Zimmerman 2001 - T HE "NATURE" OF URBANISM ON THE...

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SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, OR DEFENSE OF THE SUBURBAN DREAM? 1 Jeffrey Zimmerman Department of Geography University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53211 Tel: 414-562-1114 Fax:414-229-3981 jzimmer@uwm.edu Abstract: This study critically analyzes the ideas about nature within New Urbanism and its principal approach, the Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND). Although the language and appearance of New Urbanism appear quite progressive, this paper demonstrates the ways that New-Urbanism-as-practice is politically conservative and does not constitute a more sustain- able pattern of urban development. My argument is twofold. First, using Prairie Crossing, Illi- nois—a new TND and "conservation community" located in suburban Chicago—I show how the environmentalism of the New Urbanism is narrow in its focus and rooted squarely in the defense of privately defined middle-class amenities and lifestyles. Second, I demonstrate how the nostal- gic impulse at Prairie Crossing results in a highly problematic recollection of the Midwestern White-settlement frontier. I conclude by arguing that this type of development does not consti- tute a good model of sustainability. Rather, nature here is mobilized to defend the essence of the suburban dream. [Key words: sustainable development, urban design, New Urbanism.] Ever since it was first outlined in the 1987 Brundtland Commission Report, Our Com- mon Future, "sustainable development" has emerged as one of the most hotly debated and central concepts within modern environmentalist thought (Dowie, 1995). Broadly defined as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs," sustainable development has been the focus of hundreds of academic and government conferences, and a huge literature devoted to sustainability has developed over the past ten years (Van der Ryn and Cowan, 1996). Indeed, so much intellectual energy has been devoted to sustainable development that the concept itself has become a kind of mantra for the 1990s (Van der Ryn and Cowan, 1996). In the United States, sustainable development is often manifest in the push for so- called green design technologies—those that reduce the environmental impact of build- ings by cutting energy and water use and by using recycled and renewable materials. In the last few years, however, the New Urbanism is also being presented as a design and planning strategy for creating sustainable development. For example, at least three new real estate projects—Civano, Arizona; Coffee Creek, Indiana; and Prairie Crossing, Illi- nois—are being held up as developments that embrace the tenets of the New Urbanism within the broader goal of achieving a more sustainable pattern of urban development (Steuteville, 1998). 249
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Zimmerman 2001 - T HE "NATURE" OF URBANISM ON THE...

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