America out of love with urban sprawl

THE NIMBY has crossed the Pond. That most raucous - and powerful - of conservationist species, long endemic in southern England, is now well established on the US East Coast.

In both countries its alarm cry, warning of strangers approaching its back yard, is scaring politicians. In Britain it is forcing environment ministers to backtrack on plans to increase the proportion of homes built in the countryside. In the US it is achieving an even more dramatic turnaround by rehabilitating planning (actually, "habilitating" might be better, as the idea has never found much favour in the Utopia of the urban sprawl).

Christine Todd Whitman, sometimes tipped as a presidential candidate, has just devoted much of her inaugural address for her second term as Governor of New Jersey to the issue. She promised - in terms her fellow Republicans would normally denounce as "communist" - to restrict development in the countryside and direct it to existing towns and cities, pledging to preserve a million acres of farmland.

This follows an outbreak of local groups formed to fight plans to build near their homes. One even clubbed together to buy the land from the developer (he said his life would have been made "very difficult" if he had not sold).

It's the same story around Washington DC, where people are swamping public meetings to berate developers, and Maryland's Governor Parris Glendening has directed local counties to produce plans for stopping urban sprawls. One repentant official explained: "The Devil is at the door and it's time for us to stop sinning."

MEANWHILE spare a thought for Lucian Chalfen, who is having a hell of a winter. Mr Chalfen works for the New York Department of Sanitation, and his one relief from all that garbage comes when it snows: the department is in charge of clearing the stuff away.

Caught napping by a blizzard that paralysed the city two years ago, New York has now stocked up to fight the Ice Age. It has all sorts of new gadgets, including infra-redsensors that measure pavement temperatures, and a huge 12 million BTU snow melter for Wall Street to stop stockbrokers getting cold feet.

"We can put 350 salt-spreaders and about 2,000 snowploughs on the road at any one time," boasts Mr Chalfen. "No other city, no state can do that. I don't know of anyone who can marshal that kind of equipment."

The only problem is that less snow has fallen in New York this year than in any winter for more than a quarter of a century. The ploughs have not been called out once, and only 5,000 of the 200,000 tons of rock salt stockpiled for the season has been spread.

And why the freak winter? El Nino? Global warming? Lee Grenchi, a meteorologist at Pennsylvania State University, won't be drawn. "Who knows? Weather forecasting is a humbling experience."

o IF LUCIAN Chalfen is tormented, William Wharrie is in seventh heaven, for he's achieving the American dream through Canada geese.

Feathered football hooligans, the geese are an increasing menace on both sides of the Atlantic - driving out other birds, attacking children, and producing a slimy green dropping every three minutes. Their population has increased 30-fold in Britain since 1950 and is doubling every eight years.

No one knows what to do. In Britain, a special government committee has sat for years without much progress. Park-keepers and local authorities have tried destroying their eggs by pricking them, dipping them in paraffin, even hard-boiling them and returning them to nests. Wandsworth council tried to shoot them but was stopped by an animal lovers' campaign led by Linda McCartney and Carla Lane.

In the US they have been fed to the poor in soup kitchens (the meat tastes oily and gamey) but the animal rights groups are just as strong as in Britain; which is where Mr Wharrie comes in. He is making a fortune harassing the geese with his dog, Chevy (it chases them, geddit!), one of a growing number of entrepreneurs using border collies. The secret, apparently, lies not in their One Man And His Dog skills, but because they look like Arctic foxes, one of the few beasts the geese fear.

"It's kind of nuts," he says. "People feed the geese and then pay taxes for me to chase them away. They have created a great business for me. I love this country."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent