The average European has about half the carbon footprint of the average American, but that isn’t necessarily because the average German is trying to be greener than someone in Montana. In part, it’s a function of sprawl; American suburbs have a hefty footprint largely because of long communities and oversized houses.
In a new series of aerial photos, commissioned by Yale 360, photographer Alex MacLean flew over Europe to document land use patterns, along with the continent’s transformation to renewable energy.
It was next step in the photographer’s long-standing study of development. In a 2008 book titled Over, MacLean photographed American sprawl. “It was really about American land use patterns and sort of their absurdity,” he says. “After that book, I wanted to do something positive.”
At first, as he flew over parts of Germany and Scandinavia, MacLean says he wasn’t that impressed. “It has an old-world look to it, just history,” he says. “But then when you start looking at it, you see how well development is integrated to the existing patterns there, with sharp growth boundaries. Transit is so thoroughly integrated . . . the pedestrian and bike infrastructure is totally apparent.”
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