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Thread: And so this is Earth Day

  1. #1
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    And so this is Earth Day

    It was said that a squirrel could cross Ohio from tree to tree without ever touching the ground. Later all the trees were uprooted for cropland coal mines and quarries. These days the fields are being converted into subdivisions and the scars into landfills. The settler's offspring still see nature as something to be conquered and exploited. Developers will build wherever they can and defy the EPA and Corps of Engineers in the process, spreading the population thinner and the concrete thicker.
    No one seems to take global warming seriously. With the record high temps last week folks switched on the AC for the year. The coal fired plant that provides the power is literally buying out an entire town because the acid clouds it spews were blistering the resident's faces. And they're no longer going to be held accountable for the acid rain in New York's lakes and New England's forests. Meanwhile the entire east coast sprawl is facing drought conditions and on it goes.

    Any environmental planning going on in your neck of the woods?

  2. #2
    maudit anglais
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    Re: And so this is Earth Day

    rustbelt wrote:
    With the record high temps last week folks switched on the AC for the year.
    And then it went and #$%&ing snowed today!!!

    There is a lot of environmental planning done here, but a lot of times it seems that people only hear the message they want to hear - for example the co-worker I once had who used to scream blue murder if someone threw a piece of paper out but who had absolutely no regrets about driving her SUV for even the shortest trip...

    People seem to have no problem protecting the environment, as long as it doesn't inconvenience them. I'm by no means a saint, but I do try to consider my impacts (especially when it comes to travel).

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    Tranplanner,
    Several years ago I was an intern at a County Planning agency where the Director brought in the newly released master plan for Toronto as if he'd just found the Dead Sea Scrolls. We hadn't seen such a comprehensive, wholistic and thoughtful public document for a North American city before. This before terms like sustainable development became popular. I don't know how it works in implementation but the scope of the effort was impressive to me.

  4. #4
    maudit anglais
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    The thought is definitely there, especially in the older City. We are on the leading edge of a lot of environmental practices...but implementation is a mixed bag. There is just no money for new (and expensive) projects, and a lot of the (former) suburban politicians aren't as keen as the downtowners on environmental issues.

    Overall, policy-wise I think we are at the forefront of the effort to include environmental aspects in all areas of City business.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Yeah, that's what we need... environmental planning. No, wait, make that "Environmental Planning."

    We can have suitability analysis, to help us understand which natural features NOT to build on... but then the suburban greenfield developers subvert this process for their own means. They end up using suitability analysis to justify their development... to figure out how to build AROUND the green and natural things that people love (or more to the point, use those green and natural things so that property values can increase). So, the suburban fringes continue to sprawl ("cluster developments around a 'nature preserve'"), and until we change our consumptive behaviors, none of this will matter because we're so enamored with having "choices" in our housing market that no matter what, single-family housing units will dominate the market.

    Show me a planner who values "choice" and I'll show you a professional who supports sprawl.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    thems fighting words:


    "show me a planner who values 'choice' and I'll show you a professional who supports sprawl"


    Just think about the converse of that statement...and you should be ashamed of yourself.

    And I know you are trying to make a point Beaner but to suggest that choice be eliminated from the local planning and development equation shows why local planners are perceived as being way out of touch.

    It is possible to balence the scientifically justified, reasonable interests of the environment with quality, diverse development.

    But you go ahead and start recommending against choice on the local level, that will really represent the interests of the community.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I commemorated...

    ...by driving my 12 MPG sport ute 19 miles to work each way. That was only becasue I returned the trusty '71 Ford 250 (no catalytic converter on that beast!) to the care of my brother in law yesterday... We gave it an oil change and poured the waste oil on the weeds coming through the cracks in the driveway. That should keep 'em down for a few weeks. I also got rid of that pesky stray cat with a tasty bowl of antifreeze. We had to destroy the evidence, so we tossed the carcass in the storm sewer inlet along with out grass clippings and the rest of the waste oil.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    El Guapo, you are CLASSIC. Rack that!

