Monday, May 12, 2008

Infrastructure for efficient use of community resources

What kind of infrastructure should we be building? Modern life involves the taking of the public commons without recourse. We can kill the oceans and pollute the air and overfish salmon. An article on sustainability consulting to cities says instead Sustainability is planning for the most efficient use of community resources.

The author Ed Brock goes on to write: America's Climate Security Act, proposed by Sens. John Warner, R-Va., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70 percent of the 2005 level by 2050, could feed the market for buying and selling carbon reduction credits by setting the rules and standards for carbon trading, Murphy says. “It will create a whole new market in carbon trading, and it will require calculations that [most local officials are not] going to be able to do,” he says. “So, you're going to need lots of consultants to help.”

Instead, sustainability consultants need to take a completely different approach to engineering, Wallace says. Consultants in different disciplines should find a way to work together to achieve maximum effect, he says, but an even more difficult challenge will be replacing the nation's current infrastructure. “To be sustainable in the truest sense, you need to change the way infrastructure is designed,” he says. “[Local government planners must] step back and revisit the entire infrastructure and [ask], ‘What do I have to have to reduce the use of resources and energy and really try to achieve super conservation?’”

Earlier he notes:
While many cities want to take steps to protect the environment — evidenced by the more than 800 that have signed the Washington-based U.S. Conference of Mayors' Climate Protection Agreement — most officials lack the technical know-how to make the changes necessary to achieve sustainability goals.

The article raises important questions about the type of high CO2 infrastructure that was installed and financed and how local decision makers don’t know how to go about correcting it, while at the same time creating unacceptable problems with mobility, water, sewer, food, air quality, recreation, and ultimately the ability to distribute scare resources fairly to reduce tension. Our carbon footprint infrastructure from transportation is easy to understand: free curb side parking, two or three or more car garage requirements, non existant bus shelters or sidewalks, every street accessible to automobiles, pavement improved for automobiles on streets with deteriorating sidewalks immediately alongside, no incentives for small vehicles like the small compact parking in the 70s, or electric vehicles, or 20 mph streets for hybrids and Neighborhood Electric Vehicles, easy access across El Camino and Caltrans and 50mph access over Hallmark, children driven to schools and playgrounds less than a mile away, etc. etc. The infrastructure subsidies in water sewer etc. can be similarly ascertained.

Confronting the amount of change that is needed, is necessary, if we're going to redefine our pattern of living into something that is sustainable. Writing in the LA Times Bill McKibben says we don't have much time- maybe four years if we want to get 350PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere. The problem was one of stuffing the biosphere with the effluence of our resource consumption. The solution must entail a convergence to a stable state so that efficient use of resources preserves the planet for future generations.

Belmont needs to ask that Warner-Liebermann start by providing a path to convergence to 350 and allowing cities to make decisions to reduce their footprint; not giving control over the air and water to the same corporations that brought us the infrastructure that we are trying to change. Carbon Credits for cities (Supervisor Hill said it was a necessary tool for CARB) would be a first step, so Belmont could do more, after its leading effort on diesel traps under the Carl Moyer program. I talked to Thomas Fil and he said he would look into it when he had time.

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