In the industrialised society, technology helps development of various ways to make life convenient. People can construct more expansive and faster transportation instead of a limited and slow one after technological progression has occurred. Moreover, the invention of the automobile has allowed people to travel a long distance easily. However, these kinds of developments lead to urban sprawl, which is the most significant feature in modernised society. Urban sprawl refers to the spread of a city to rural area and is indicated by low density of residents who commute from urban periphery to city center. This urbanisation results in considerable social and ecological problems. Although there are many efforts depending on technology to settle them, in particular by the business groups, these solutions are not focusing on the fundamental reason which is urban sprawl, they only suggest the answer to environmental issues such as reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. This essay will explain how urban sprawl negatively affects society and the ecology, and argue that the business groups’ approach which is based on development of technology cannot resolve the problems resulting from urban sprawl.The mass production of private cars allows cities to extend to rural area. Suburbanisation is accelerated by motorisation (Martin, 2007:5). As a result, a long distance from their living area to workplace drives people to use a car frequently for commuting, and excessive car use speeds up urban sprawl. This phenomenon is referred to as ‘motorised urban sprawl’ and it is a prime factor of various social and ecological problems. Firstly, social polarisation, which is inequality between the rich and the poor, is one of the major concerns of society. According to Martin (2007:10), the cost to buy a car will be an obstacle for the poor group, and it can separate them from the rich group who possesses private cars. As a consequence, the disadvantaged would live in grim condition, such as unhealthy, highly dense and heavy traffic city area (Martin, 2007:11) Moreover, the downgrade of public transportation due to this ascendency of the car can be also a cause of inequality (Bullard and Johnson, citied in Martin, 2007:10). The handicapped and the aged also suffer disadvantage as it requires high skills to drive in the crowded inner city (Martin, 2007:10). Secondly, health issues are considerable. Research has found that sprawling communities, which highly depend on car use, bring lack of physical activities, resulting in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The respiratory disease caused by bad air quality and injuries and fatalities by car accidents are also caused by the higher car reliance (The Ontario College of Family Physicians, 2005). Not only physical health, but also mental health is also threatened by isolation, which comes from long drive time alone, and road rage, which is from driving on congested roads. Finally, a number of environmental problems have emerged due to motorised urbanisation. Global warming is a significant environmental issue caused by high emissions of carbon dioxide from automobiles and lavish energy consumption of roomy houses on the urban fringes (Gonzalez, 2005). Motorisation also leads to farmland decline, natural resource degradation, especially forest and open space, and higher noise level (Martin, 2007:10). Above all, farmland decline would create a lack of food and increasing in-migration of workers to the city, so it could result in other social problems which are social fragmentation and segregation (Friedmann, cited in Martin, 2007:15).To address these problems related to urbanisation, business groups, which are the WBCSD (World Business Council for Sustainable Development) and the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce), advocate ‘ecological modernisation’, being defined as the economic growth with environmental preservation, is necessary and it can be accomplished by technological innovation (Gonzalez, 2005). According to Gonzalez (2005), the main idea of the WBCDS, which is to solve the issues being faced, is reduction of greenhouse gas emissions via energy efficiency, sequestration of carbon dioxide and development of alternative energy resources through technological innovation without reduction of energy consumption. The ICC insists that development of technology to supply alternative or clean energy resources, such as clean coal, safer and advanced nuclear reactors, synthetic gasoline and diesel oil and carbon free alternative fuels, is the only way to decrease greenhouse gases which are vital reasons for global warming (Gonzalez, 2005). Research does show that increasing energy efficiency could reduce considerable quantity of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use (McKinsey & Company, citied in Cheeseman, 2009). Although there are solutions which depend on technology, they cannot adequately address the social and ecological problems resulting from motorised urban sprawl. Gonzalez (2005) criticised that business groups’ idea is ‘weak’ and ‘narrow’. They just shift the complications from one site to another without removal (Dryzek, citied in Gonzalez, 2005). Furthermore, both the WBCSD and the ICC consist of international business groups which have vested interests. Therefore, they do not want to abandon their profits from motorised urban sprawl, for example the chance to sell automobiles to developing countries (Conybeare, cited in Gonzalez, 2005). In addition, their approaches are only to focus on environmental issues, not consider social and health problems from immoderate car use. To solve the social and ecological problems, Gonzalez (2005) urges removing urbanisation by reform of land management in an intensive way. The communities should be designed compactly enabling people to walk, ride bicycles and use transit- friendly mass transportation, and mixed-used space, which means residences, offices and amenities in one area. This could be an answer to the problems (The Ontario College of Family Physicians, 2005). Martin (2007) recommends strong regulation against car use and an effective public transport system.In conclusion, motorised urban sprawl, which is caused by excessive car use, creates many problems from obesity to climate change. The solutions, which entirely depend on development of technology including investment to high energy efficiency technology, providing alternative and clean energy resources, are suggested by business groups and these could partly solve greenhouse gas emissions. However, these methods cannot be the appropriate answer to solve the social and environmental issues, because they neglect the primary reason which is motorised urban sprawl. Urban sprawl may be an inevitable feature in modern society, so governments should focus on sensitive land use to overcome this problem.
Cheeseman, G. 2009 ‘Energy Efficiency Could Cut Emissions In Half’, viewed 20 August 2009, < http://www.care2.com/causes/global-warming/blog/energy-efficiency-helps-the-environment-and-economy/>.Gonzalez, G. A. 2005 ‘Urban Sprawl, Global Warming and The Limits of Ecological Modernization’, Environmental Politics, 14:3, pp. 34-362.Martin, G. 2007 ‘Motorization, Social Ecology and China’, Area, Vol. 39:1, pp. 66-73.Ontario College of Family Physicians 2005, THE HEALTH IMPACTS OF URBAN SPRAWL INFORMATION SERIES VOLUME THREE OBESITY, viewed 20 August 2009, <http://www.ocfp.on.ca/local/files/Urban%20Sprawl/UrbanSprawl-Obesity.pdf> .
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