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    gkmo62u wrote:
    And I know you are trying to make a point...
    Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing. Planners would do well to recognize that by promoting "choice" they are actually promoting greenfield development. When planners say they "support" "choice" I hope they realize that such a simple statement is not really that simple. I'm sure most of you understand that... but on this day, "Earth Day," I just wanted to keep everything in perspective. We can talk all we want about how great "environmental planning" is for community planning efforts, but when it comes down to it, these places that are "green" and "good for the environment" are really for the affluent and shut out those who are truly in need of decent, livable housing. In my mind, it's about tade-offs: Do you support the planning of places for a diverse range of people or do you plan for the "environment"? I plan for people, so an occasion called "Earth Day" is inconsequential to me.

    And yes, I do believe in "choice." But I tend to think of it differently: I want "choice" for a diverse range of people, not for some mono-crop of human consumers who want that house for tax deduction and investment purposes. And to me, that's what greenfield development is all about. There are plenty of great places that remain habitable, but require policies that support redevelopment. It's easy to allow "choice" in the suburban places, but what planner has the determination to fight for policies that redevlop blighted urban centers? There's plenty of space in those old places, so forgive me on this "Earth Day" as I struggle to offer an alternative to the status quo.

    gkmo62u also wrote:
    ...and you should be ashamed of yourself.
    Why should I be? As planners, how many of us really think about housing opportunities for a family of four who barely makes $40,000 a year? What kind of choices do they actually have? I'm sure they have some choice, but it's really the upper-middle class who has the wider range of housing options. Go ahead and pat yourself on the back while recommending approval for the new 400 unit clustered-unit development on the 100 acre site because you feel good about "promoting" "choice" in your community. And don't forget about how wonderful your conscience will be since you've also looked at the site plan and observed how well it "preserves" and "enhances" the site's natureal features. Your neighbors will thank you because their home values just doubled.

    gkmo62u speculated:
    ...to suggest that choice be eliminated from the local planning and development equation...
    I never made such a policy recommendation. All I did is hold up a mirror to the ugly side of the planning profession. Please answer me this, so that I can understand your position more clearly: To what extent is promoting "choice" in your community NOT about sprawl?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Re: Pro-Sprawl Planners Unite!

    Does El Guapo have an active imagination? Look below:

    Beaner wants to take away your choices - That should scare you more than my little fake rant above. Be afraid - he knows how you should live your life and it looks like if he had the power you would be living with his choices.

    Beaner should scare you more than sprawl!
    El Guapo: I had more faith in you. Again, like I said in my reply above to gkmo62u, I made no policy recommendation. All I did is hold a mirror up to our proffession. Apparently, some of you did not like what was there.

  11. #11
    Have peace, you warriors.

    Having a healthy planet is not the beneficiary of the rich or the poor. It is the baseline. Rustbelt, you know the plan. You start now and it happens…oh so slowly. 30 years to make a difference. 10 to plan it, 10 to politic and sell it, and 10 to start implementation. But if it wasn't for the planners, none of this would happen. And for the rest of you, if you think it should happen quicker, or with more pizzazz,….become a stockbroker.

  12. #12
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    To say I'm a rookie in the planning profession would be an understatement, but from what I have seen, sprawl is definatly something that fuels a number of municipalities. I guess it all comes down to the vision, or direction in which the City desires to go. I am currently working as a Junior planner for a municipality just east of Toronto, and it seems the desire of the town is to provide an abundance of single family homes on greenfield sites, in an attempt to attract young, upper-middle class white-collar families. There has been no mention of providing "choice" within the community, the majority of developments in the past 20 years have been of the same, monotonous sort. There are attempts at protecting, or emphasizing the natural features encompassing the properties, but as already discussed, this will raise property values while satisfying the policies outlined in the OP. Many of the communities around here are exactly the same way, and the problem of providing choice in the housing market is growing significantly, yet little has been done to address it.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    The Forum is "Make No Small Plans". This is not the Friday Afternoon Club. Save the flames for those forums that encourage them.

    From a distance, I do not agree with Beaner. But on certain days when developers get everything they want from the commission, I know that there is a kernel of truth to his/her thoughts.

    Perhaps few of you have worked with a lower income community to develop a park and open space system...to see a cigarette outlet demolish the plans...that lost the planner his job...and which closed within three years.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Thanks Mike. I didn't realize how my comments would provoke such a strong reaction. I expected a reaction, but didn't expect such a blistering cacophany from our fellow Cyburbanites.

