Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Green Machine --Obama's Stomping Grounds with a Mayor Who Does Top Down Leadership with a Green Eye

By Paul K. Haeder

So does it take a William Daly to move a city to become the greenest city in the US of A? City Hall with a green roof. Police stations that are energy efficient, have clean circulating air, have rooms for the public to use? Green Homes for Chicago is about applying Mayor Daly's work in the international camp, holding an international design contest, and then having these residents built and then put on the market, the moderate income market.

Somebody has to take the lead, and sometimes that means someone who says this or that has to be done. We've had centuries of the wrong folk leading from the top down, greed being the second only to power driving them. But when it's about sustainability, equity, energy independence, public places, clean technology, healthy environments, layering all those sustainability components into how people live, work, recreate in the city, can the ends justify the means or means justify the ends?

Green Machine looks at the third largest city in the USA, Chicago, where the skyscraper was invented. This is a laboratory for America, a place where the future will be tested. Now. It's the crossroads of America. It was once the dumping ground for toxins, junk, by-products. Hundreds of those brown fields have been cleaned up. And the drive is not at the neighborhood level. It's about Richard Daly, mayor of Chicago.

What do planning students and landscape designers and others think of this system of greening? Is it too dangerous to see a personality like Daly take the lead, take the city into the plunge toward green? Green roofs for city buildings as a symbolic gesture, to show the development community it can and will be done? Daly has changed the spirit of the city, and the spirit of politics.

On June 10, 2004, Daly and his staff created the Chicago Standards, sustainability design and construction for public buildings to reduce operating costs and to save energy. Daly believes that too often the wrong people see cities as steel, concrete, and dirty . . . that they work there, yes, but once the 9-to-5 commitment is over, they want to get out as soon as possible. His goal is to get green mainstream, for remodeling and construction in all sectors. To have a city a place to live, grow and stay.

The city of Chicago has 10,000 bike riders (most total of any city) and has accommodated for them in many amenities. The reality is that last year, at the turn of 2008, the world went urban -- that is, more than 50 percent of global population lives in urban places. By 2030 or 2050 that might be 65 percent.

Of course, we as spasming when it comes to values, framing, those few global warming deniers getting equal time with the millions working on global warming mitigation. We have those seeing cities as solutions, yet in America, there are slow-to-change perceptions of what the American dream is. See this document PacifiCAD blogspot will be discussing at length in the future:

The counterpoint to the E-Squared mainframe of optimism and business as the solution is those voices in sustainability and architecture, critics if you will, writers and practitioners. The bottom line is that we can't consume our way out of peak oil, peak living, peak food and climate change. We have to redesign our cities, redesign our societies. That means that we have to do this now, and it doesn't have mean we lose community, some luxuries, and well being. Green and design for post carbon means positive things for societies.

Daly, the mayor, wants the city to have a connection to people, to the environment, to the connectivity of public-private space, shared neighborhoods, transportation that isn't about smog and cars.

Having McDonald's put on a green roof of sorts is the ultimate contradiction, one of the architecture writers said in Green Machine. A band-aid. The ultimate in drive-through, car centric businesses, puts some grass and perennials into roof soil, and that gets the business some green points? Wrong. And forget about the ecological footprint (damage) of a fast-food, fast meat-egg-dairy business like McDonald's? And the health of people after consuming said products? How do those implications play out in community planning, sustainability? Questions.

We have to have a green way of living, and all the green buildings in the world won't amount to a hill of organic, fair trade coffee beans. It's about thinking, acting and engaging in green all the time. And lowering consumption. that's what these counterpoints in the E-Squared series illustrate.

Can we begin to finally admit to the huge lobbying influence of the US Chamber of Commerce and the others locally who buy into the big business paradigm for ruddering a community's future? We need mayors and senators and congresswomen and administrators to make bigger leaps, like Daly has. Some completely disagree, seeing consensus building as the ultimate goal. Countless meetings, and charrettees and plans that end up on the shelf, so to speak.

