Friday Food for Thought

This week the local media picked up on a story I’ve been writing about for the past year (March 2007 and May 2007) and others have been writing about much longer. Global Warming and development.

Both local papers rolled out coverage of Will Travis’ speech to the Rotary Club (read the Alameda Sun’s coverage, the Alameda Journal is late in updating it’s website so there’s no link to their article). Travis is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC). Which is notable because BCDC, is a state agency not an advocacy organization.

In the speech, Travis said:

“The next time there’s a public hearing about a housing development, rather than complaining about traffic or views you should be testifying that it’s not big enough.”

This was said to back up his point that increasing wetlands restoration and decreasing the areas sprawl are the two biggest things that the Bay Area can do to reduce its impact on climate change. With all the discussions in town about development, this continues to be an issue that is overlooked with regards to “what we can do.”

Any discussion of “green development” that doesn’t include a discussion about sprawl and its prevention, is focusing on the edges without looking at what actually makes a development “green.” Kudos to Mr. Travis for his willingness to speak directly to this important issue.

12 comments for “Friday Food for Thought

  1. March 29, 2008 at 8:08 am

    In regards to “what we can do”…. it’s really quite simple. If people are truly concerned, they can become vegetarians. Vegetarians require 1/8 the resources (inputs) of meat consumers. Also, meat production and its methane outputs are a huge contributor to global warming (if you subscribe to such a thing.)

    The development argument is tiny/marginal compared to what people can do w/ their own decisions and practices.

  2. March 30, 2008 at 7:08 am

    From the Slate:

    …[D]irect carbon dioxide emissions are only part of the story when it comes to food’s eco-impact. You also have to look at the issue of land use—specifically how much and what sort of land is required to sustain an agricultural enterprise…

    …[A] recent Cornell University study concluded that modest carnivorousness may actually be better for the environment than outright vegetarianism, since cattle can graze on inferior land not suitable for crops. Squeezing more calories out of the land means that less food needs be imported from elsewhere, thereby reducing the burning of fossil fuels… emphasis added

  3. March 30, 2008 at 8:56 am

    Lauren…. I know you hate to give up the bacon…. but if you and JKW are going to use Global Warming in your arguments for how we develop in Alameda… you might want to read the entire article that you cite here.

    The caveats in that study are pretty enormous, especially the first one. It’s real easy to googlefish for shreds that support your thesis,,, but if you look honestly at the big picture… have you really convinced yourself that how you eat doesn’t make a difference to the environment, much less your health?

    It’s really a matter of simple math when you take into account the fuel and water it takes to farm those extra grains. Agricultural commodities are taking off mostly due to fundamentals, ie billions of asians like the taste of meat now too. This will make our environmental crisis even worse (and I’m not even talking about GW… I’m much more concerned about fresh water.)

  4. March 31, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    It can be hard for some people to give up their bacon or patronizing the local Everett and Jones, but as a vegetarian I couldn’t agree more with Jack B. And I’m not even talking about the cruelty factor yet … let’s save that for another rainy day! :)

    Thanks to the miracle of google, we can all come up with various shreds of evidence to support our pet theories … so here’s one that cites a UN and Univ of Chicago study:

  5. March 31, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Jack, I actually did read the entire article and it happened to reference the University of Chicago study mentioned above. The portion I excerpted from the Slate article was dicussed by one of the U of Chicago researchers. The caveats are reasonable ones, that we should probably strive for anyway. Less meat eating would probably do the majority of Americans a world of good considering that one of the last stats I had heard was that about 50% of Americans are overweight. Not trucking our foods cross country would also help carbon emissions as well, plus would probably be a lot tastier.

    When we talk about the issue of global warming and climate change, there is not a “silver bullet” that will solve all the problems. Simply turning the world vegetarian isn’t going to do it. As is just changing out all one’s lightbulbs to compact fluorescents isn’t going to do it either.

    Certainly developing an area compactly, smartly, or whatever term you want to throw around isn’t going to solve global warming either, but offering people a choice to live more sustainably is better than continuing to build around a car-centric culture.

    It’s much easier to get people to change their behavior when offered a choice that doesn’t cramp their lifestyle rather than telling them that they must become a vegetarian because all the cows and pigs farting in the world are the only cause of global warming.