    I still think this a good place for this discussion, though. And I still think that the planning profession, by promoting housing choice, is that we eventually end up supporting sprawl. I don't see a way around it; it's inherent in what we do. What planner doesn't want to see more choices on the market? But by supporting choice, we will eventually allow some greenfields to be gobbled up into housing tracts. This will happen; there is no way around it. We are indeed complicit players in the game of land consumption and environmental degradation. Maybe I'm just a little more honest with myself than others in this admission.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian
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    As you wish Mike....


    Beaner, here is my point. Perhaps some day we can meet in the middle but you and I speak different languages.

    When you say we are complicit players in land consumption and environmental degredation, I say we are helping create jobs, better places to live and work and play.

    When you say that greenfields get gobbled up into housing tracts, I say that greenfield you speak of is owned by someone who has certain economic rights to that land--see the fitfh amendment.

    Face it, there IS an abundance of land out there. Now can be employ better tools like conservation design, better stormwater management practices, yes we can.

    I am not going to give you the sprawl is good speech. However, I think there are certain trade offs, compromises if you will, that comes with living in this amazingly free society full of individual liberties.

    Your presumption about me in the end is correct, I admit, if a little more choice means a little more sprawl, so be it.

    I do respect that you would take the opposite approach. I just think we forget, all to often in our jobs as well as in these forums, that the land we plan and charette and regulate and coerce is owned by people, who do have protected rights to a reasonable economic use of their land. Some of you wish they did not have that bundle of rights and find the 5th amendment a major inconvenience.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    A real reply

    Beaner - In my neck of the woods - the unfashionable hinterlands - the prevailing ideology is “growth at any cost”. Until we make the message a part of the high school civics curricula and get the word out to the voters that all growth is not good – it will always be the mantra of middle-America. Dan's quote sums it up best.

    Conversely, I’m about to buy a home. Do I want a decent place where I know my family can live in peace (an evil suburban development) or do I want a good value on a home (the hood)? I’ve lived in the hood for far too long in my life. I can’t stand the idiots that live there. I don’t want to be anywhere near those morons. They screw up your things, trash their places, and act like fools. They are not good to have around if you are raising children either.

    I want to live next to uptight people that are very retentive about their homes. While I’d love to get a decent old home in the city near my work, if it means living next to and mingling with the WWF-NASCAR-Mullet crowd count me out. I’ve worked to hard to have some moron make my $150,000 investment a $100,000 investment that I can never unload.

    So if you can clean up the dirtbags – people would flock back to the city core for the great housing and old urbanist neighborhoods. Thus, I submit to you it is a class problem - not a planning problem.

    RUSTBELT - You are correct - I removed the unproductive banter.

  17. #17
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    meanwhile, back on earth...

    This discussion hasn’t exactly gone the way I anticipated. Maybe it’s due to my urbanite perspective that I failed to anticipate the passions of planners in the seemingly boundless Midwest. Environmental planning isn’t a capitalist/socialist dichotomy to me. It has to do with quaint concepts like citizenship and seeing beyond your property line and life line. And what was all that hand wringing in prior threads about a lack of APA types visiting Cyburbia? It’s obvious.

    Here are some notions that are more along the lines I was contemplating in the original post:

    Several counties and townships in this area recognize that while property owners have the right to see a return on their investments in land, farmland is critical to preserving the water table, providing locally-grown crops and is a critical habitat for game species as well as charismatic macrofauna (cute critters). They’re working on establishing government funds to pay land owners closer to development market rate to leave their land undeveloped. Some referendums have passed, others not. Anything like this in the works out on the great plains?

    Here in the city we have lots of dilapidated buildings to tear down. Usually the demolition contract goes to the lowest bidder and the whole structure is crunched into little pieces and dumped in a landfill. Has anyone seen a successful dismantling program to keep useful building material in circulation?

    I worked with a guy who thought the vast underutilized tracts in the inner cities should be used for agriculture. Imagine sheep grazing over acres of inner-city Detroit, or hydroponics farms in the old mills of Buffalo. There would be new local sources of raw materials for new industries and the possibility of job creation as well and teaching city people where their food comes from. Is this a realistic form of sustainable development?

    Straw bale houses are said to be affordable and energy efficient housing alternatives for people of all incomes, yet I’ve never read about Habitat for Humanity building ‘em anywhere. Is it just to weird to not rely on Warehauser and Owens Corning for our building materials?