I wonder when the incrementalists will finally be taken to task? Copenhagen is the most important meeting of our times, so says activist Bill McKibben. We need city halls and county supervisors to have vision and to get off their diffs and look to the future 40, 60 , 100 years out. We need to work harder to criticize them at gatherings and in our emails.

Read Chris Hedges and Bill McKibben here, for the argument about doing it ourselves -- cutting down on electricity use, saving gray water, etc; or looking toward changing the culture of corporate domination:

What's the EWU Planning Program doing about this sort of reaction to the needs of our nation? Do the classes see that sustainability is not just some pie in the sky or impossible dream?

The debate is on, and the E-Squared series shows are good starting points. In one way, they are dated, and in another way they illustrate the shape that could be coming if we bite the bullet and make the sacrifices necessary to move into a post-carbon world.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Number is 3-Five-Zero -- Climate Change Day of Action Around the USA, and in Spokane

Come join with your Spokane area neighbors to stand together and call for world leaders to set a sane and science-based climate action policy. Come to the north end of the blue Howard St. Bridge at noon on Saturday, October 24. We will have our picture taken holding a huge “350” banner. More information about climate change, and up-coming local presentations and events, will be available. Your participation is very important!.

Our event photo will be shared with local, national and international political leaders and joined with photos from all around the world to show delegates to the Copenhagen Conference, urging them to be motivated by recent science to give all peoples and plant and animal species the best chance possible to survive the climate changes that have already begun.

This activity is being organized at website please visit the site to learn more. Visit the Spokane Event site on the 350 Global Action Map.

We can use your help too at the 350 Banner Making Party this coming Saturday from 10 AM – 1 PM; and/or putting Climate Action Day handbills up in your favorite haunts. Reply to this email sender, or call 509-327-8303 for more information on how to help. Thank you!
But most important – show up for our brief but very important event, October 24!

The Oh-Sh-- Moment is Upon US

The news these days require swift action, and yet we still are glazed over as a society when it comes to climate change action, solutions and mitigating the hardships to come. Sorry about the bad news. Read the full piece here:

By Mark Hertsgaard

"It came in July, courtesy of the chief climate adviser to the German government. Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, chair of an advisory council known by its German acronym, WBGU, is a physicist whose specialty, fittingly enough, is chaos theory. Speaking to an invitation-only conference at New Mexico's Santa Fe Institute, Schellnhuber divulged the findings of a study so new he had not yet briefed Chancellor Angela Merkel about it. The study, Solving the Climate Dilemma: The Budget Approach, has now been published here.

free copy here:

Solving the climate dilemma: The budget approach
WBGU, Berlin, 200958 pages, 2 Tables, 12 Figures, ISBN 3-936191-27-1

"If its conclusions are correct -- and Schellnhuber ranks among the world's half-dozen most eminent climate scientists -- it has monumental implications for the pivotal meeting in December in Copenhagen, where world leaders will try to agree on reversing global warming.

Schellnhuber and his WBGU colleagues go a giant step beyond the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body whose scientific reports are constrained because the world's governments must approve their contents. The IPCC says that by 2020 rich industrial countries must cut emissions 25 to 40 percent (compared with 1990) if the world is to have a fair chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. By contrast, the WBGU study says the United States must cut emissions 100 percent by 2020 -- in other words, quit carbon entirely within ten years.

Germany and other industrial nations must do the same by 2025 to 2030. China only has until 2035, and the world as a whole must be carbon free by 2050. The study adds that big polluters can delay their day of reckoning by 'buying' emissions rights from developing countries, a step the study estimates would extend some countries' deadlines by a decade or so.

Needless to say, this timetable is light-years more demanding than what the world's major governments are talking about in the run-up to Copenhagen. The European Union has pledged 20 percent reductions by 2020, which it will increase to 30 percent if others -- i.e., the United States -- do the same. Japan's new prime minister likewise has promised 25 percent reductions by 2020 if others do the same. Obama didn't mention a number, but the Waxman-Markey bill, which he supports, would deliver less than 5 percent reductions by 2020. Obama's silence -- doubtless a function of the fact that Republicans are implacably opposed to serious emissions cuts -- allowed Hu to claim the higher ground at the UN. Hu went further than any Chinese leader has before, pledging to curb greenhouse gas emissions growth by a 'notable margin' by 2020. Obama dropped his own bombshell, however, urging that all G-20 governments phase out subsidies for fossil fuels. 'The time we have to reverse this tide is running out,' Obama declared. Alas, the WBGU study suggests that our time is in fact all but gone. "

Climate Change Inaction? Opportunity? Crisis? Danger?

