Is Suburbia eco-friendly?
By CHRISTIAN MEDEL
Modern cities are very different from those of the Twentieth Century. People now live in the surroundings of the city rather than inside it. They do so because of the greater comfort and space available for them. But with the urban population growing, these suburban areas are also spreading, and the impact they have on the environment is great.
According to Environment Magazine, half of the US population lives in suburban areas. Having so many people living in the periphery of big cities creates big traffic congestions when it's time to go to work, and huge quantities of pollutants are released during such traffic jams. The same source states that the proportion of people living in suburbia is growing. The spreading of these zones is very harmful to our environment.
So, how important is the impact of suburban areas on the environment? Their expansion can alter an ecosystem in a very dramatic way. For example, when building a new house lot, the contractor has to prepare the area for construction. In doing so, vegetation is taken out and disposed or stocked, wetlands are dried and filled and soil is altered to conform to building standards. In doing so, and while no houses are built, which can be a very long time, rainwater can absorb the pollutants left on the soil (engine oil, gas residues, wood particles), thus creating the possibility of polluting drinkable water sources. All these consequences harm the environment surrounding the building area, but the vegetation and soil aren’t the only ones affected by Suburbia’s spreading.
The loss of refuge can affect the behavior of some animal species who used to live in the area. Rabbits can show up on people's backyards, raccoons can sometimes be found in trash cans and deer and moose sometimes appear near the treeline. The change of behavior in these animals can disturb the lifestyle of suburban people, but it also affects the animals themselves. They could die or even worse, propagate infectious diseases among their race. We can see many signs of animal life invading suburban areas. For example, rabbits and deer are showing up at the edges of big cities, and even small ones. The impact on wildlife is considerable, and yet, suburbia affects our very lives too.
People living in the surroundings of cities eventually have to leave their homes and head to work, and they will generally leave around the same hours every day. In doing so, they meet with massive vehicle congestion, and produce tons of pollutants each day. This pollution increases rain acidity, causing the death of thousands of trees, polluting water and eroding the ground, reducing the quality of the soil.
Finally, we see suburbia really has a big and important impact on the environment. As humans, we mainly think about ourselves, and the results of such selfishness aren't only local, but also worldwide. Such planetary changes include global climate alteration, reduction of biodiversity, rise of sea level, air and water pollution in huge scales, health problems among the population increasing, etc. We also realize that the consequences of suburbia's philosophy concern wildlife, biomass and ourselves, since we are destroying our own habitat to make it more comfortable. It's not only about the planet, the trees and the pandas, it's about us humans and our future.