Tuesday evening was my first class of my second year of grad school. For those just tuning in, I am working on a masters degree in Urban Planning & Real Estate Development (UPRED for short) at Saint Louis University. The class, officially known as Environmental Planning and Risk Analysis, is going to be interesting. The instructor, Dr. Sarah Coffin, indicated we will all be nudged out of our comfort zones during the class. And yes, she is skilled at pushing me out of my comfort zone (in a good way).
Initial conversations got into issues throughout the world such as pollution in China, foresting in the NW, water quality in the great lakes, invasive plants in Georgia and so on. It was also brought closer to home as a couple of our assignments will focus on local environmental planning issues. Our first assignments will be readings from Aldo Leopold. Our first paper will require looking at a local environmental issue from either the perspective of Leopold, or from an opposing view.
I should clarify for readers, my fellow classmates and Dr. Coffin that, in any posts I do related to class, I will not identify personalities or classmates in these posts. In-class discussions should remain free dialog. Still, I think the subject matter and the diverse viewpoints are good for debate here. And of course, anything I’m posting here will certainly be a simplification of what was reviewed in two and a half hours in class. If you want more detail you’ll simply have to enroll! OK, with that cleared up we can move on.
Our discussion of local issues turned to air pollution and causes. This led to the car and one solution of raising gas taxes to curb use. Talk was then about what price would we actually see a shift in habits due to price. Another point was that higher fuel prices will impact those driving longer distances to reach their jobs — people living in places like Chesterfield and St. Charles County don’t have the alternate transit choices as those closer to the core. This brought us to public choice theory — that people chose to live there. However, that is where much of our jobs are located so perhaps that is the best place to live. Furthermore, not everyone wants to live in a downtown loft (or they can’t all afford said loft). Then it was suggested that not everyone can live downtown or in the city — we have a region of over 2 million people so some will live outside the urban core in suburban-ish areas. The point was made that suburban areas like Chesterfield, Creve Coeur and Dardenne Prairie are all working on town centers as evidence that even those that enjoy suburban living, and schools, do want a more urban environment than what they have but want it in their context, not in the older core. We quickly moved to road projects such as the Page Ave Extension and the rebuilding of highway forty were to accommodate those from the west trying to get downtown. It was countered that this was not the only reason 40 was being rebuilt. Bringing it home was the point that higher gas taxes would most impact the working poor that, due to lack of public transit to many places, are forced to drive to newer suburban areas for employment. Suffice to say, in under 10 minutes, we didn’t resolve the debate about gas taxes but we covered a lot of ground.
Toward the end of the semester our topics will evolve into more complex papers and eventually into each of us teaching a portion of the class on our topic.