Today, April 22, is Earth Day. On Earth Day, many of us like to make pledges to protect the environment. Every pledge is valuable, because only by acting together can we overcome the challenges facing our air, water and green spaces. But there is one key measure that we can all pledge to take that could make a huge benefit to protecting the local environment…
Since cars became available to normal people, we have focused housing and retail on green acres at the edge of our towns and cities. Tens of thousands of square miles of forests, farms and orchards have been lost as we built new roads, strip malls and sub-divisions. The New York Times has reported that this development has led to the destruction of up to 2 farm acres per minute. Around Princeton, new car-dependent homes pop up on the site of former farms and forests, creating more and more traffic.
There is an alternative: upgrade our downtown sites to enable more walkable homes. Supporting infill development is our surest way to protect our natural resources. Enabling more people to live in our towns allows space for birds and wildlife in our undeveloped green spaces. Enabling fewer people to live in our towns inevitably leads to sprawl development and more cars. Our elected officials and the Princeton Planning Board have allowed development on forests in the Princeton Ridge but are willing to downgrade development at downtown walkable sites. This is the exact opposite of what we should be doing if we want to conserve natural resources.
On Earth Day, pledge to support efficient use of space in central Princeton. Walkability is true sustainability. Residents who seek minimal development in central Princeton only succeed in pushing development onto nearby farmland. Instead, let’s welcome controlled, upgraded development in our town, to protect the surrounding natural environment.