Progressing to Disaster

In reading Jesse Fox Mayshark's piece on the thorny land-use controversy over the Midway Road property ["The Battle of Midway, Again," Citybeat, March 11, 2010], I couldn't help thinking of the Robert Heinlein quote, "Progress is made by lazy men looking for easier ways to do things."

As the young farmers who have moved here will tell you, Tennessee's greatest asset is its land. But developers also think that. The question we must all ask is: What is the land-use that will best serve Tennesseans? Do we want sustainable farms or a massive outer beltway with still more suburban sprawl? When the price of gasoline skyrockets (and it will: supply and demand, do the math), consider the fate of businesses depending on cheap transportation of goods. Forget about the dross-filling places like Turkey Creek; think about the most fundamental necessity of survival: food. When we can no longer depend on food being shipped long distances, shouldn't we be protecting our remaining unasphalted acreage?

Developers have no long-range vision; they are in for the quick return, and they put all their eggs in one basket: an engine-clogged freeway. Even here in Tennessee, where industry has been slow in coming, there is no lack of evidence of the sad fate of such poorly planned ventures. What are we left with when they go belly up or pull up stakes and move on to the next big thing? Impoverished neighborhoods and environmental hazards, more brownfield sites for the Tennessee Dept. of Environment and Conservation to figure out how to clean up and revitalize. In the coming economic gloom, such efforts will be low on the state's priority list. And if food supply becomes the major concern, who's going to grow it in contaminated soil?

Jane Holtz Kay, author of Asphalt Nation, has written extensively about how America has sold out to developers its greenfields, the virgin lands on the fringes (like the Thorn Grove community); how two million acres of farmlands are leveled each year, the forests and fields filled with Big Box Bang 4ur Buck stores, the wetlands drained for McMansions and gated subdivisions.

Maybe we all need to rethink the term "progress."

Judy Loest