Now one thing we have covered here on the The Tattler (Sierra Madre's #1 News Resource, as noted in this week's Sierra Madre Weekly), have had a few conversations about "greenwash." The phenomenon know as Greenwash is where the language of the environmental movement has been co-opted by some of the worst polluters imaginable, and then used to promote products responsible for the very sins this language was crafted to resist. Car companies now promote their products as green, and oil companies like to promote themselves as being the saviors of all of God's little creatures. My favorite example locally is when Southern California Edison sends a gentleman to our City Council meetings to chat about environmentally sensitive topics like solar panels and turning your lights off when you go to bed. Yet big power producing companies such as Edison are amongst the worst offenders when it comes to the production of greenhouse gases. All those coal fired electricity plants out in the desert ain't exactly begonias.
And, of course, our friends in the big development profession are no slouches when it comes to this sort of thing, either. After all, isn't the very heart of SB 375 the notion that the true ultimate in ways of saving the world is through the initiation of a massive new wave of condominium construction? Now in a realistic and scientifically reasoned sort of way, this is nonsense. A massive new statewide building spree would only exacerbate the problem as densely packed settlements are also large producers of greenhouse gas. And then you need to also consider all the extra electricity that would have to be produced to power the miles and miles of newly stacked "mixed use transportation friendly" boxes SB 375 calls for. And then there is the water question.
In a great piece on the New Geography site, Rick Harrison, in an article that not coincidentally has the same title as the one I am typing, weighs in on greenwash. And the term that he roasts to a delicious golden brown is "sustainability." It is a wonderful little piece, made more so by the fact that Rick actually built his career on writing and advocating that very thing, sustainability. And he is not happy about what they have done to his song.
Land planning today has become like a religion that requires unwavering devotion. But those who embrace only one approach as the ultimate mega-metropolis design to solve all social ills are fools: There is no singular solution for land development. Not the New Urbanism, not Smart Growth,not Prefurbia. Good planning is not about pointing fingers. It is easy to blame the automobile, blame developers, and blame government. But it is yp to those people responsible for growth - stakeholders such as the developer, builders, city staff and council- to determine the best possible path that will result in a legacy for future generations instead of a blighted project that served to fill the bank account of the developer.
All this brings us back to the term "sustainability." The dictionary defines it as "Capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment." Here is the problem: The dictionary does not include the long term affect on economics (affordability) and living standards. Did we create something great for the ducks, but an eventual blighted neighborhood, or a gentrified one exclusively for the wealthy?
The good thing here is that planning in Sierra Madre has already created the very walkable, bike-able, livable, and sustainable community that so many of the utopians in the SB 375 claque keep yammering about. The low density easy urban design of our organic little town already has many of the advantages and amenities that others can only dream of bringing to their communities. All we need to do know is the stop these folks and their low watt hirelings from destroying it.
But, of course, that really isn't the point for the big developers. The whole"green" thing is just a marketing tool designed to wedge their products into desirable communities like Sierra Madre. And that those who are truly concerned about such things as maintaining environmentally blessed towns such as ours are just a nuisance that needs to be marginalized and pushed aside so they can get their work done.
The only green the greenwashing corporate concerns and their employees really care about is the kind that can be made from turning cities like into something we would rather not see. And they will do or say anything to get it.