Sustainable regional development in the United States faces many challenges. Distressed communities, fragmented open space, damaged ecosystems, and climate change are powerful reminders of the unsustainable development patterns and policies which have produced harm to both our society and our planet. Sprawling development and the continual movement of opportunities, investment, and people away from our city and traditional town centers diminishes rural and natural landscapes, while accelerating long auto commutes which increase CO2 emissions. In our distressed communities, continual disinvestment and the flight of resources and lack of investment produces extreme isolation for marginalized communities, resulting in segregation into distressed, unhealthy environments where residents are separated from the critical life‐ sustaining opportunity structures needed to survive and thrive in our 21st century society.
While farmland is being paved over for new housing and roadways, disadvantaged and marginalized communities can’t find access to healthy produce. A massive investment in new infrastructure is occurring for suburban growth, while existing infrastructure is neglected in our existing communities. New housing and commercial construction on the urban fringe contrasts sharply with existing neighborhoods pockmarked by vacant homes and abandoned businesses. Local development policy, jurisdictional fragmentation, and interregional competition interact with all of these processes, often working to promote unsustainable growth and unhealthy communities. The development model which has fueled our economy in past decades and shaped our communities, and nation, represents an unsustainable system which must be reshaped to produce sustainable development, livable communities, and an equitable, healthy society.