    One last thought: -- You can’t avoid lousy neighbors. They’ve got SUVs, ATVs, 30.06s and the rest of the toys you do, and no place in an environmental discussion.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    An interesting thread.... As planners (and economic developers) we do have to bring environmental concerns and practices into our work and into the built environment. We can do much more than we have, and I think we are making progress.

    (Rustbelt - when the Overture Foundation demolished several historic buildings for a new arts center in Madison - forget for a moment whether that was itself a good thing, or the accepted design - a couple of local non-profits salvaged parts of the buildings for reuse elsewhere.)

    Perhaps this discussion has failed to consider that much of our work does deal with already-built sites. We do work on brownfields, infill, redevelopment, downtown revitalization, etc. - perhaps we need to do more. As for greenfield development, it will happen and the choice should be there. But it is not wrong to demand that key environments (and whole ecosystems) be preserved. It is not wrong to demand that detrimental environmental impacts like water quality or air quality be mitigated. It is not wrong to demand that accommodation for alternative means of travel, like trails or bike paths, be provided.

    Unfortunately, I see few people in our profession who are truly knowledgeable on environmental issues and strategies, or for that matter, even the latest ideas in planning. They just don't keep up, or challenge themselves to look at anything any differently than the way they always have. I don't know if that is worse than the "agency" planners, such as in many DOT's, who abuse and contort information and practices to justify a pre-selected outcome.

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    [Before I get on topic, I must admit, these Cyburbia forums are strange. Very strange. So, let me try understand this place: Anyone can come in here and write a blistering screed and, 24 hours later, for some unknown reason, the posting is deleted?! I don't understand that. In the end, I don't care what gets changed and moved around in here, but why would anyone post anything in here, and then, for some reason, regret what was said, and remove the posting entirely? Doing that seems to reduce one's credibility.]

    Okay, back to business...

    gkmo62u wrote:
    When you say we are complicit players in land consumption and environmental degredation, I say we are helping create jobs, better places to live and work and play.
    Yes, I see what you are saying. But no matter what you do professionally, if you are in the business of creating jobs, then you are a complicit player in land consumption and environmental degradation. New jobs means new housing which usually means more children which means more mouths to feed which means more land is converted to agriculture which means fewer shade trees to absorb rainwater and to cool the earth which means more soil erosion and higher surface temperatures which means slow but cumulative seasonal variations over time which means unpredicatble weather patterns and events which means... you get the idea.

    That is the reality we live in. Regardless if you believe in private property rights or more state controls & regulations, this is what happens in the world today. Ideology has nothing to do with it.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    OK

    Yes, I see what you are saying. But no matter what you do professionally, if you are in the business of creating jobs, then you are a complicit player in land consumption and environmental degradation. New jobs means new housing which usually means more children which means more mouths to feed which means more land is converted to agriculture which means fewer shade trees to absorb rainwater and to cool the earth which means more soil erosion and higher surface temperatures which means slow but cumulative seasonal variations over time which means unpredictable weather patterns and events which means... you get the idea.
    - Beaner

    Beaner -I don't agree with your argument that more jobs lead to more people and a degraded environment. The US is overall at a zero growth level - not counting immigration. It appears to me that immigration is the driving force of the ever expanding city. More people lead to more growth and sprawl. Not that I'm against it. It just is where our growth is coming from.

    What you are suggesting seems to fly in the face of the basics of a market economy. Tell us how you plan to meet the needs of the world's people in your economic model. Give us your manifesto, please.

    Rustbelt - perhaps you could tell us what you are doing personally to ease the burden on mother earth. Are you leading by example?

    PS - There is no pleasing some people - Rustbelt and Gurnee bitched about what I posted. In an effort to make them happy I removed it. Credibility Beaner? I am what I am. I'm sorry if that offends you.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Re: OK

    El Guapo wrote:
    What you are suggesting seems to fly in the face of the basics of a market economy. Tell us how you plan to meet the needs of the world's people in your economic model. Give us your manifesto, please.
    First off, it is irrelevant where the population growth comes from. In the U.S., our population is growing, whether it's from immigration or good ol' natural-born American luv-makin. Second, I never suggested that I had a manifesto on how to meet the world's needs. I don't claim to have any answers. What I said in my most recent post has nothing to do with economic models... it was more of a logic statement... "If A, then B... if B, then C..." and so on. Things happen in the world, there are patterns, and these actions don't neccessarily follow an economic model or a political theory. It is my observation in my life that job creation tends to keep the fuel of procreation burning since it provides income which tends to make people happy which tends to give them hope which gives them a motivation to have children which then in turn increases the population which then fuels demand for more natural resources. In short, an increasing population means a greater demand for resources which means there's a greater strain on the environment. That's all I'm saying. And I'm not saying that this is good or bad... no judgement... just an observation... some see resource consumption as an indication of environmental doom... others see it as an opportunity to create technologies to make our lives better.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian el Guapo's avatar
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    So, I'm hearing you're a Malthusian?