Read Bill McKibben's piece in Mother Jones magazine. Lots of climate change news this week. Compelling and pretty intensely frightening, considering the inaction and the call to action one physicist is asking governments to follow through on.

The Chinese character for crisis is two-fold -- danger and opportunity. We need to look at NOW as the time of opportunity, to bring an Apollo Program to get us carbon-less in 20 years.

In Climate World Series, Time to Call the Bullpen

"I didn't make the trip to Thailand for the pre-Copenhagen negotiating session last week, and I'm glad I didn't. For one thing, the weather was doing its best to remind delegates what global warming feels like: Bangkok can do hot and muggy like no place on Earth. For another, nothing much was happening—the big countries continued to refrain from making any promises about how much they'd cut emissions or how much they'd fork over to help the developing world leapfrog past fossil fuel. As Kevin Grandia, editor of the invaluable DeSmogBlog put it, 'At the pace I have seen here in Bangkok there is little hope that these issues will be resolved by the time the negotiations end here on Friday. If these issues couldn't be resolved in two weeks here, it would take a miracle for them to be in the can for Copenhagen.'"

Meanwhile, in Washington, senators John Kerry and Barbara Boxer issued the Senate version of climate change legislation, which most environmentalists took as a modest improvement on the modest bill the House has already passed. It works the same cap-and-trade way, at the same all-too-deliberate speed. And it had barely been introduced before the president's climate czarina, Carol Browner, said there was no chance it would make its way through Congress in time for Copenhagen anyway.

Which everyone kind of already knew—but still, if there had been any buzz to begin with it would have been a buzzkill. About the only good news: Norway announced it will aim for even deeper cuts, reducing its carbon emissions 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 if other developed countries will go along. Given Norway's position in the world carbon league, this is akin to the guy who stopped drinking in 1967 announcing he's getting on the wagon—it somehow served only to underscore the depressing reality of climate gridlock.

In short: The scientific method has successfully identified the biggest problem the world has ever faced. It's worked great. The political method has not worked so well. In fact it's lurching toward something between abject and embarrassing failure.

And yet the game isn't quite over yet, because one team has barely begun to take the field. And that's the team you're on—the, uh, people. For 20 years we've left climate policy up to the kind of people now failing to solve things in Bangkok. We've had experts of every kind, but we haven't had—outside of, say, Norway—enough of a movement to be heard."

McKibben is coming to Spokane in April, and I interviewed him a year ago during his Step-it-Up tour across the nation. A good 60 minutes of radio interview, here in Spokane, Thin Air Radio -- Tipping Points. We'll try and have some of those climate change and urban planning interviews and others related to topics associated with peak oil, peak food, peak resources, available here on the PacifiCAD blog in the future.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Nod to Another Award, Not of the Nobel Kind

Announced this week, when Obama received his 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

The "alternative" Nobel Prizes for peace, creativity, global health.

We can embrace a different way of honoring humanity. These four are grand examples of people looking for solutions to heal the planet, the people, the ecosystems.

2009 Right Livelihood Awards: Wake-up calls to secure our common future-

The Right Livelihood Award Jury gave the following motivation for its choice of laureates: "Despite the scientific warnings about the imminent threat and disastrous impacts of climate change and despite our knowledge about solutions, the global response to this crisis is still painfully slow and largely inadequate. At the same time, the threat from nuclear weapons has by no means diminished, and the treatable diseases of poverty shame our common humanity."

"The 2009 Right Livelihood Award Recipients demonstrate concretely what has to be done in order to tackle climate change, rid the world of nuclear weapons, and provide crucial medical treatment to the poor and marginalized."

The 2009 Right Livelihood Awards go to four recipients:

David Suzuki (Honorary Award, Canada) "for his lifetime advocacy of the socially responsible use of science, and for his massive contribution to raising awareness about the perils of climate change and building public support for policies to address it."

