Save the planet without making yourself even mildly uncomfortable!

So the East Bay Express this week was all about global warming. If you missed it, you can read the stories here, here, here, here, and here. And overall it was interesting. It was nice to see them have some actual content for once, even if it wasn’t unique to that paper. But I have to admit that I’m a little bewildered that a newspaper can devote 4,436 words to a discussion of slowing climate change, and somehow not once mention the single most important factor driving increasing emissions rates – land use. In fact, immediately preceding their special rah-rah environmentalist section, they ran an anti-development story bitching about the kind of high-density housing that, frankly, we’re going to need a lot more of if we want to accommodate anticipated regional growth without making the problems in question even worse than they already are.

Also, I’m not entirely certain that any of the Express articles managed to communicate what a daunting task the emissions reductions they’re calling for is. In October I went to this ABAG/MTC joint event called Bay Area on the Move, where they talked about planning for anticipated housing and transportation needs for 2035.

And in addition to getting a nifty reusable canvas bag out of it, and seeing Gavin Newsom in person for the first time (he is cute!), I got to learn some things about the challenges facing regional planners. If you missed it, but it sounds interesting to you, you can visit the website and download a number of files to learn more about the discussion, from their Powerpoint presentation to a nearly 200 page PDF detailing their forecasts and analysis, find links to all the local press coverage of the event, and even watch the whole thing on streaming video. (Don’t you just love the internet?)

Anyway, they talked a lot about trying to reduce emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2035 (as required by the California Global Warming Solutions Act), and it seems…well, I don’t want to say impossible, because then, what would the point of trying be, but let’s just say I didn’t leave feeling particularly optimistic. After describing a bunch of initiatives that I would love to see, but seriously doubt will ever happen, including $70 billion of improvements to transportation infrastructure and various forms of automobile taxes and fees that would increase the cost of operating a car five-fold, they showed us these neat little graphs projecting how close all their plans would bring us to that goal.


Anyway, the Express has this little section about doing your part or whatever, and I’ve got to say that after all the apocalyptic predictions about what’s going to happen if we don’t act now, I’m a little underwhelmed with what they came up with:

Personally, we need to “go green” in our lives by doing such things as: replacing standard light bulbs with compact fluorescent ones; recycling more; walking, biking, carpooling, or taking mass transit more often; using less hot water, since it takes lots of energy to heat water; avoiding products with lots of packaging; keeping automobile tires inflated properly to improve gas mileage by more than 3 percent; installing low-flow showerheads; moving the thermostat down two degrees in winter and up two degrees in summer (saving about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year); planting trees, since a single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime; turning off the television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when we’re not using them to save thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year. (Find more suggestions at

2 degrees? Why not 10 degrees? Hell, I don’t use heat at all. Newsflash, people. You don’t live in Wisconsin. Put on a damn sweater. At some point, making a difference is going to mean making actual sacrifices. (Full disclosure: I’m a horrible person who hates the earth and therefore currently has normal, evil, energy sucking light bulbs, so take my advice with a grain of salt. In my defense, I do keep the TV unplugged, but that’s mostly because it doesn’t work.) Anyway, that paragraph annoyed me, and since Dogtown Commoner always manages to say these things better than I can, and usually in way fewer words, I’m just going to refer my readers to his post Real Choices versus Trivial Choices. Please click through and read it.

2 thoughts on “Save the planet without making yourself even mildly uncomfortable!

  1. Ethan

    Chris: Here’s the info on Oakland’s historic redwood forests: 2 sites:

    Check out the section entitled: “The Red Woods 1841″: “ancient” forests extended down the bay side of the hills as far south as Leona quarry. Several lumber camps employed 400 men to “clear cut” ….they even pulled up the “massive stumps” and made them into shingles.

    And here is a picture of one of the saw mills:

    Part of the caption reads: “The picture was made long after the monumental San Antonio redwoods had been clear-cut to meet timber demands immediately following the Gold Rush. ”

    Two historical sources, pictures and a personal descriptions given to the Oakland Museum from families that owned the land where the timber was harvested. The woods covered the bay side of the hills. Words that weave in and out between the sources: mammoth, ancient, mighty….and clear cut.

    Sorry to post the item here rather than the original discussion thread. SO many days have passed and I couldn’t find the original thread. I think the search engine on this site only searches the stories written by V. and not the responders.

    Typed in redwoods and nothing came up.

  2. Chris Kidd

    Well, I wouldn’t consider “Sheppard’s Canyon to Leona Heights” to be “the entire Oakland Hills”, but I suppose that’s more of a subjective judgement call than anything else. From the descriptions of the dimensions for San Antonio Forest, it also seems to suggest that the forest would have ended close to Highway 13, which would be about halfway up the hills by my estimation. Am I reading that wrong?

    This is, of course, me desperately splitting hairs. Give me a time and place and I’ll show up with stocks and pies for throwing. I’m true to my word, if nothing else. But sweet research, Ethan. I am roundly impressed by you and the work you’ve done.

    And I still totally stand by my dissaproval of Eucalyptus and other damaging foreign species.