Monday, March 03, 2008

Off Topic

Okay, so there is a news story out there today that just maddens me.

Basically, the Earth Liberation Front is suspected in the firebombing of Seattle's Street of Dreams. The Street of Dreams was apparently advertised as being more "green", or environmentally-friendly, than in past years. They used recycled materials, reduced run-off by creating permeable hardscapes, etc. The ELF saboteurs apparently felt that the community as a whole wasn't green enough, because of its placement outside the urban area. (More resources required to bring materials and services to the site, destruction of "wild" areas, etc.)

To me, the (alleged) ELF terrorism cuts to the heart of why so many get turned off by the environmental movement: the refusal to see the world as anything but black and white.

Now, personally, I think a 4,000 square foot home is overkill, unless you're planning to take in indigent widows and orphans. I agree with the idea that most homes have become storage lockers, necessary to our everyday pursuit of more and better stuff. (How many of us actually use our garages for parking cars anymore? The junk drawer has grown to become the junk room - where used-up furniture and broken electronics go to gather dust.)

But what if you entertain frequently, for business and personal reasons? You'd need a bigger kitchen to accomodate the food prep, regardless of whether you cook or leave it to professionals. You'd also need extra bedrooms to accomodate the overnighters, or just guests who've had one to many.

And what if you need room for the elderly parents when they can't live on their own anymore? If they, or you, aren't comfortable with institutional care, you'd want them at home. And you'd probably want to give them their own space so they can feel somewhat independent. If they're in worse shape, you might even need room for a caregiver or nursing aide.

These are perfectly reasonable reasons for needing a larger home. And they're just the ones I thought of in the space of five minutes. I'm sure there are more.

So you can't just make a blanket statement that big houses are bad. Especially when you consider possible offsets.

(Now, what do I mean by offset? Well, I don't live near where I work. But, I do what I can to reduce the impact of all that mileage. I bought a smaller, more fuel-efficient car classified as a low emissions vehicle. When I need to make short errand runs near the office, I check out the public transit options. And I "lump" my trips together - picking up groceries and odds and ends on my way to or from the office. These are offsets.)

The Street of Dreams builders made offsets. They knew that larger homes would equal greater run-off (from water impermeable surfaces like roofs and driveways), so they landscaped (and hardscaped) the property to create better "natural" drainage. They used more efficient heating and cooling systems and Energy Star appliances.

The builders might even have used more earth-friendly design features like wood flooring and cabinets built from certified sustainable harvested woods, marmoleum floors, or PaperStone countertops.

Where do these radical "environmentalists" account for these offsets in their black and white view of the world?

What about the homes' future owners? What about the big software executive who telecommutes, cutting down on his car trips? The owner who hosts parties and shuttles or carpools his guests in from the city? The owner who composts, and has their own organic "kitchen garden"?

Who decides how many offsets we have to have before we can call ourselves green?

Will I be exposed as an earth-killer because I don't live near where I work? Will someone paint "warmonger" on the side of my neighbor's gas-guzzling work van?

The only way to save this Earth for future generations is to work together. To listen to one another and find compromises we can all live with. If I'm too scared of being attacked for my practices, I can't share my point of view. And if I'm not sharing, we can't find a solution.

It is time to take back our cause from the extreme. Lets all promise to listen, and consider, and work together. We can all start with just one thing...