  6. March 31, 2008 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Alameda. Where ya been? We veg-heads feel so alone in Alameda!

    Lauren, I’m not telling anyone what they SHOULD do. It’s a matter of what they COULD do. People are responsible for their own behavior. I wouldn’t presume to change them.

    Your comment about no silver bullet is a good one. But if you do that math, I think you would find that more people going veggie is the closest thing we have to a silver bullet, although I don’t expect it to happen. We’ll waste our time on meaningless efforts. Look at what a sham biofuels turned out to be!! I was fooled too.

    If oil was priced in real terms (we currently don’t price in all the tax $$$’s that go to oil security, ie Iraq war, for example)… I think people WOULD make better choices. And we would see better energy innovations all around. But as it is, nothing can compete with the packin’ punch of oil. This is much the fault of our federal gov’t… don’t want to get started on that right now…..

    Please don’t get me wrong… I would rather see compact development also… in the end we might be hoping for the same thing. My point to this thread is that the GW argument for how we develop Alameda Point is such a cheap and unnecessary prop. You folks have plenty of better arguments to use instead, some I agree w/ and some I don’t.

    And as far as car-centric goes…. I’m still astounded by what seems to be the following: the same people who are anti car-centric development are/were very supportive of the new cineplex/parking garage. Why is that? I still scratch my head in puzzlement.

  7. April 1, 2008 at 6:44 am

    I think what is important is that when we talk about things like the Alameda Theater/Cineplex and the Parking Garage that they are divided into two separate issues. One can be supportive of one without being supportive of the other. I don’t mean to speak for JKW, but I’m almost positive he never rah rah rahed the Parking Garage, but was supportive of the Theater/Cineplex portion. That or he was apathetic to them both.

    I was supportive of the Theater/Cineplex portion, and apathetic to the Parking Garage. If it came, great, if it didn’t great. It wouldn’t affect me either way. My personal driving habits when I go into a shopping area is to go directly to a parking garage so I don’t have to circle for parking, but either way would have been cool with me.

    Anyway, the need for less car centric developments is not about being anti-car, but about giving people a choice to not have to use their cars. GW is not a prop, but I think one of many valid arguments in favor considering that all signs have pointed to carbon emissions from cars (at least in the Bay Area) are the largest contributor to GW.

  8. April 1, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Lauren, keeping them seperate was NOT an option. It was a package deal, plain and simple.

    An apathetic view was a supportive view, in my view. Alameda is stuck w/ that structure (and paying for it) until the end of time.

  9. April 2, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Well, if not being against it means that you are for it then considering that CMFA and friends were numbering, generously, in the 100s? 200s? Then the silent majority has spoken by apparently not needing to speak.

  10. April 2, 2008 at 5:34 pm

    Impressive argument. I think you made a similar pt in a local newspaper to the effect: just because some people are going through the trouble to make themselves heard, we should ignore them because there must be a silent majority out there watching on tv.

    Were you there? 100′s showed. I don’t go room-to-room. I think it’s safe to say they were representative of more people who did not go to the CC meetings. For example, my wife stayed home. After all, there wasn’t any more space!

    Your silent majority is standing by… not speaking… while taxpayers are backstopping banker bailouts.

  11. April 3, 2008 at 6:06 am

    It’s certainly as compelling as your argument of, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

    The silent majority are tax payers, a large portion of them also vote. Just because they choose to devote their leisure and downtime to something other than being civically engaged doesn’t mean that our city leaders shouldn’t attempt to figure out what they want and instead just listen to whoever shouts the loudest. But just because they don’t come out to shout and shout loudly doesn’t mean that they don’t care about the direction the City is going in.

    If folks were upset about the Theater and Parking Garage, they had an opportunity two years ago to punish those that voted and supported the project, both Beverely Johnson and Frank Matarrese, who I believe were seen as the biggest boosters of the project, were up for re-election. This year, voters have yet another opportunity, we’ll see which way the wind blows come November.

  12. April 3, 2008 at 6:42 am

    >>> It’s certainly as compelling as your argument of, “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”

    I will agree w/ you on that. My bad.

    However,,,, I’m still disappointed that our most avid non-car-centric activist(s) chose to be apathetic on the parking garage, which is the ultimate monument to car-centric development.

    And I don’t agree about the election results being tied to that project. I think the monkeywrench for the slate was Pat Bail.

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