Fodor, Eben. Better NOT Bigger
Canada: 1999. ISBN 0865713863
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Our modern society has managed to all but isolate us from Nature, which was once our dearest friend. Children, who are fascinated by nature and love the outdoors, are weaned from it as quickly as possible. We go from air-conditioned homes to air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned offices without more than a puff or two of fresh air in between.

Our neighbors rarely see us as we scoot our car deftly out of the garage, letting the door close automatically after us. We have banished dirt, cold, wet, discomfort, inconvenience, and delay from our day.

Let’s assume that our values shift away from consumption and growth and towards simplicity and stability. We rebuild our bond with the natural world. We discover the neighborhood that we live in and meet the people next door for the first time. We discover a sense of place. We find that our community is not all it could be and we make changes. We re-prioritize our lives and find that we want to spend much more time with our families and good friends, even if we have to cut back work hours and reduce our incomes.

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In spite of these changes, we find that occasionally the fish lure still attracts us. So we create incentives to encourage healthy, productive activities. We reward ourselves for doing what’s best for us. We use green taxes to reduce consumption of resources and to minimize wastes. We replace income taxes with progressive consumption taxes.

We eliminate the influence of unwanted commercial advertising altogether, relying instead on other information sources (such as Internet databases and search engines) to find all the products that aren’t conveniently available through local merchants.

Amazingly, the entire economy starts to change. Like the circulatory system of our bodies, it quietly delivers the nutrients we need without dominating our lives. With the economy shifted from center stage, society rediscovers cultural, intellectual, and spiritual pursuits. We are entertained by life’s richness and wonders.

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Qualitative growth is sustainable. There is no limit to how much information, understanding, or enlightenment we can acquire. There is no limit to diversity, complexity, or variety. There is no limit to creativity, enterprise, or ambition. There is no limit to personal growth or achievement. A sustainable community can be a dynamic and evolving place. There is no limit to the richness of our lives in such a community.

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1. Build a positive vision. A positive, shared, long-range vision for the future can provide the inspiration, motivation and direction to propel a community forward and encourage the various interest groups to work together with a common purpose. Developing a community vision requires broad participation and may involve extensive public input. Visions change and must be updated on a regular basis.

2. Improve citizen involvement. Broad, open citizen involvement in public planning and policy-making respects and enhances our democratic process. Increased citizen involvement generates many benefits, including policies that better serve the broader public interest. Citizen involvement doesn’t just happen. Local governments must actively engage citizens and create productive processes for meaningful involvement. Public hearings are just a small part of the venue for actively involving citizens. Others include public forums, town hall meetings, roundtable sessions, televised broadcasts, surveys, speaker series, etc. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of strong public involvement processes in achieving good governance. The desire for expediency and economy on the part of policy-makers can cause them to take costly short cuts with public involvement. Citizens who are empowered with opportunities for meaningful participation will tend to appreciate and support their government and not lead anti-government tax revolts.

3. Provide economic opportunity. The basic economic needs of the entire community must be met without compromising the quality of the natural environment. Local economic development must be focused on the long-term welfare of existing residents. Economic gains can no longer come at the expense of the environment.

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5. Use land wisely. Land is a finite resource with no substitute. Consequently, we should use land efficiently and intelligently and strive to keep the urban footprint as small as possible to minimize environmental impact. Comprehensive, long-range planning is an essential is an essential tool for wise land use. A commitment to comprehensive planning requires adequate funding to implement the initial plan and for ongoing updates every five years or so. A wise land use plan recognizes that rural land is not merely “future urbanizable land.” A plan to permanently protect farmland, forests, and open space should be included.

6. Provide better information. Good decisions require good information, including natural resource inventories and status reports, growth forecasts, alternative scenarios, policy analysis, development impact analysis, etc. Disseminate information widely and make it readily accessible to everyone. Good government starts with an informed public -- it’s the cornerstone of democracy.


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7. 6. Use indicators and benchmarks for progress. Indicators are a tool for improving public policy and monitoring status of a community and its environment. Benchmarks are goals that can be measured with indicators to help ensure that public policies lead to progress and long-term sustainability.

8. Use full-cost accounting. Acknowledge the full environmental, social, and economic costs of growth and development. Evaluate these costs in making policy decisions. Eliminate subsidies that distort markets and cause overdevelopment. Enact pay-as-you-grow policies.

9. Think long range. Consider the impact decisions will have far into the future. Extend long-range community panning horizons to 50 or 100 years (instead of ten or 20 years). Utilize computer modeling capabilities to evaluate the long-range consequences of current trends and compare alternatives.

10. Encourage efficient resource use. Set efficiency goals for energy, water, and other resource uses for all sectors: residential, commercial, industrial and transportation. Use incentives and regulations to minimize resource consumption and waste production and maximize re-use and recycling by business and households.

11. Make neighborhoods walkable. Safe, friendly, walkable neighborhoods designed to eliminate automobile dependence will be one of the most visible attributes of the sustainable community. Walking is the oldest and most reliable form of transportation. It has a proven track record dating back four million years that justifies its being treated as a major component of all local transportation plans. Create automobile-free zones and automobile-independent housing complexes where walkers and bicyclists enjoy the privilege of maximum access and convenience.

12. Preserve unique features. Preserve features of local and regional significance: valuable farmland, forests and open space, and unique natural, scenic, recreational, historic, or cultural resources. Treat these natural assets as priceless family heirlooms to be passed on to future generations.

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13. Recognize physical limits to growth and consumption. Population size, resource consumption, land use, and pollution levels must be in balance with the complex environmental support system. Start by acknowledging that physical and practical limits do exist. Then, try to identify what these limits are in terms of desirable, optimal, or ideal conditions. This book provides many of the tools needed to achieve desired limits on urban growth.

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Getting Started

Here are some things you can do now to get involved and help your community take charge of urban growth:
Run for elected office.
Serve on the planning commission or zoning board.
Participate in your neighborhood organization.
Volunteer for a citizen advisory committee to you local government.
Join an organization. (If there are no organizations working for responsible growth and land use, try the League of Women Voters, your local Sierra Club chapter or form a new organization yourself.)
Testify at public hearings.
Call or write your council representative.
Write a letter to the editor.
Organize a meeting.
Circulate a petition.
Monitor the city council and local government.
Keep a file of information about local growth and development.
Request to be on city notification lists for land use changes and development applications