Restrictions on Urban Growth

February 7, 1973

Report Outline
Rise of the Anti-Growth Movement
Changing Patterns of Urbanization
The Search for Urban Alternatives
Special Focus

Rise of the Anti-Growth Movement

Sudden Surge of Strong Opposition to Growth

Growth, like progress, has traditionally been a symbol of all that is right and good in America—the natural and welcome result of expanding population, advancing industry, booming construction, rising technology and a soaring economy. Bigger has always been better. The nation's rapid growth in the 20th century has been in metropolitan areas, where nearly 70 per cent of the people live, according to the 1970 census. But today there's trouble in growth country.

Urban growth is under attack by those who believe it is deteriorating the quality of life. They have formed what has come to be known as the “no-growth,” “zero growth” or “anti-growth” movement in America, although its members generally prefer the terms “slow growth,” “controlled growth” or “optimum growth” to connote rational planning instead of radical curbs. However described, they constitute an increasingly vocal, visible and powerful minority. And what's more, they are seemingly ubiquitous. Anti-growth forces have manned the barricades in nearly every state where increasing urban growth has caused problems for local residents—in other words, almost everywhere. “The conviction that urban growth does not take place the way it should has become one of the dominant beliefs of the age,” economist Lloyd Rodwin has said.

The new anti-growth trend is, at its roots, an environmental movement. It stems directly from the deep public concern for the quality of the environment which has become one of the major social phenomena of the 1970s. Deterioration of the environment in the wake of urban sprawl has generated some of the most vehement outcries for limits on urban growth. Outspoken critics of growth say that it is nearly always accompanied by air and water pollution, increased noise, loss of parks and open space, and general esthetic blight.

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