I don't know as Kaid Benfield and I have ever voted for the same person for president. I write that not to highlight our philosophical differences but to demonstrate how the solutions to many of our problems have become so obvious that thoughtful people from across the spectrum can agree on them. Kaid Benfield is one of those thoughtful people.
I was shocked - SHOCKED! - and flattered when Kaid Benfield, blogger at the Natural Resources Defense Council, identified the Strong Towns Blog as one of the urbanist blogs that "make him think." And when I read his analysis of us it was clear that he was not just being patronizing. He understood what we were communicating. Here is what he said:
This is a fairly new site, but so far I am impressed. The three Minnesotan writers of Strong Towns take a decidedly polite and low-key approach to their advocacy, which is largely based around the notion that the places that survive the best will have good urban form because good urban form is much stronger financially and economically than sprawl. They write in manageably short chunks of words rather than extended essays, but each is well-written and persuasive. Their point of view has very little to do with the environment, at least explicitly, and that helps make it more interesting to me.
So if this guy gets us, I thought I should plug into what he was writing and see if there was something there I could learn from him. That was a very good idea on my part. His writing is intelligent and his approach is thoughtful.
His recent post on the environmental paradox of smart growth is the perfect example of this. In the article he offers the standard environmental argument that "sprawl" is terrible for the environment. (We agree.) But then Benfield goes on to challenge the orthodoxy by suggesting that the answer is MORE development, not less. The key operative is that the "more" is not more sprawl (which we agree has disastrous environmental consequences) but more urbanism.
And better urbanism too.
Here at Strong Towns we approach the issues of growth and development primarily from a financial standpoint. NRDC approaches those same issues from an environmental perspective. Yet here we are in total agreement that the solution is better urban development and an end to low density sprawl.
While we will likely continue to not vote for the same person for president, I have no doubt that if Kaid Benfield and I were magically appointed co-presidents-for-a-day, together we could solve half the country's problems by noon. That fact alone gives me a lot of optimism about our future.
You can read Kaid Benfield daily, and we recommend you do, at http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/.
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