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Environment & Science

Death by Los Angeles: is modern life killing you?

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“You won't see a cop walkin’ on the beat/You only see him drivin’ cars on the street/You won't see a kid walkin’ home from school/Their mothers pick them up in a car pool...

 Walking in LA/Nobody walks in LA…”

Drummer Terry Bozzio of Los Angeles new wave band Missing Persons penned this snappy pop song back in 1982, and it’s just as true (if not eerily prophetic) in today’s L.A. Especially the way Dr. Richard J. Jackson tells it.

Jackson, the professor and chairman of environmental health sciences at UCLA, has penned a new book that makes a sobering case that expanded metro areas have become a primary cause of what ails its citizens.

In his new book titled “Designing Healthy Communities” (there's also be an upcoming PBS mini-series), Jackson and co-writer Stacy Sinclair, director of education at the Media Policy Center in Santa Monica, examine how Americans have created car-dependent environments that have changed the way the way we live to the point that people born since 1980 could be the first generation not to live as long as their parents did. Kids who’ve never had the desire to walk anywhere probably never will, thus starting a downward spiral of diminishing physical activity.

“When there is nearly nothing within walking distance to interest a young person and it is near-lethal to bicycle, he or she must relinquish autonomy — a capacity every creature must develop just as much as strength and endurance,” Jackson says in his book. Sound like anyplace you know?

Thankfully, the book and mini-series both spend ample time on solutions, looking at the various ways different cities are working to reincorporate free, accessible public spaces into their infrastructures.

In the meantime, I’m feeling a strong desire to walk to the local food co-op...