René Ngongo (Democratic Republic of Congo) is honoured "for his courage in confronting the forces that are destroying the Congo's rainforests and building political support for their conservation and sustainable use."

Alyn Ware (New Zealand) is recognised "for his effective and creative advocacy and initiatives over two decades to further peace education and to rid the world of nuclear weapons." -

Catherine Hamlin (Ethiopia) is awarded "for her fifty years dedicated to treating obstetric fistula patients, thereby restoring the health, hope and dignity of thousands of Africa's poorest women."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Solar Design Competition Goes for Low Impact Homes






For three weeks in October 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy will host the Solar Decathlon in Washington DC. 20 teams of college and university students will compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house.

The three-week event kicked of with an opening ceremony that featured a speech from Energy Secretary Steven Chu, who announced an additional $87 million solar-targeted award for solar energy projects. Here’s a look at some of the impressive solar submissions and the opening day events.-

The Solar Decathlon is also an event to which the public is invited to observe the powerful

combination of solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in home design.
Read the highlights and breaking news on this event at Inhabitat’s web site –

Here's from their web site:








We’ve been bringing you breaking coverage of this week’s Solar Decathlon in Washington DC throughout the week and one of the most interesting homes to emerge from the competition is the North House, a super sleek, high-tech solar powered home designed to generate more energy than it consumes – an especially impressive feat granted that the home was designed for the extreme climate of Northern Canada. Currently in 4th place at the Decathlon, Team Ontario/BC is exhibiting an incredibly impressive showing. With two days left of the competition, they still have a good chance to eek out some more points in the categories of Engineering, Lighting and the biggie, Net Metering, which could still put them in the lead.

We’re excited to report that as of today Team California is in 1st place at the Solar Decathlon competition going on right now in Washington DC with their stunning Refract House! Just moments ago, they emerged victorious from the Communications portion of the scoring and as of yesterday they received an almost perfect score of 98 out of a 100 for Architecture and a 92 out of a 100 for Market Viability – combined with their other scores, this puts them in 1st place as of now. Close on their tails are Team Germany and Team Ontario/BC, and all the teams are anticipating the remaining scores which will be rolling in throughtout the rest of the week culminating in the score for Net Metering, which garners the hugest chunk of points. Stay with us on Inhabitat for news and updates on the winning teams. We can’t wait to see who the winner is on Friday!"

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How High Flying May Come Down to Slow and Low

Aviation – The Limited Sky.

By Paul K. Haeder

Sure, the counterpoints here in this episode are those who think biofuels that are “tweaked” (as in bio-engineering, as in modified, genetically) to become hydrocarbon-like long chains and thus look, act and burn like fossil fuels will help save our frequent flying madness, or as George Monbiot calls it, our love miles, versus those voices who see carbon offsets, slower air speeds, more efficient and straightforward air routes, and a real multi-modal transportation schema that includes high speed electric rail and air ships (those lighter ships that use 1/5 the amount of fuel, and thusly have a factor of ten reduction in harm to the environment, including lower CO2 emissions) as the solution to our limitations.

What’s interesting about the E-Squared series is that there are those who think technology and innovation of products and entrepreneurial thrust will come up with solutions to the very big issues tied to climate change and global warming. Others interview in these documentaries have a more holistic approach to solutions and the true nature of climate change and peak oil/energy. At times, it’s both interesting and a bit off-putting since the E-Squared series is backed by technology as the solution mentality.

Whether we have to cut 80 or 110 percent of our carbon emissions to avoid huge and rapid climate change reverberations in the next decade or two is really not part of the discussion for what seems to be an industry gone wild -- air travel. We just will not have enough oil-based energy for the future.

We have 95 percent of all trade and travel fueled by oil-based energy and products, and yet we see that aviation travel is the fastest growing sector of emissions. Expansion of airports and additional flights are two obvious fallouts of so-called growing economies. We’re looking at 25 percent expansion of air travel in Eastern Europe and China and India; in the USA and Europe, it’s 5 or 6 percent.

