And silently, unknowingly, those urban Canadians are accomplices in other activities leading to resource exploitation in natural areas, and to creation of even more degraded land from industry and commerce, accompanied by even more waste and pollution.


Growth in the value of their stock portfolios, RRSPs, mutual funds, and pension plans relies heavily on these sorts of activities, even growth in many of the so-called “ethical” funds and investments. Yes, rural residents have the same issues, but the bulk of our population is in cities. This is just one more example of how the call for even more urban growth, through densification, has an impact on the planet – an impact that is hidden from those creating it. Out of sight, out of mind, but every little bit hurts.”

I think you will agree that Rick Shea’s words are those of a prophet and visionary---even though is no longer 33, or single, and seldom drinks with anyone, to my knowledge. God only knows.

Tim Murray,
March 3/09.

PS My thanks to Ross Bateman for forwarding God’s message to me, as my direct Internet pipeline to Him was disconnected when I stopped going to my weekly confessional and my dues to the Internet provider in the Vatican lapsed.

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