“I think we’re not too far off from recognizing that it’s a moral imperative to add density to any place with a transit stop,” believes Christopher Leinberger, a fellow at the Brookings Institution—displaying plenty of the modernist brio and contempt for the souls of cities that Jacobs fought. But I’m tending to agree. We are wedging ourselves between a rock and a hard place: between the pleasures of medium-density living (Greenwich Village, Park Slope, Toronto’s Annex) and the ecological necessity of even more density. When it comes to our homes, we are all justifiably afraid of change, especially when it feels like (or is) destruction. But we don’t often pair that truth with another oft-repeated one: Our way of life is unsustainable. In North America’s most beautiful urban places, we unfailingly fight every new tall building in the name of “quality of life” and the “character of the neighborhood.” We claim to have internalized the idea that it’s all connected, that slowing the warming of the planet is a global project, but the nature in our backyards remains sacred—often to the point, perhaps, of self-destruction.
The key question is how to keep the neighborhood even in high density living. Take a look at cities that have naturally grown with high density, like Hong Kong, and you will see it is possible.