How big of a CO2 emissions producer is aviation? The figures vary from 4 to 9 percent, but in any case, the expansion of air travel around the world will fuel more CO2 emissions and will play a role in adding to the melting of the glaciers (maybe 35 years from now all glaciers in the Himalayas will be gone, and that will put 20 percent of the world’s population at risk for deepening water stress scenarios.

This episode discussed the 30 to 50 percent operating costs for airlines coming from hydrocarbon fuels, kerosene, essentially. Innovation in lightweight and strong material in the Boeing 787 Dreamliner just won’t cut the muster.
The reality is that there will not be enough oil in the future to run our transportation sectors as we know them. And, if we want to cut into global warming, one leg of the solution is that we have to find a lot of energy, clean energy, to fuel our economies and societies.

Right now, a seat on a jet to Boston is $187 one way. That price is artificially held low since the aviation industry has tons of exemptions in the taxes applied to fuel. Carbon offsetting might be one way to add to the cost of a ticket the real price of that combustion, that air travel.
As one of the E-Squared consultants said, it’s absurd that people in Europe fly to New York for a weekend shopping spree. And, there is no silver bullet to a biofuel that will or will not replicate the energy intensity gasoline has. We already have most of the arable land in rotation for food and livestock feed. The price the environment would pay for land used for biofuel is huge.

In the end, the ideology and thrust behind the so –called slow food movement might be applied to transportation – slow travel. Speeds have to be reduced. These air ships can provide some of the trans-Atlantic trips, with luxury overnight accommodations and just real cruise liner in the sky features, like outside deck where one can view the stars in the sky.

The point was emphasized at the end that our grandchildren may be wondering why we ever wanted to have the luxury of flying across the world in a day, considering all the environmental and social costs to that high-flying speed.

Can’t we start with higher prices for airline tickets that reflect the real cost to the environment? What about tugging planes from the terminal to the runway? And making straight lines in our air space and taking out some of the restricted air space limitations? Then this continuous descent approach that lowers fuel consumption? These three major features in air traffic and air space control and operations could offset a lot of fuel burning.

So, E-Squared looked at Amyris Technologies’ research into microbe tweaking to create a carbon based fuel, over the more traditional ethanol production, but in the end, we have to do much more with planning, with our values, with framing these issues of those who may never fly, even to see a loved one on his or her deathbed, and those who constantly fly around the country and world to talk about sustainability.

In the end, one gallon of jet fuel is so much more fuel intensive than ethanol. Maybe 75 to 80 percent more fuel energy intensive.
How do planners fit into airport planning? How can we have serious conversations about the global impacts of air travel? We’ve not even finished debating the noise, air quality and visual intrusion of airports and air travel, so when will the idea of the global impact of so much flying on us, nature and other countries with smaller economic choices be broached? -
We need truly innovative planning and distributive thinking in this camp of transportation. Who would rather get to Seattle from Spokane via train if there were many more trains departing and returning? And if the trains ended up in some cool multi-modal transportation hub? And if the trains actually went over 120 miles per hour?

E-Squared shows us the leaders in the areas discussed, but those leaders are behind the constant growth paradigm, the constant profit margin of old economic thinking. We need public-private-government-academic partnerships in designing our communities, our travel, our land, and our needs versus wants.

What is your take on air travel and the points brought up in this 25-minute E-Squared episode?

Nobel Prize for Economics Is a Nod to Tragedy of the Commons

By Paul K. Haeder

The term tragedy of the commons was coined by Garrett Hardin who hypothesized in 1968 that, as the size of the human population increased, there would be mounting pressures on resources at the local and global levels, leading to overexploitation and ruin. He postulated that the pressures on resources at both local and global levels would lead to overexploitation and ruin. Some in power, so called "commoners" (or users of common resources), would reap the full benefit of resource exploitation, and we see that externalities – the costs of doing building, industry, and farming in the form of pollution, extinction, displacement, and cultural death -- have been pushed on the masses in most areas of earth. Like, for example, what the cutting down of rainforests (40 percent of the earth’s oxygen comes from rainforests, which once covered 14 percent of the earth’s land but the total area is now 6 percent of earth's land) does to those who hold to the benefits and services rainforests provide. There really is no amount of money that can be placed on those goods and services nature give us. Well, maybe not:

SEE these sources and read the excerpt ---
[A landmark study released today reveals that approximately 60 percent of the ecosystem services that support life on Earth – such as fresh water, capture fisheries, air and water regulation, and the regulation of regional climate, natural hazards and pests – are being degraded or used unsustainably. Scientists warn that the harmful consequences of this degradation could grow significantly worse in the next 50 years.

