Andrew Light

1.            Andrew Light argued that all citizens must get their “hands dirty” to run a successful sustainable city. He argues that the regular citizen wouldn’t care about the environment to do much for it, and that they should be encouraged instead of threatened by law. Light has a good idea about making people care about the environment through direct involvement.  

      In effect, Light assures that by taking the first step the citizens would eventually grow a desire within themselves for action without prompting. “If someone is normative and participatory with the land around, then she is less likely to allow it to be harmed further,” explained Light. It is hard for people to destroy something which they created with their own hands that takes a lot of time and energy. It is akin to making a painting, putting in hours of labor and effort, only to slash the canvas. Inspiring people have a similar kind of attachment to their natural surroundings and the urban involvement would be beneficial in many respects. For example, a news article from Graffiti Hurts, owned by Keep America Beautiful, describes the use of “a community mural to restore a wall chronically hit with graffiti. Graffiti vandals only occasionally tag a paint-brush mural, and they are a great way to get the community involved in graffiti prevention. Murals can involve local artists, youth and community volunteers, and the local paint store, which may be willing to donate paint and brushes.” 

       If each individual had a strong sense of attachment to their city, thinking of it as their home, the city would be a healthier place. Garbage would not be on side of the road and on the walkway, and it would be both beautiful and healthy. If that garbage were to be better-managed, not clogging sewer drains, the rains would bring less runoff to the sewer system. One simple action from the whole community could benefit everyone.

       Andrew Light suggests that the responsibility of everyone to their environment should be one of the mandatory concerns of each citizen. His suggestion of calling attention to the environmental problems is to focus on problems that seem to be directly concerning the public. If the law states to do something, it does not necessary mean that the public will follow the law right away, or that the law will be particularly enforced. A historical example of this would be the laws that gave African Americans equal rights, but they were not effective until the people themselves started to change. Similar examples can be seen in parts of our own environment today. We see signs that say, “No littering, $300 fine,” but there below lies a heap of garbage and litter. To prevent this, people must be made concerned, or it will not change.

      However, Light also states that the urban environment shouldn’t entirely be in the citizens’ hands. “Such a suggestion would be absurd,” he states. “Clearly, we would want a variety of regulatory actors to step in to ensure that a consistent range of quality… is maintained.” In other words, there should be an ‘overseer’ of sorts to lead and make sure that no one is doing their tasks incorrectly or abusing power. The government could pass laws which would start the process of thinking about the big picture, and make programs which would evolve communities in this progress. This also goes for those litter-free signs, which would be more effective, but more importantly, the enforcement to back it up. There are also many government-supported environmental groups to choose from – for example, there is an entire force devoted to the conservation of the Everglades. 

Light’s callings are overall high in expectations, as officials and political leaders are typically unresponsive in these matters. For example, violations of the Clean Water Act are many, according to a Community and Environmental Defense Services survey, and only one in four are even resolved.


2.           Green spaces require the thoughts and efforts of their citizens, all working towards a common goal: which is to create and maintain an environmentally sustainable area. Cities would be split into smaller “local publics,” so that each area could focus on creating spaces that the local peoples can live in without outsourcing or have the need for non-local goods. Each local public would densely populated, so that public transportation and sharing apartments would be the norm, both examples which could drive people towards a sense of community.

      A college campus is an example of a local public, as it’s potential is reference in this 2010 survey by Urban Habitats: “Respondents agree that they would spend more of their spare time on campus if the natural vegetation and bird and animal life of the campus were improved. They also feel that should this happen, their attitude toward the campus and their work would improve. This opinion is stronger among students than among personnel, which could again be explained by the fact that students reside on campus.”

      Green spaces in the city can act as outlets to the busy lifestyles of its citizens. Just a patch of green trees beautifies the city, creates an open space in an otherwise crowded block. Recreational areas, such as parks and waterways, give an opportunity for people living in the city to enjoy the sun, relax and connect with nature.  People are drawn to green spaces, and in this way they can form bonds to build better communities.

      A green space does not have to be as vast as a park – a neighborhood can have landscaped areas which has the added benefit of bringing financial, health, and community value to the block. In a survey by Project Evergreen, “90 percent of those surveyed agreed that landscaping is important in improving their home’s value at sale time. However, only 50 percent agreed that landscaping was important in reducing energy costs. In the same way there seems to be a lack of knowledge of the role green space can play in helping regulate air quality. Forty percent of survey respondents either disagreed or said they ‘didn’t know’ that trees, shrubs and turfgrass remove pollutants from the air.” Like aesthetics and property values, environmental education is just as important if we can ever step forward into Light’s proposals. Unfortunately, much of humanity are sadly lacking in that area.


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