The University Record, January 22, 2001

Bullard details social, economic consequences of sprawl

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2001: Commitment and Renewal

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Robert D. Bullard, director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center (EJRC) at Clark-Atlanta University, stunned his Hale Auditorium audience Jan. 17 with hard facts about and examples of the social, economic and environmental consequences of urban sprawl.

Urban sprawl is defined as “random, unplanned growth characterized by inadequate accessibility to essential land uses such as housing, jobs and public services that include schools, parks, green space and public transportation,” Bullard said. He presented studies showing that Atlanta is at the top of the national list for sprawl. Detroit is third. Atlanta has been dubbed the “sprawl poster child,” “Sprawlanta,” and Megasprawl.” Yet it is not only acreage (eaten at the rate of 500 acres per week in Atlanta) that is lost to sprawl, Bullard said. Sprawl has social and economic consequences, too.

Sprawl exacerbates school crowding, heightens urban-suburban school disparities, accelerates urban infrastructure decline, concentrates poverty, creates spatial mismatch between urban workers and suburban job centers, heightens racial disparities and negatively impacts public health.

Sprawl has environmental consequences, too, including increased air pollution because people are dependent on their autos, destruction of forests and green space, more flooding, and the wasting of energy.

To those who don’t think they are affected by urban sprawl, Bullard says, “Do you eat? Do you breath? Do you drive a car? We all breath the same air, so all people have a stake in sprawl. Whether you consider yourself an environmentalist or an activist, you are involved in the environment just because you breathe the air.”

Bullard’s appearance was sponsored by the Urban Planning Student Association, the School of Natural Resources and Environment, and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.