The term “sustainable” relates to a concept called the "Triple Bottom Line” (TBL): People, Planet, and Profit (the three P’s), endorsed by the United Nations in 2007 for urban and community accounting.
American suburban land planning is about the SBL (Single Bottom Line): Profit. In city after city, mindless cookie cutter subdivisions, with characterless architecture, serve cars more than people. This dysfunction is caused by the boiler-plate regulations; engineers adhere to the minimum dimensions mandated by city ordinances to gain density, which maximizes developer’s profits. read more »
Nothing is perhaps more pathetic than the exertions of economic developers and politicians grasping at straws, particularly during hard times. Over the past decade, we have turned from one panacea to another, from the onset of the information age to the creative class to the boom in biotech, nanotech and now the "green economy." read more »
There's been a torrent of spirited banter lately about the reemergence of downtown central-cities. Much of this raucous debate is between advocates of urban revitalization, who offer an assortment of anti-sprawl messages as justification for this movement, and those who see suburban growth options as essential to quality of life in America. Adding to the fray are environmentalists who see housing density and alternative forms of transportation as the panacea for confronting our carbon-choked world. read more »
My father owned and operated a junkyard in Tucson for a number of years, and I learned a lot about the auto recycling industry helping around the office and as a delivery driver. So as a junkyard enthusiast, the “Cash For Clunkers” program naturally caught my interest lately. Though it looks to be the product of good intentions, I don’t think the legislation understands that junkyards already comprise an efficient, well developed recycling system for salvaging vehicles, with a beneficial result for the environment overall. read more »
I went to Hollywood one night last week to watch my favorite film of all time, Koyaanisqatsi (released in 1983). It was being shown on a big screen at the Hollywood Bowl, accompanied by orchestra playing the original score, conducted by its composer, Philip Glass. Oh, I didn't go to the Bowl; I watched it at my daughter's apartment about half a mile away (hi def DVD and digital sound system turned way up, thank you). read more »
As the American economy slowly heals, the Obama administration will no doubt claim some credit for its $787 billion stimulus — and perhaps even suggest doubling down for a second stage. Republicans, for their part, will place their emphasis on the “slow” part of the equation and persistent high unemployment, blaming the very same stimulus program.
Whatever the politics, no new stimulus should be considered unless it deals with the fundamental illness undermining the country’s long-term economic prospects. Such a stimulus would address the country’s essential problem: persistent overconsumption amid underproduction. read more »
The phrase, “Think Globally, Act Locally” has often been used by environmentalists to sum up a strategy devoted to conserving the earth's scarce natural resources at the local level. More recently, business executives borrowed the idea to emphasize the need for building capabilities at the country or regional level even as they pursue global growth. But now the Millennial Generation, Americans born between 1982 and 2003, are giving the phrase an entirely new meaning as they pursue their efforts to change the world – one local community at a time. read more »
American metropolitan areas have been the subject of considerable derision. Often characterized as inferior to those of Australia, Canada, Europe and even of Japan by planners and politicians who travel abroad, there has long been a desire to reshape American cities along the lines of foreign models. Yet, despite this, American metropolitan areas generally provide a standard of living to their residents unmatched anywhere in the world. This is based upon the latest comparative economic data for the world’s most affluent metropolitan areas. read more »
Yesterday a group of environmental advocacy groups, foundations and other organizations released a report, Moving Cooler, amid much fanfare, seeking to have us believe that it is a serious study of GHG reduction options in the transportation sector. It is immensely disappointing. The world could use a dispassionate, objective and broad-based assessment of petroleum reduction options as well as their positive and negative consequences. This is not it. read more »
From a distance, a crisis often takes on ideological colorings. This is true in California, where the ongoing fiscal meltdown has devolved into a struggle between anti-tax conservatives and free-spending green leftist liberals.
Yet more nuances surface when you approach a crisis from the context of a specific place. Over the past two years my North Dakota-based consulting partner, Delore Zimmerman, and I have been working in Salinas, a farm community of 150,000, 10 miles inland from the Monterey coast and an hour's drive south of San Jose. read more »