Saturday, February 02, 2008

How People Trying to Improve Things Can Make Them Worse

In the world of people attempting work to make human society more
sustainable there are two very large generally unexamined problems:

1. Making small counterproductive “improvements” without understanding the whole system – thus failing to understand the dynamics of longer range failure.

2. Failing to address the built infrastructure of city, town and village as the foundation for arrangement of many technologies, including such crucial ones as energy,transportation and food production – all severely impacted by sprawl cities.


New Orleans people helping put people back in dangers’ way by helping rebuild in car-dependent, low-density housing below sea level surrounded by 350 miles of levees.

Alternative: Build a pedestrian streetcar city of compact diversity on artificial mounds. Such development elevated above the floods is easily accomplished physically for neighborhoods or whole cities designed around pedestrians, bicycles and streetcars but impossible in the case of car-dependent sprawl because of the massive amount of land and fill that would be required. Such elevated development on artificial mounds is done in may parts of the world, including in New Orleans at New Orleans University.

Creek fans in Berkeley preventing the opening of creeks into the foreseeable future by refusing to consider land use shifting strategies fearing any kind of serious change, even through willing seller deals, that could remove some development along creeks.

Alt.: Ecocity mapping and transfer of development rights (TDR) strategies or simply spending City money for density shifting to help transit, housing needs and open space. Such strategies are pursued in South Lake Tahoe with a TDR strategy and at Portland’s Johnson Creek with a simple city funded willing seller deal purchase strategy.

Environmentalists driving Priuses so they can continue low density living and driving.

Alt.: Weaning from cars through using transit, bicycling, moving to centers, and supporting zoning and politics for shifting cities to centers oriented development. Happens all the time with people quitting or going lite on car dependence.

Solar on houses promoting low-density living and continued paving, car use and thus more energy use.

Alt.: Solar to apartments and condos from central generating plants and the grid. Solar on buildings not close to urban or rural centers should not be encouraged as the practice encourages NOT changing the disastrous urban structure that presently exists. Solar energy utilizing power plants or “solar electric farms” in sunny locations and “wind farms” exist and should be promoted.