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Density wont save Colorados environment – Greeley Tribune

Density wont save Colorados environment – Greeley Tribune

It has been common to see people in the state packing their cars, hiking trails, restaurants, roads, and homes. It would seem that people would be able to pack their bags and leave, but it seems the opposite. Colorado continues to expand and shows a lot of growing pains.

Colorado is seeing high-density homes as an alternative to single-family houses. This is a way to get more people into cities and towns at a lower cost with hoped for lower environmental impacts.

In Colorado, the Governors Office promotes high-density homes. Even President Joe Biden’s recent bill on infrastructure added incentives for high densities. Some advocates of high-density residential development even claim that it is a type climate action.

If you are skeptical that Colorado could overcome climate change and grow and reduce environmental impacts, your doubts are justified. Let’s look at this issue from a different perspective.

Based on concepts such as carbon footprint and geographic footprint, high-density housing is believed to have less environmental impact. If your housing is more compact and smaller in a particular city, and you drive less between work and home, then your geographic footprint and carbon footprint appear to be smaller. The problem with the carbon- and geographic-footprint theories is that they fail to account for the actual environmental footprints of each individual as well as the environmental footprints of growth and development. Ecological Footprint, a new model that addresses these issues, has been developed over the past decade. It does not include the geographic footprint of housing or the carbon foot of driving. However, it also includes the ecological impact of each individual as well as entire towns, cities, states, and countries.

Global Footprint Network is an international organization that describes the ecological footprint. It is the only metric that measures the resource demand of individuals and governments against Earth’s ability to biologically regenerate.

Your ecological footprint is not only the components of your geographical footprint such as the carbon impacts of driving and your housing choices, but also the roads you drive on, the malls that you shop at, and the pipelines that deliver natural gas to your home. Your carbon footprint can also be expanded to include carbon emissions you create wherever carbon is emitted.

Your ecological footprint includes the environmental impacts and greenhouse gases you cause through your traveling and consumer choices plane trips to Europe; electronic devices in your home that were shipped from China; granite countertops in your kitchen shipped from Brazil, and the wood/steel/concrete/glass logged/forged/mined to create your dense urban housing unit. Your ecological footprint also includes the industrial activity that keeps you alive, such as electric utilities and automobile manufacturing facilities.

Your ecological footprint includes your eating habits, including the cropland that produces your meat and vegetables, your seafood sources, and the shipping companies that deliver it to your homes and restaurants.

A recent international scientific study published in Nature Food has shown that cropland is a growing source of biodiversity. Satellite imagery was used to determine that the Earth’s cropland has increased in size by 9% between 2003 and 2019. It now covers 1,000,000 square kilometers of the Earth’s surface.

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It is possible to have a large ecological footprint despite having a very small geographical footprint. One person could live in a densely populated condominium in Boulder or Denver and still have a significantly greater ecological impact than a suburban commuter.

It is not the size or type of car you drive that matters, but your overall wealth, and your consumption habits. According to a 2017 study published in Environment and Behavior, wealth is the most important factor in determining the extent of environmental damage that people do to the environment. This was because people who are more wealthy tend to be more consumers than those who are less fortunate. Another study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology stated that consumption plays a significant role in climate change. Household consumption accounts for more than 60% of global GHG emission and 50% to 80% of total land, materials, and water use.

Colorado is attracting and adding young, urban, higher-paid tech workers at an increasing rate. These are exactly the kind of people who prefer to live in condos and eat in nicer places, travel abroad for vacation, and tend to stay in the mountains on weekends. Let’s face it, you could stack every Coloradan in a condo and stack them up all the way to Mars. But the environmental impact would be greater every year.

Dense housing won’t save Colorado’s environment until Colorado decides to stop expanding.

Gary Wockner, Ph.D. is an environmental activist who also consults to political, scientific and environmental organizations in Colorado. Contact: GaryWockner.com

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