What’s Current? Issue #5 – Sustainable Cities, Affordable Water, More Nukes, Green Lawn Guilt

This is our 5th newsletter; thanks for staying with us! If you’ve missed earlier issues or want to refer to the fact-filled reports and data we referenced and linked in the previous four issues, you can find them all now on our website under “NEWS.” We look forward to providing you many more windows into the numbers and proportions that help us better understand the prerequisites for civilization, water and energy. Our constant theme: affordable, sustainable abundance is possible. Let’s make the investments.

The Eco-city: Ten Transport and Planning Dimensions for Sustainable City Development

Read this influential paper from 2005 to sample the intellectual foundations of modern urban planning. There are no surprises. High density, multi-family and mixed-use housing, fewer cars and more mass transit, public green space, energy efficiency, inclusive zoning, closed loop waste management. It all sounds great, right?

The Next American Cities

Well, yes and no. Families, overwhelmingly, want single family homes. High-rise construction costs more per square foot than wood frame homes. People work from home and jobs migrate to suburbs. Cars are on track to become emission free. Waste recycling works everywhere. Today, the typical American suburb is multi-ethnic and hence, is already inclusive. There’s plenty of land. And there are no public pathogens in private vehicles. This brilliant, must-read study refutes, point by point, the cherished axioms of the density lobby.

California Could be a More Affordable Place to Live if Politicians Made Wiser Choices

That kind of says it all, doesn’t it? Former Assemblymember Melissa Melendez opines in the Orange County Register on why California has a punitive cost-of-living. California imports 75 percent of its oil, and 90 percent of its natural gas. This, despite California possessing up to 15 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves in the Monterey Shale formation, and another estimated 10 billion offshore, that could be safely accessed from onshore drilling rigs. California could be self-sufficient in oil and gas, creating tens of thousands of jobs, and ensuring reliable and affordable natural gas, gasoline and electricity.

California Needs to Embrace Nuclear Power

If ramping up oil and gas production — so we don’t have to import gas from Texas and oil from Ecuador — is anathema, what about nuclear power? As it is, the single remaining plant, Diablo Canyon, nonetheless produces 10 percent of California’s in-state electricity generation. This is baseload power that doesn’t require batteries or quick-start natural gas turbines to fill in when the sun sets or the wind falters. California’s electricity demand fluctuates, never dropping below 20 gigawatts and peaking during the late afternoons and early evenings of summer at just over 50 gigawatts. That means 10 Diablo Canyon-scale nuclear power stations could go online without being a serious threat to the business model of the intermittent power industry. Let’s work together.

I Love My Grassy Yard. Should That Make Me Feel Guilty?

No. In this balanced appraisal of the virtues and detriments of lawns, published in the Los Angeles Times, the author acknowledges the benefits: “It lures us outdoors, encourages us to recreate and measurably cools the air on hot summer afternoons.” Lawn replacements have heat island impacts. And when people stop watering their lawns, the beautiful canopy trees with root systems adapted to surface irrigation end up dying. Opponents of lawns say “it forces out native plant life and demands chemical treatments.” Native plants? In the yard of a tract home in LA? Really? As for chemicals, ban them. Problem solved. The lawns will not mind. Californians divert 70 million acre feet (MAF) per year from rivers; giving most of it back in controlled releases to the environment. Then 30 MAF/year goes to agriculture, less than 8 MAF/year to cities, and of that, only 2 MAF/year is used for residential landscaping. Let people have their soft, percolating, runoff-filtering lawns. Cool the cities. Save the trees.