September 30, 2003 | WebMemo on Smart Growth
In a sustained effort to undermine America's preference for suburban living and promote land use regulations that force families into higher density housing, anti-suburban activists have attempted to link the suburbs with whatever social or health concerns are in the news.
Several years ago writer Neal Peirce blamed the Columbine murders on sprawl, while others have attempted to link sprawl to the rising incidence of asthma, teen alienation, serial killers, air pollution, high taxes, and, more recently, obesity.
Unlike the other unsupportable allegations, the obesity link has sustained a longer shelf life than the others, and recent reports have received widespread media attention. On October 2, 2003, several of these anti-sprawl advocates will attempt to make their case to Congress in a panel discussion in the Dirksen Senate Office Building.
As the articles below demonstrate, the advocate's case is a very weak one and receives little support from the evidence. But exaggeration and misrepresentation might be the least of their failings.
There is no question that the apparent rise in obesity poses serious health threats, but to claim that the cause is land use patterns, as opposed to… oh say… poor diet, does a grotesque disservice to those at risk of obesity and its related health problems.
By distracting those who need to lose weight for health reasons away from meaningful solutions - a better diet, more exercise - to inconsequential influences that have more to do with advancing questionable social agendas, these misrepresentations will ultimately undermine the nation's health.
Ronald D. Utt, Ph.D., is Herbert and Joyce Morgan Senior Research Fellow in the Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.