    Beaner - I hear you saying:

    Jobs=Hope=Children=Resource Consumption=Strain on the Earth=Bad

    Agree?

    Thus, Fewer Jobs=Less Hope=Fewer Children=Less Consumption=Less Strain on the Earth.

    Taken one step further

    No Jobs=No Hope=No Children=No Consumption=Earth Happy=Man reverts to hunter gatherer.

    So, if we don't consume resources, other than "sustainable" ones, how many people could this earth pleasantly support? Is that pre or post the invention of fire?

    I'm just saying without a solution to offer observations are not worth much.

    I have a solution - Capitalism (While not perfect, it works much better with the environment than socialism has been proven to and it safeguards human rights when mixed with democracy)

    Maybe I'm just a little more honest with myself than others in this admission.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    I am not here to push an ideology, nor am I here to convince Cyburbanites that my world view is worthwhile. I don't even want to go there.

    El Guapo, you are right, in certain instances, offering observations without solutions is indeed not worth much. But in these forums, where we are here to discuss planning and realted issues, offering an observation just as valid as offering a solution. I hope you don't expect all discussions here in Cyburbia to require a solution. And I hope you can accept my insistance in this thread that I just go ahead and offer observations and no solutions. Some discussions just never get to that point and I have no desire to do that here. The whole aim of my responses in this thread has to do with Earth Day and the Planning profession... going back to rustbelt's initial post. I guess I'm reacting to the whole notion that we planners can do something "good" for the environment. I just don't agree with that. We are complict players in the land consumption game, albeit indirectly. We are the gatekeepers, so to speak, as to helping make decisions on how land gets used. Through the course of one's planning career, a planner will recommend the development of green and relatively untouched land, ultimately creating more impervious surfaces, consumption of trees for buildings, etc, etc. At the same time, a planner has opportunities to offer a recommednation to not develop land. A planner who has 100% track record in not allowing in any development would be a true environmental planner. But who has heard of such an individual? I don't think he or she exists. When we planners start getting all warm and fuzzy and start congratulating ourselves for doing so-called "better" or "smart" or "sustainable" developments, then I get nervous and feel the need to remind ourselves that we are not as green as we'd like to think we are. We are not environmental saints. And in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with that. Maybe I'm just stating the obvious. But then again, judging by the tone of some Cyburbanites' posts, some here think they are doing the world a good thing by being planners.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    I respectfully beg to differ...

    Beaner wrote:
    A planner who has 100% track record in not allowing in any development would be a true environmental planner. But who has heard of such an individual? I don't think he or she exists.
    Beaner, humans are in fact the worst infestation this planet has ever had to endure.

    That aside, in my Department under my supervision a 100% Environmental Planner (note the caps) would be out on his ass. Not just becasue I would fire the stalwart (and I would) but becasue the CITIZENS that pay us to do our jobs would not tolerate it. We are NOT the hired - much less self appointed - gatekeepers of the land. We are public servants hired to perform duties asassigned by a body politic of this representative democaracy. I for one am proud of my contribution to the profession - and yes - we do a hell of a lot of environmental work for a "planning" department. I have a $136,000 planning budget net of salaries, and $550,000 land and water conservation budget net of salaries. I can't speak for everyone nor every community, but I dare say this community has its environmental priorities intact.

    *pulls back from the right*

    Thanks for letting me rant, Beaner!

  25. #25
    Cyburbian Wannaplan?'s avatar
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    Re: I respectfully beg to differ...

    bturk wrote:
    Beaner, humans are in fact the worst infestation this planet has ever had to endure.
    YES! That's exactly what I'm saying! [How is it that you beg to differ with me? ...maybe I need to improve my writing skills.] We are speaking the same language!! Yes, a "100% Environmental Planner" DOES NOT EXIST!! That's exactly what I was insinuating!

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