Urban or Rural? The Sustainability Question

My mind has been on other things this week, away from the immediacies of the Community Right to Build (Localism Bill out soon?) and my rambling treatise on architecture in a rural context. I’ve actually been thinking about sustainability, aided by some exchanges in my rural Twitter-scape.

I can’t really remember how I got to thinking about it; perhaps it was contemplating my wife’s 60-mile daily round trip to work*. I did mention the thorny subject of car-use as I was setting up Ruralise a few months ago – here for instance – but it was some sustainability-related traffic on Twitter which set me off. I asked the Twitter-sphere: ‘Anyone point me at research on CO2-footprint of urban and rural lifestyles? How guilty should we feel about rural car-dependency?’

Rural UK pointed me at the Commission for Rural Communities (CRC) who have clearly been grappling with this issue for much longer and more deeply than the likes of me! However, their excellent ‘Thinkpieces’ of 2005 seem to concede, albeit cautiously and with some reluctance, that there is an underlying problem of sustainability with many rural lifestyles. ‘Feel guilty!’  was HAT Projects’ verdict. They also mentioned the CRC and sent me a more recent Guardian article, which seems to put it with more conviction; urbanites do have smaller carbon-footprints than rural dwellers apparently.  When the California-based Post Carbon Institute tweeted the endearingly open ‘What’s on your mind?’ a few days later, I blurted out ‘Urban or Rural?’ A similar reply from them: ‘Rural isn’t scalable; not with the population pressures we face’.

By the time I replied to @postcarbon, I’d found a piece on the rapid uptake of solar photo-voltaics by UK farmers, and was able to cautiously suggest: ‘Urban has effective public transport, but rural has room for micro-renewables http://bit.ly/9DbnNX …eventually! They seemed to like that, in a West Coast sort of a way: ‘AMAZING and yes we love this!!!’ they gushed, perhaps feeling guilty about being so down in their first reply to my obviously rather naive question.

To end the week, my friends at Beyond Green tweeted about a rather impressive car-sharing scheme being used by 3,000 commuters in rural Conneticut.  This reminded me that the multi-award-winning liftshare.com was founded in Attleborough – just down the road from me in Norfolk. Food for thought…

* I am smug here as it happens; I walk or cycle to work, and normally use the train for Norwich or London.

More on rural vs. urban sustainability here.

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2 Responses to Urban or Rural? The Sustainability Question

  1. Jonathan Meyers says:

    Another new website which was launched recently in the UK which deserves a mention here is BlablaCar, which provides long distance carpooling services in the UK and Europe.

    Carpooling need not be restircted to short distance and daily commuting only. They can be considered for long distances and regular long distance travellers, e.g who drive from the city they work in to the city they have their family in(link myself) on week-ends.

    This site is really well built and works like a social networking ite connecting peole who want to carpool. I not only save the cost of my trip, but also have a very social experience while making the trip.

  2. Matt Wood says:

    Thanks Jonathan!

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