The Encroaching Green Angel: How to Make Super-Blocks and Pedestrian Malls Politically Feasible

The greatest challenge to creating a psychologically and environmentally healthier land for people to live in are NIMBYs and their tendency to oppose density and physically and socially interconnected and interdependent communities. As a political scientist and worker, I count the result of political challenges to be as much on the shortcomings of my own side as the unfairness of the arena. All political arenas are unfair and while God is just the Darwinistic mechanics of nature are blind to ethics and it is on the residents of the natural realm to adapt. So, we should not ask why one of the greatest environmental challenges of our time is the way it is but how we can resolve the issue through the application of the relevant political science.

We should try to avoid emphasizing the environmental or psychological arguments and focus on disability issues and economics. Disability issues, in my experience, are some of the few that garner significant support in both major political camps partially because anyone can become disabled, to the left their a sympathetic minority, and to the right disability is one of the major reasons women get abortions. Having the resources disabled people need in closer proximity to them is a great advantage of high density. When speaking to a conservative crowd, it needs to be repeated that that an easier lifestyle for a disabled person wil make abortion a less appelaing option. If women knew their children and later adult children would be able to walk to their job and apartment and wouldn’t be lost in a world they couldn’t navigate easily, then they would be less anxious to carry their pregnancy to term.

Whatever arguments the political right would have about surrendering to the hoax of climate change science or ruining the quietness of a 1990s-built subdivision would be outweighed in the minds of many by the prime directive to save fetal babies. For many on the right, that’s a Trump card, so much so, that puritanically devout Christians will overlook all Donald Trump’s glaring flaws and even most of his policies to save fetuses. Making urban planning an abortion issue is certainly unorthodox but it has a significant pluasibility, enough that it should be attempted. For the political left, the disability issue would resonate heavily with their inclination to sympathize with the disaffected classes of society. While the political left is more receptive to the environmental side, connecting urban planning and the environment may be too indirect and abstract. They may say we should subsidize electric cars or lower the caps in cap-&-trade but streets don’t exhale carbon dioxide, only cars do.

The other effective approach would be to emphasize the economic benefits of increasing foot traffic. It would increase tax revenue and make public spending more efficient. For example, a water system is cheaper if many miles less of pipe needs to be maintained. The aggregate number of miles driven by electricians fixing power lines will be less and thus fuel and maintenance costs of the cars is less. In every public service, the cost is cheaper and with more foot traffic there are more taxes meaning the government has more money for services and the services are all cheaper. People may like yards and cars but they may like well-fitted fire departments more. The environmenal or psychological arguments that tighter communities are happier are all relatively ineffective at convincing residents of a place to adopt New Urbanist ideas but if the points are packages in ways that pull on the heartstrings of issues they do care about, the New Urbanist and Jane Jacobs supporters, like myself, will be more successful in enacting our urban designs. 

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