“Any progress achieved in addressing the goals of poverty and hunger eradication, improved health, and environmental protection is unlikely to be sustained if most of the ecosystem services on which humanity relies continue to be degraded,” said the study, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report, conducted by 1,300 experts from 95 countries. It specifically states that the ongoing degradation of ecosystem services is a road block to the Millennium Development Goals agreed to by the world leaders at the United Nations in 2000.

Although evidence remains incomplete, there is enough for the experts to warn that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined is increasing the likelihood of potentially abrupt changes that will seriously affect human well-being. This includes the emergence of new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of “dead zones” along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.

The MA Synthesis Report highlights four main findings:

Humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively in the last 50 years than in any other period. This was done largely to meet rapidly growing demands for food, fresh water, timber, fiber and fuel. More land was converted to cropland in the 30 years after 1950 than in the 150 years between 1700 and 1850.[*] More than half of all the synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, first made in 1913, ever used on the planet has been used since 1985. Experts say that this resulted in a substantial and largely irreversible loss in diversity of life on Earth, with some 10 to 30 percent of the mammal, bird and amphibian species currently threatened with extinction.

Ecosystem changes that have contributed substantial net gains in human well-being and economic development have been achieved at growing costs in the form of degradation of other services. Only four ecosystem services have been enhanced in the last 50 years: increases in crop, livestock and aquaculture production, and increased carbon sequestration for global climate regulation. Two services – capture fisheries and fresh water – are now well beyond levels that can sustain current, much less future, demands. Experts say that these problems will substantially diminish the benefits for future generations.

The degradation of ecosystem services could grow significantly worse during the first half of this century and is a barrier to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals. In all the four plausible futures explored by the scientists, they project progress in eliminating hunger, but at far slower rates than needed to halve number of people suffering from hunger by 2015. Experts warn that changes in ecosystems such as deforestation influence the abundance of human pathogens such as malaria and cholera, as well as the risk of emergence of new diseases. Malaria, for example, accounts for 11 percent of the disease burden in Africa and had it been eliminated 35 years ago, the continent’s gross domestic product would have increased by $100 billion.

The challenge of reversing the degradation of ecosystems while meeting increasing demands can be met under some scenarios involving significant policy and institutional changes. However, these changes will be large and are not currently under way. The report mentions options that exist to conserve or enhance ecosystem services that reduce negative trade-offs or that will positively impact other services. Protection of natural forests, for example, not only conserves wildlife but also supplies fresh water and reduces carbon emissions. ]
JUMP BACK TO Post here --

So these exploiters incur only a small cost, while others would have to share the costs but receive none of the benefits. Examples of overexploitation are grazing, fishing, and logging, where grasslands, fish stocks, and trees have declined big time from overuse. That’s 42 years ago, and Hardin saw the writing on the wall -- suggesting that governmental intervention and laws might be become the major method of solving such overexploitation. More recently, the concept of the commons has been expanded to include air, water, the Internet, and medical care.

Okay, so we have Garret Hardin’s 1968 "The Tragedy of the Commons" published in Science 162:12–13. Find it on --

Now we have a Nobel Prize in economics given to Elinor Ostrom, who has been looking at the commons and the tragedy of mismanaged resources being stopped at another level – within the local jurisdictions rather than the federal level or international bodies working to help manage or reclaim resources, habitats, ecologies.

