Source: FRONTLINE Poisoned Waters
FRONTLINE Poisoned Waters
For more resources from this report go to FRONTLINE Poisoned Waters.
More than three decades after the Clean Water Act, iconic American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound are in perilous condition and facing new sources of contamination. In this special collection of educational resources from FRONTLINE Poisoned Waters, correspondent Hedrick Smith investigates the growing hazards to our waterways and emerging threats to human health.
Poisoned Waters Discussion Guide (Document)
Is There a Smarter Way to Growth?
For Chris Miller, the choice for communities all across America is not whether to grow, but how. “We have a dramatic choice,” says Miller, president of the Piedmont Environmental Council, an environmental nonprofit. “If we do it right, the effects on the environment are reduced by half or more. If we do it wrong, the possibility of actually losing [waterways like] the Chesapeake Bay goes up dramatically.”
Miller points to the stark contrast between two communities in the D.C. suburbs of northern Virginia that took two very different paths to development and got drastically different results. One is Tysons Corner in Fairfax County, widely considered a textbook case of uncontrolled growth. At Tysons, a landscape of woods and dairy farms was bulldozed to make way for nearly 1,000 acres of parking lots; local streams have been gutted by runoff; and people are trapped in endless traffic jams and congestion.
By contrast, nearby Arlington County chose to build for people rather than for cars. Instead of erecting a maze of highways, parking lots, and sprawling malls, it concentrated growth around five rapid rail stations. It built up, not out, and gave growth a human face. It reserved land for parks, put in bike lanes, and installed attractive pedestrian sidewalks. Today, Arlington is a showcase for “smart growth.”
By focusing development around Metro, Washington D.C.’s commuter rail system, Arlington was able to grow while preserving green spaces, which are a key to mitigating pollution. It went for mixed use – retail, commercial and residential all together. So its hub areas thrive. Pedestrians and bikers mingle along wide, tree-lined sidewalks lined with markets, outdoor cafés and small neighborhood parks – a stark contrast to the fortress-like profile of Tysons.
“They’ve had an explosion of development in the [Arlington] corridor over the last 30 years,” says Stewart Schwartz, president of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “They’ve had tripling and quadrupling of the number of residents, the number of jobs in the corridor, and it’s all been achieved without an increase in traffic.”
By building up rather than out, smart growth reduces the amount of land that we pave, thereby preserving forests and farms. With fewer hard surfaces, there’s less stormwater runoff. Water can seep into the ground, filtering out contaminants before it reaches streams and rivers.
Today, places like Tysons are rethinking their growth strategy. They’re turning to smart growth with its focus on rapid transit, green spaces, and compact development. “Two-thirds of the people prefer the new, more compact model of development,” says Bill Lecos, CEO of the local Chamber of Commerce. “When we asked them why they liked it better than the old suburban model, it came down to a matter of how they moved around [and] what they did when they got there.”
Background Essay Written by Hedrick Smith.
Poisoned Waters explores why American waterways like the Chesapeake Bay and the Puget Sound are in peril. After watching the video chapter on ‘smart growth,’ discuss your answers to the following questions:
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