I'm taking some excellent classes this semester: Urban Environmental Policy, Ecology, Vertebrate Zoology, and Creative Writing Mixed Genres. I have one absolute favorite thing about my mix of classes: FIELD TRIPS! I took my first fieldtrip today during Urban Environmental Policy. We took a walking tour of Forest Grove (a little town on the out reaches of Portland, which happens to be located just inside the "urban growth boundary" for the region). On the fieldtrip, we examined zoning rules, plot sizes (an acre is, at the same time, both bigger and smaller than I expect -- it seems like an unwieldy size for a single family plot unless you want a mini-Central Park, but it's also a small area of land if you want to live in forests), and the trade-offs between protecting land and allowing growth.
I'm quite mixed on the whole subject. I'm all for protecting land, but I also recognize the need for growth to produce enough money to protect said land. You've got to generate enough revenue with the land you have already developed in order to subsidize parks, greenspaces, mass transit, undeveloped/underdeveloped areas, and other innovations designed to promote a feeling of oppenness and space within a city.
My ecology class will probably be closely related to UEP; my ecology prof is big into having his nice chunk of land in the wilderness. He commutes quite a distance to school from an island he has land on. I find it an odd contrast -- loves the environment, but also loves to drive and fish. I suppose those are the types who are doing a lot to protect environment and still make it liveable and accessible. That is another concern -- making environment accessible. Do we want to have large forests where people never go? That would certainly be the best way to promote a natural environment. However, many people in cities want to get into that "natural" environment, which means walking trails (and cedar boardwalks -- we must be handicap accessible), added traffic to get there, increased demand by humans on the area we supposedly save for natural animals . . . and the list goes on. There will be many interesting debates spurred by my new learning :-)