Global Warming Cooling?

Back when the media was more obsessed with the state of global warming than the state of global lending, the environmental movement appeared completely ascendant. But with economic concerns in both Europe and North America on rise, their premier issue of global warming seems to be losing some of its political cache.

A good account of what’s happening both in Canada and Europe can be found in the green blog, Breakthrough. There’s even some advanced thinking here about the need to make something like a “carbon tax” a spur to economic growth. On target for the most part, Greens seem to have a problem thinking about the economy. Like John McCain, it’s not their strong point.

These shifts in popular concerns, as well as the real estate downturn, create an odd atmosphere for the kind of restrictive legislation discussed in Wendell Cox’s timely article. Still there remains a great temptation – justified or not by the facts – to use global warming as a means of imposing the perennial anti-suburban agenda of some planners, large urban developers, smart growth advocates and urbanists.

Perhaps it is a good strategy for density advocates to push their case now when it all seems so theoretical and builders are still walking around in shock. It may take years to absorb vacant condo towers as well as newly foreclosed single family houses. Only when the economy turns around will the conflict over what actually is greenest – as well as most market friendly – intensify again.

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Greener than Thou

Environmentalism has historicaly been a little too high up on the hierarchy of needs for most people. That is still the case today; personal and economic safety has to come first. But there is an opportunity to integrate all these needs together.

It isn't very "green" to squander massive resources on a downtown parking/condo tower, when the tower will sit empty for a long time. New Urbanist claims that these towers are "green" ring hollow. Rather, they represent wasted resources to most of us, except perhaps for the developer who took the first draw from his bank to finance it.

Neither suburbs nor density clusters are inherently "green" or "brown". While the financial sector is retooling itself, however, we can make small steps now to upgrade our cities, both urban and suburban, by making our buildings energy producers, food producers, and clean resource producers, rather than consumers.

Both the single family lot and the downtown tower have ways to do this today. Effort towards "greening" our cities can result in good jobs, improving our economic security and hope for the future.

Richard Reep
Poolside Studios
Winter Park, FL