Paul Jacob

Rats on stilts! If you're an Aussie, you immediately think 'roo. If you are an American suburbanite, you probably think deer.

In many suburbs, east coast and west, deer overrun the place. I know gardeners who've tried everything to keep deer out. Some just throw up their hands in despair, and watch flower after flora after tree get gnawed down to the brittlest twig.

It's amazing how many animals find niches in a suburban environment. When the census taker comes knockin' again in a few years to ask how many residents make home at my address, I'm going to have to ask, "Human? Or do I count the raccoons, squirrels and possum that live in the hedges? Or the robins and wrens nesting on the back porch?"

Since I'm such a lousy gardener, none of this troubles me much. Indeed, I kind of like it. It's great to see "nature" in the city, even if it soils my shoes. I'd probably even see more if my dog Bugsy weren't also on the census list, barking many possible residents and transients away.

Really, the rats on stilts make for one of the better parts of suburban life. I'm no fan of possum, but deer, squirrel, 'coon, fox (yes, fox!) and porcupine do add to the quality of life here in Suburbia, USA. (Bugsy adds a comment here: forget porcupine!)

So, with this in mind, perhaps you can understand my skepticism about the "new urbanist" mindset that seems to be growing out of control in America's cities. The idea of this whole new breed of planner is: crowd people together.

Aside from the whole caged-in feel, and the problem of top-down coercion and control, one of my instincts rubs up raw against this movement: How un-green it is. That is, to encourage green outside of city limits, new urbanists in effect minimize green within.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.