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...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely, absolutely right. You've expressed this issue so well. Thanks. I drive a "gas guzzler" van because that's what I need to transport me and my power scooter. My offset is that I only drive 60 or 80 miles a month. And in our house, we use 100% wind-generated electricity--and we're stingy with even that. As our parents taught us. Good post, Cary.

4:00 PM, March 03, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cary - I tried the Name/ URL without the URL (which it SAID was optional) and it wouldn't take it, so - This is
Diane (TT)
which you might be able to guess, due to both content and (I devoutly trust) inimitable style

I completely agree with you, Cary. This is a cause that we ALL need to be on board with - and burning down peoples' homes (or dream homes) doesn't make people say, "ooh, golly, I should've thought about how big my house was. Mea culpa! I shall sell all of my things and live in a yurt, at one with the land!".

No. They say, "terrorists", "extremists" and all ecologically-sensitive people get tarred with the same brush.

We have to live with everyone, even people who like a lot of stuff! And big houses! And maybe even Hummers (although I'm less sure about that). So - teaching, and graphic representations of the cost of various activities are wholly justifiable (if everyone lived like the average American, we would need about 6 earths). But sabotage and violence only harden and justify the ignorant.

After all, they're not terrorists. They're now victims.

Yes, absolutely, we need to think more about how houses are built and sited and how too much space enables too much stuff and vice versa. But tactics such as these do not draw attention to the impoverishment of the future by today's extravagance - they disgust civilized people.

Yes, the world is in big trouble and urgent action is needed. But the action must be voluntarily engaged in by the consensus of the people, or it won't work - people will cheat and (by the nature of things) probably worse damage will occur.

So the Earth Liberation Front (if it was they) just set back the Earth's own cause - again. To all of our loss.

4:04 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger McB said...

Excellent post, Cary. And so true. Anytime a valid and serious issue is taken to such an extreme, it casts a shadow. When these groups go around the bend in such a way, the entire cause is tarnished. Why can't they see that? Why can't they see that their actions only serve to alienate people?

4:43 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger orangehands said...

totally agree with what's been said, in the post and comments. like burning something down is going to help the cause or the environment.

also, because i am just made this way, in the back of my head i'm going, "really, the best thing they could find to target are some big homes?"

completely besides the point, i know, but...seriously?

6:08 PM, March 03, 2008  
Blogger Merry said...

Yes! I get mad at these people because they're so ineffectual. All they're doing is turning people against environmental causes. If you're going to be a radical, be an effective one.
If they went the Gandhi/MLK route, they could still make a stand, try to change the world, and incidentally annoy a lot of people, but they would also influence a lot of people in favor of their aims.
And I will stop now before I completely turn this into a novel filled with run-on sentences.

Kind of like the word verification people. Last word I got, I had no idea what the letters were so I had to try again. Argh.

7:08 AM, March 04, 2008  

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