The possible sale of the American Legion Post property, the largest and last piece of undeveloped land in eastern Chapel Hill, to a developer has troubled me and caused me to reflect on some deeper issues. For example:
1. There is something inherently wrong in an economy that looks at growth in the exploitation of a finite resource like land, which is ultimately unsustainable, as the key to wealth and prosperity.
Do we really want to pave over the whole earth and eliminate all other living creatures in the process? With Chatham Park coming in, Obey Creek approved as well as several other large developments in the works, this is what we are in the process of doing in this area, and many other parts of the country ... and world as well.
Wouldn’t it be prudent and beneficial to the whole community to preserve as much of the remaining green space that is still available in Chapel Hill? The following link from the University of Washington documents the connection between mental health and green space. http://nando.com/3av
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2. Maybe we should reexamine our concept of progress and prosperity and strive instead for growth in the realm of the infinite rather than growth in the realm of the finite as a measure of wealth. For example, growth in kindness, education, employable skills, understanding, health, innovation, as well growth in the reduction of crime, drug use, homelessness, food insecurity, poverty, violence and intolerance, etc. seems much more valuable and sustainable than growth in the exploitation of a limited resource for individual gain.
3. Do we not want to encourage, perhaps even compel land owners to be stewards of their land? As property owners, should we all not be guided to do with our land what benefits us only in the context of what is best for the community as a whole?
4. What about posterity and other living things? What do we want the landscape to look like for future generations? Asphalt and cement decorated with a few potted plants of limited variety? Or do we want to make sure that residents in the future continue to have access to adequate green space within walking distance of their homes?
Should we strive to be in the vanguard of protecting biodiversity and saving half the earth for all other living things as world-renown Harvard biologist/naturalist E.O. Wilson proposes, rather than contribute to the destruction of the natural environment that seems to be happening at a rapid pace throughout the world. According to Thomas Crowther at Yale, we are losing 15 billion trees world wide, due to human activities. http://nando.com/3at
Of course, broadening the tax base and increasing revenues for the town is certainly desirable, but can that only be accomplished through continually gobbling up undeveloped land? Can we not think of creative and novel ways to nurture and support homegrown businesses that create new jobs and broaden our tax base without destroying the natural environment? Surely we can think of a better way to promote revenue growth without this relentless land grab.
To conclude, is it not possible for us to come to together as a community to purchase this property for a fair price so that the wildlife that inhabit it may remain and future generations may continue to enjoy it in its natural state? I would certainly be very willing to contribute financially to protect this property from development.
Janet Schoendorf is a retired Chapel Hill school teacher and an advocate of edible landscaping.