Ostrom, a professor of political science, was recognized for her work demonstrating how common property, such as forests, can be successfully managed by those who use the resources, rather than government officials. The award was a "great surprise ... I'm still a little bit in shock," Ostrom said by phone at the news conference announcing the prize. Ostrom told reporters later Monday that she was particularly proud to be the first woman to win the economics award. She said that when she decided to get her Ph.D. in the mid-1960s, she was warned no major university would even think about hiring a woman, and that she was grateful that Indiana University had bucked expectations to give her a job.

"I appreciate this is an honor to be the first woman, but I won't be the last," she said. The committee said Ostrom's research shows that local communities often manage common resources better on their own than when outside authorities impose rules.

"Bureaucrats sometimes do not have the correct information, while citizens and users of resources do," Ostrom said. Ostrom's award was perhaps more of a shock to economists because of her academic background in political science than because of her gender. Some economists said they had little or no knowledge about her work.

So, 31 years after human ecologist Garrett Hardin's essay, "The Tragedy of the Commons," asserted that ultimately, users of a common resource harvest collective ruin, Ostrom and three other scholars have re-examined the dilemma of common-pool resources (CPR) in Science magazine.

"In the end, building from the lessons of past successes will require forms of communication, information and trust that are broad and deep beyond precedent, but not beyond possibility," writes Indiana University's Ostrom.

"Revisiting the Commons: Local Lessons, Global Challenges" is the work of Ostrom, the Arthur F. Bentley Professor of political science, co-director of the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, and co-director of the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change at IUB. Her collaborators are Joanna Burger of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences Institute at Rutgers; Christopher Field of the Carnegie Institution; Richard Norgaard of the Energy and Resources Group, University of California, Berkeley; and David Policansky of the National Research Council.

Her look at contemporary environmental problems brings up "past successes" in order to try and understand the problems associated with CPR management. Deforestation, depletion of fishing grounds and degradation of air quality are realities, and environmental accomplishments seem few and far in between.

Ostrom and her co-authors see many CPR users coming together to forge solutions rather than waiting for governments or other institutions to impose regulations. The authors stress that one of the most important lessons learned from empirical studies of sustainable resources is that more solutions exist than those Hardin proposed.

"Hardin's work was originally understood to say that unless you have private ownership of resources or government control of them, environmental tragedy is inevitable," Ostrom explained. "That was an overstatement. There are situations where that does apply, but it is limited. It applies to situations where there is so much distrust, and communication is so costly, and people see so little benefit to solving environmental problems that they are, effectively, trapped."

We are in an age of population explosion and those feedback loops, or the huge negative effects from climate change and a new taste for more stuff and more consumption being sought after by emerging economies and more and more privileged individuals in G20 countries. China and India are looking for ecological (resource) footprints that come closer and closer to an American footprint.-
See ecological footprint data and take the quiz at So the Nobel Committee gave this little-known economist the Prize for economics for her work in trying to understand how different societies and groups have managed a common pool of resources allows us to apply successful methods in managing these resources.

She’s the first woman to have received a Nobel Prize in economics.

The commons -- as our community, county, state, regional and national lands and those resources on them are called – have everything to do with sustainability, climate change, resource planning, and the field of planning in general. Laws, zoning regulations, the value of land as open space, carbon sink, agricultural benefit, and the attending issues of sprawl, density, smart growth, new urbanism, no growth, all of these, tie into Ostrom’s and Hardin’s work.

She might have shaken the world of economists with her win; however, maybe her work on the commons is already being overtaken by the facts that coral reefs are dying, the oceans are becoming acidified, island are being inundated with sea water rise, coasts are crumbling, icecaps are melting.
These are commons, or a common ecosystem’s systems breakdown that need to be attended to by international agreements. Overharvesting of fish has to be stopped, and regulated. Her work might be yet another aside, aberration, maybe something that is radical for economists to consider, but in sustainability, we have superseded the economist’s sway over us – society – and ecosystems and the other needs of a world made up of human species and millions of other species.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

PacifiCAD, Authodesk, EWU Campuses Team Up for Exploration of Sustainability

By Paul K. Haeder, sustainability blogger, PacifiCAD

ASP (Association of Student Planners) is presenting the e2 film series by PBS in Cheney (as well as Riverpoint). This series will take place every Tuesday in Kingston Hall room 328 at Noon. Starts Oct. 13 in Cheney. The second one commences Oct. 13 at Riverpoint.

