Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Religious Groups' Focus: Suburban Sprawl

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Religious Groups' Focus: Suburban Sprawl

Article excerpt

Dolores DeBacker turns to her faith in God for the answer to the suburban sprawl schewing away the fields near her family's dairy farm 30 miles south of Jackson, Mich.

"There are a lot of moral issues involved in this," said Debacker, who takes on such land use issues as a member of a rural life agency of the Catholic church in Michigan.

Sue Cook sees similar ethical delimmas as she coordinates an ecumenical effort to attract a grocery store to serve an inner-city Muskegon, Mich., neighborhood that has none. "We see this as a justice," said Cook, director of the Campaign For Human Development for the Grand Rapids diocese.

DeBacker and Cook's efforts are examples of a growing awareness among religious groups in Michigan and elsewhere of the social impact of the urban sprawl that attacks open space while eroding the economies of central cities.

From 1990 to 2020, the amount of open space converted to urban use in Michigan will increase by 63 percent to 87 percent, while the population increases only 11.8 percent, according to officials at the Michigan Society if Planning.

Building low-income housing and other traditional efforts serve the poor only in the short term if middle-class citizens continue to desert the cities, said Sr. Cheryl Liske, interim director of the Metropolitan Organizing Strategy for Empowerment and Strength. Like Cook, Liske sees sprawl as a matter of injustice for those left behind.

"Often the majority of people in the metropolitan region ar subsidizing sprawl at the edge, which is benefiting a very rich and small population," Liske said. …

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