It Is Time for a New Approach to Development

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Cudworth

Anyone who has lived in the Fox Valley more than a year knows how fast the area is growing. Amid cries of "we're not just another suburb," the Tri-Cities and neighboring towns are bursting with commercial development and residential expansion. Some changes seem to happen overnight, raising questions as to whether adequate consideration is being given to the quality of life for future generations.

We are not alone in this predicament. Throughout the world, people have begun to ask: Are we doing the right thing with the resources we have? To that end, a burgeoning coalition of governmental agencies, municipalities, nongovernmental organizations and everyday citizens is responding to these challenges.

One of the most important tools is the worldwide movement toward sustainable development, which maintains that prosperity and a clean environment are compatible. Indeed, some proponents suggest that the two are not only related but dependent upon each other in the long term. Sustainable development has been defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

To get a better picture of where sustainable development is going in America, I spoke with Janette Marsh, leader for sustainable development in the Office of Strategic Environmental Analysis, a division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 5, with jurisdiction in Illinois and several other Midwestern states. Janette has devoted her career to environmental and political studies, first as a student then as volunteer with nonprofit organizations. Now she is a professional whose job is coordinating sustainable development plans from the smallest 'burbs to the biggest cities.

"It all comes down to three important concepts," she emphasizes. "Environment, economy and social/cultural equity. These three components must be present in order for sustainable development to occur."

A framework for sustainable development exists in Kane County. Regional and municipal planners are struggling to maintain the integrity of land-use plans and environmental protections while working with commercial, industrial and real estate interests to maintain and expand a robust local economy. …