It will feature a 25-30 minute film followed by a discussion.
The Riverpoint location is SAC room 147.

The film titles are:
Title ------------------------Subject
The Green Apple ------------------------Design
Aviation: The Limited Sky --------Transportation
The Green Machine -----------------------Design
Coal & Nuclear: Problem or Solution------Energy
Affordable Green Housing ---------------Design
Portland: A Sense of Place --------Transportation
Architecture 2030------------------------ Design
State of Resolve---------------------------- Energy
The Art & Science of Renzo Piano--------Design
Ahh, the first video, The Green Apple, elicited some interesting conversations by faculty, students and I after the screening. Conceptually, the idea of urban spaces like NYC having smarter and more intelligent ways to build has incredible potential to save energy and to make workplaces more inventive and livable. The statistics are startling -- 40 percent or more of all energy consumption in this country is linked to buildings: where we work, recreate, live and shop. Up to 80 percent of all eletricity generated in the USA goes to buildings.

The message of density in a place like New York City strikes a nerve in the planners' history of cities when we think of all the great stuff Jane Jacobs said about dense metropolitan areas, both as a city made up of a community of buildings, transportation, public places, homes, and government buildings AND as a place of social community, people. Cities like NYC that were largely built before the 20th Century are tied to walking, and those mega-cities or large ones like Atlanta and Los Angeles are car- centric because of they came of age during the car generation. Two hours a day in a car to migrate from home to office to home to shopping and schools and recreation? Not a pretty formula for community building, consciousness raising, and developing easy ways to communicate and frame issues with fellow people.
What the film showed were several large skyscraper projects and some public housing. Solair in Battery Park City is based on green building.

4 Times Square incorporates recycling of waste, materials redesign, and other forms of green building tweaks and twists to make it more efficient. The Bank of America building (and, yes, there were questions as to the BoA's current behavior in the gutting of the US and world economies) incorporates a footprint of two acres next to 4 Times Square, and with stormwater capturing and water evaporation capture from AC systems and low flush toilets using the captured and stored water, 50 percent less potable water will be used to run the building. The water department of New York City will be giving the building a 25 percent reduction for water pumped into the building because of the huge benefits of capturing the stormwater and other water waste.

The idea of energy and building efficiency was brought up in the documentary, as well as making people more efficient and more willing to take ownership in work by living and working in an amiable and clean, environment. -
-Green roof technology on Solaire, and landscape design that incorporates heliostats -- mirrors that reflect sunlight into the park because the park is sandwiched between high rises.

What the audience discussed varied from critical analysis of technology alone not being enough to make the green building change effective. Concerns about scaling this sort of building to the neighborhood level were also broached, as well as questioning whether the technology shown in the documentary could be incorporated in retrofits.

Are these buildings showcased just abberations, huge projects with innovative architects and designers and engineers that are only benefiting a small rarified grouup? Bank of America can go green, but what about Flint, Michigan, or Joe and Jane Citizen?

What the innovators in the film did point out was that the USA has 4.6 percent of the world's population, but uses more than 25 percent of the world's resources. And 80 million gallons of oil a day to run our society is also telling. Add to that the fact that Japan and Europe look at buildings over a 50 year life period, whereas in the USA it's 12 months and adios.
  • Is the axiom, redesign the design process, faulty, or jingoism?

  • Is the new poetry of buildings in their DNA, the materials?

  • Using blast furnace slag ash to redseign concrete that saves tons of CO2, in the case of the Bank of America building, 56,250 tons reduced, can this be the new operating material for future buildings everywhere?

We have the Cascadia Green Building Institute looking at biomimicry and the Bioneers ethos as innovative ways to tackle these building problems, but what about the suburbs, the single family homes, and apartments?

"In the course of history, there comes a time when humanity is called to shift to a new level of consciousness, to reach a higher moral ground. A time when we have to shed our fear and give hope to each other. That time is now."

- --Wangari Maathai, Green Belt Movement Founder and 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Winner


Thanks, Paul

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