27-Jan-2005 -- One of the most noticeable changes in the environment in our own lifetimes is urban sprawl. What exactly is sprawl? Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, defines sprawl as “low-density development on the edge of cities and towns — poorly planned, land-consumptive, auto-dependent and designed without respect to its surroundings.” However, it doesn’t take an expert to identify sprawl. You drive in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a congested suburban highway past a repeating, endless array of fast-food restaurants, gasoline stations, and strip-mall shopping centers, all surrounded by thousands of parked cars. As each season passes, you see construction equipment pave over more and more fields with look-alike subdivisions called Oak Meadows or Fox
Hollow, whose very names mock what was destroyed. This is sprawl.
Sprawl has been called “one of the most wasteful uses of land ever devised.” Every year, 161,000 hectares of rural land in the USA alone are lost to development. During the 1970s and 1980s, for every 1% of metropolitan population growth, land consumption increased by 6 to 12% in the USA. And sprawl is getting worse. During the 1990s, for every 1% of population growth, land consumption increased by 10 to 20%. One cannot help feeling that such growth, highly dependent on fossil fuels, is unsustainable.
Such were my thoughts as I, Joseph Kerski, wound my way through the seemingly endless northeast suburbs of Atlanta to the confluence of 34 North 84 West. As I turned north on State Highway 20 at Allendale, I certainly could not fault the residents of this community. One could not lay the blame on people who, like all of us, seek to live in the best communities for our families. Even though this land was covered in Georgia pines, deciduous trees, and agriculture not long ago, one had to respect the care that had gone into the planning of these fine lawns and homes. Judging from the playground down the street and the preponderance of minivans, this appeared to be a neighborhood predominantly of families with children. I turned west on Russel Road Northeast and drove for 2 kilometers to Glendale Drive Northeast, stopping down the hill from the confluence point.
It was a fine southern USA winter day--temperature at 20 C with puffy clouds darting along the blue sky. I walked south up the hill to 1470 Ashwood Way and knocked on the door. A woman appeared in the window adjacent to the door who gave me, through the glass, the approval to stand in her yard and take photographs, noting that others had preceded me. I reached the confluence at 2:45pm local time (my GPS is set for mountain time). The confluence lies 3
meters straight out (northeast) from the front door of the house, on ground sloping about 7 degrees to the north, planted in grass. I took a movie and photographs, including several of myself with the camera mounted on the brick tower that served as the mailbox.
I had been to 84 West twice before, once in Michigan USA, and once in Costa Rica. I had also been to 34 North once before, in Oklahoma USA. This visit was my first in Georgia and I felt fortunate that I had the opportunity to see it. I spent only 25 minutes at the confluence, making a hasty exit in an effort to visit 34 North 85 West before nightfall.