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  • hamiltonseejones

Development doesn't need your help (but conservation does)

You are reading this on a screen. I am typing this on a screen. The subject of humans directing their attention to screens, thus limiting our personal connections has been covered to the point of banality. Our attention is pulled in so many different directions these days. As digital connectivity expands at a rate of escaping the combination of two atoms, what is happening to opportunities for human connectivity?

Plenty of studies have shown that all this screentime is bad for us– from cricks in our neck to texting thumb, to developing complexities mentally and emotionally– and eventually, socially. 

As the installation of internet fiber battles races for human connectivity, development is posing the challenge to conservation. The manufactured world is manifesting as bulldozers, concrete mixers, cranes and such to make way for additional distractions from our communing with each other and the outdoors. 

In Central Texas, as there are more and more ways to “engage” online, there are more and more things to drive to. To park at, walk up and pay for something. The opportunities to engage in commerce are growing and thriving like that of saltcedar along the Rio Grande. With plenty of economic drivers here in the foothills of the Hill Country, it is undeniable that the area is seeing what is being called an unprecedented rate of “growth”. Hays County has been the fastest growing county in the US (of counties over pop. 100,000) for 11 of the past 12 years (thanks a lot, Williamson…) What doesn’t make the headlines is that of what is shrinking. 

Natural infrastructure is just what you’re thinking: trees, open fields, creeks, aquifers, etc. As our communities plan for development, it is imperative to also plan for conservation. 

With the addition of so many homes in Texas (Texas leads the nation in new home building) come along the systems and infrastructure to support a growing population. Places like churches, emergency services, libraries, and in the Hill Country, wineries, breweries, wedding venues and spas. But the existing natural infrastructure must be sacrificed to build this manufactured infrastructure. 

The day may come sooner than later that we have more manufactured infrastructure than the natural infrastructure can supplement for. Ie. We may have the pipes to transport water, but not the water itself.

It is time we start investing in sustaining our natural infrastructure at least at the same rate as we’re investing in manufactured infrastructure.

What if we set aside lands for water quality, but allowed limited public access for “disconnection zones”? Lands set aside specifically to allow space for wildlife habitat, water quality filtration/runoff capture, and leaving your phone behind. 

If you want the youth, or anyone to disengage with their devices, make sure they have a place that renders devices irrelevant. To make a digital device irrelevant in an environment, you need to ensure connectivity to the environment itself. Not some other manufactured, fabricated environment complete with touchscreen pay stations. 

To me, it's no coincidence to me that the Hill Country has so many wineries and distilleries to numb itself from the cauterization that is happening to its natural infrastructure.


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