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Defending Southern Village

While the Greenbridge project is a quantum leap forward for the built environment, it is unfortunate to hear Tim Toben suggest in the Independent that Chapel Hill's Southern Village is part of the problem of unsustainable development, when in fact, it is a critical part of the solution ("Green, green grass of homes," by Gerry Canavan, March 14).

Southern Village's compact, pedestrian-friendly design, higher-density neighborhoods, and mixed-use village development patterns are inherently superior to the dominant form of residential development in the Triangle region: the subdivision consisting solely of detached single-family homes. If Southern Village had been redevelopment instead of a greenfield development, its environmental merits would have been even greater.

A 2005 study conducted by faculty at UNC's Department of City and Regional Planning found that on average, Southern Village single-family households drive 17.4 fewer miles each day than residents of single-family homes in Lake Hogan Farms, a conventional suburban subdivision in north Carrboro.

Over the course of a year, these households drive 4,300 fewer miles and use 211 fewer gallons of gas. If we could magically convert the 55 million suburban households in typical subdivisions from the conventional style to Southern Village-like designs, 14.4 percent of the daily demand for gasoline in the United States would disappear overnight.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a higher rate of social interaction and ease of getting to know neighbors due to the compact design. One family found a singing group to join and developed a collective house-cleaning brigade among three neighbors within weeks of moving in. They also were able to cut down from two cars to one.

Greenbridge and Southern Village are both positive steps toward making the norm in our region compact, green, transit-linked development, surrounded by productive farmland. Both projects contain forward-looking examples for infill and greenfield development. The better our region learns from these two important developments, the faster we will progress toward sustainability.

Patrick McDonough and Blair Pollock
The Village Project

Drugs help

I found Adam Sobsey's review of Richard DeGrandpre's book How America Became the World's Most Troubled Drug Culture interesting—more amusing than engaging, however.

First, the issue of pharmacology is essentially a simple one. The debate in cultural and political terms, on the other hand, is ill-advised and even dangerous.

Here is the bottom line: Are the side effects of any medication on any given individual deleterious, in contrast to the benefits? To pay credence to critical analysis by Scientologists or the fundamental Christian community is to assume that any of those have merit.

In the development, marketing and consumption of modern psychiatric pharmaceuticals, the abuses in clinical testing and pushing samples on physicians to increase market share certainly deserve attention.

The outrage over the fact that SSRI use in non-adults increases suicidal tendencies, is disingenuous and misplaced. If we deny the general public access to effective drugs because a small portion of the consuming public has adverse reactions, should we not ban aspirin, milk, sugar, caffeine and other chemicals?

SSRIs saved my life, after decades of tri-cyclic anti-depressants had no effect except edginess and an increase in what always had been a bad temper. Politicians, writers and cultural critics should leave my poor, embattled brain alone.

Ted Donlan
Raleigh

More to the story

In your last issue, William Erwin Jr. took issue with the harsh characterization of the British Empire in Africa in the review of the movie on former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin ("Britain led anti-slavery fight," Back Talk, March 21). Erwin believed the March 7 review, which referred to the British Empire in negative terms, was "part of a Nasty Western Civilization Movement."

The British Anti-Slavery Society was but one of many British arms acting in Africa.

The film review was rooted in truth; there is quite an inhumane history in British incursions into Africa. What Erwin failed to do was cover the entirety of the British incursion into Africa. Where there was anti-slavery, there was also the violent incursion into southern Africa of Cecil Rhodes, who proclaimed "we [the Anglo-Saxons] are the first race in the world and the more of the world we inhabit, the better it is for the human race." Where the empire went, so did the gun, as Britain did violently take their possessions in Africa—hardly representative of an empire primarily concerned with righting injustice. The struggle lasted into the decline of the empire, resulting in formerly dependent colonies, debatably ill-prepared to self-govern, who saw bloody struggle by both native majority rulers (Amin) as well as former British rulers (Ian Smith of Rhodesia). The legacy of Britain in Africa, or rather, the empire in general, whether we like it or not, is wrought with a history of horrible tragedy alongside any accomplishments. For all the accomplishments of Western society, there have also been downfalls, neither of which we should soon forget.

For further reference,I recommend African historians Owen Kalinga, Kenneth Vickery and the wonderful Department of History at N.C. State.

Andrew Williams
Garner

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