By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — Walkable communities with homes on smaller lots with many trees that are located near stores and schools are the keys to sustainable growth, Thomas Hylton told an audience of more than 150 area residents and students in the Forum on the campus of Bucknell University on Thursday afternoon.
Hylton, a Pulitzer Prize winner and internationally recognized advocate of smart growth and farmland preservation, spoke in soft, pointed tones, but his words and advice were sharp and focused on the future and posed the question, “What kind of society do we really want to live in?”
One of Hylton’s pet peeves is how land is misused in many communities.
“We are abandoning a way of life” that is precious, he said. “In the past, when a municipality or a business tore something down, it was replaced by something better.”
Now, you’ll often see huge parking lots replacing those buildings. “But buildings don’t only shade us from the elements. They give us a sense of identity,” he said.
Hylton called for a return to traditional tree-lined neighborhoods.
“Take back your streets and build a sanctuary of green,” he suggested.
Once there were towns with vibrant shopping centers bustling with pedestrians; now we build malls. But one way to go green, even in that environment, is through enacting zoning ordinances, the speaker said.
“Companies will abide by those ordinances if you ask them,” he said. “You can take an abandoned parking lot, dig some holes, plant a tree and all of a sudden that parking lot can become almost garden like.”
Hylton’s one-hour presentation was one of several highlights at Bucknell’s daylong “Envisioning a Sustainable University” series of round-table conversations and lectures. Although most of the symposiums focused on information for students about sustainability practices on campus, one afternoon session dealt with how the university can collaborate with local organizations to promote sustainable communities.