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Archive for the ‘Energy issues’ Category

It is increasingly obvious that American suburbs – as well as the suburbs of other nations – are environmentally and socially unsustainable on many levels.  As such, an immediate mass-retrofitting and greening of American suburbs must begin in the coming years due to the increasingly unsustainable American transportation system, food production system, and so on; this retrofitting must begin to transform suburbs again in to centers of production instead of solely centers of consumption.

Each suburban neighborhood must begin to think of itself as a village of sorts, as a semi-self-contained town within a town.  Suburban neighborhoods should immediately begin to incorporate a certain amount of walkable retail space as opposed to solely residential space — a few houses from each neighborhood could be removed to build a few shops or a neighborhood mall of sorts which carry the basics and essential goods and services needed for each neighborhood, i.e. food, tools, childcare, local shops and places of employment, etc.  Each house ought to plant to a garden – or the neighborhood as a whole should have a well-kept community garden or gardens – to supply a steady amount of fresh local produce.  Land surrounding the neighborhood, if available, could be used to raise a certain amount of livestock, thus supplying fresh local meat.  Additionally, as solar panels and wind turbines come down in price due to increased production in the coming years each house ought to also become as self-sufficient as possible in terms of energy production, producing a certain amount of energy on-site via solar panels, windmills, water wheels, and so forth.  The cars found in suburban driveways in coming years ought be filled with electric cars, electric-gas hybrids, 2-seater smart-cars, and other fuel efficient automobiles.  All of this would serve to create jobs and also stimulate lagging local and regional economies.

It is especially essential that suburban retrofitting occurs in the USA in the coming years due to the possibility of shortages of gasoline and fuel as well as the unsustainability of shipping essential foodstuffs thousands of miles for consumption.  Again, it is imperative that each suburban (and urban) neighborhood begin to think of itself as a village of sorts, with consumption at least equaling production as much as possible therein.  This would not only help to revive local and regional economies by producing many millions of local green-collar jobs which are unable to be outsourced but would also increase community cohesion.

The concept known as agriburbia (written about here numerous times before) is beginning to take steps in this direction, though it is not nearly enough in a rapid enough time frame.  The founders of the agriburban movement ought to also focus on retrofitting and greening existing neighborhoods instead of solely building new developments.  Overall it is clear that suburban retrofitting and greening must begin as soon as possible to provide jobs and increase local/regional socio-environmental sustainability.

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As referenced in a recent post, the USA and other nations must begin to build ecovillages, ecotowns, and ecosuburbs for a substantial portion of its population due to the growing instability and over-reach of petroleum-based living systems.  This is especially important for the growing underclass in the USA and elsewhere, not just the middle classes.  This is due to the fact that large numbers of the underclass are in many senses unfit for working and living in any other manner — the modern techno-industrial world has grown too complicated for large numbers of the population (especially the underclass), and thus they must be encouraged to live in ways that are more fit for their skill-set and socio-cultural mindset, i.e. in ecovillages, ecotowns, and ecosuburbs (or ‘agriburbs‘).  Green-collar jobs are the only way forward for a substantial portion of the population and as such many nations must begin to create such jobs en masse as soon as possible.

This large underclass labor pool can be intelligently utilized to repopulate and rebuild various rural and suburban areas, improving and repairing the Earth in many ways by growing or raising local/regional food, improving degraded soils, cleaning up polluted waterways, installing alternative energy sources, replanting and managing forests, rebuilding a local business/artisan base, and overall beginning to work again in many ecologically-focused sectors that have been neglected or forgotten in the past few decades of hyperindustrialism.

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From Lester Brown, an important movie: Journey to Planet Earth — Plan B: Mobilizing to Save Civilization —  http://video.pbs.org/video/1864227276

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In many respects America is falling behind certain European nations and increasingly various Asian countries when it comes to the physical condition of its cities.  In order to continue being economically and socially competitive the USA must embark upon a major social, political, and economic campaign to clean up and modernize its cities, to bring them up to 21st Century standards.

Due to the current recession there are large number of unemployed/underemployed people in America who could be employed in a multitude of projects to clean up and modernize American cities.  Doing so would ensure a stable supply of jobs for millions of Americans for decades to come, including tearing out the old and building the new, installing solar panels and solar hot water heaters in homes and businesses, setting up more sustainable agriburban communities in appropriate areas, intelligently revamping cities and suburbs to in order to build better public transportation networks, building high speed train lines linking up major cities, and dozens of other green-collar jobs.

Due to neglect or mismanagement over the last few decades many American cities are not as functional or aesthetically pleasing as they ought to be when compared to cities in other countries.  Many of America’s cities are sprawling, auto-dependent, and more suburban in nature than truly urban, and this could be gradually and intelligently modified to help concentrate more people in true urban areas that are cleaner and more efficient than endlessly sprawling suburbs.

Overall it is clear that the USA must embark upon a major 21st Century campaign to clean up and modernize its cities in order to provide a better quality of life for many of its citizens.

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A temporary fix to buy time with the precarious gasoline-fueled auto system in the USA and elsewhere: all – and I mean ALL – of the auto companies in the world need to immediately start mass-producing 2-seater cars (sometimes called ‘smart cars’) because they are much more fuel efficient than other types of autos.

People can still own and use full sized autos, but they can use the 2-seater cars when going back and forth to work, for running simple errands, and in all other situations where only one or two people are in the car. Look around every day at rush hour and nearly every car only contains one person; that is a huge waste of fuel to transport one person back and forth to work daily, hauling all of that extra auto weight around for no reason. But if nearly everyone used a 2-seater smart car for trips where only one or two people were in the car (especially for going to work every day) it would save huge amounts of gasoline daily. The 2-seaters are just a step above motorcycles or mopeds in terms of fuel usage, and if large numbers of people used them it would make the roads safer and also majorly cut air pollution.

We need to mandate this in the USA and elsewhere, despite its implications as being ‘fascistic’ since it would save massive amount of fuel daily. People could still own regular sized autos for when they are needed to transport multiple people, but for all those trips where only one person is in the car (i.e., the daily drive back and forth from work) the 2-seater should be used.

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From the blog ‘Religion News’:

+ “Little more than a year after cutting the ribbon at a new factory in Devens built with more than $58 million in state aid, Evergreen Solar said yesterday that it will shift its assembly of solar panels from there to China…” – http://www.boston.com/business/articles/2009/11/05/evergreen_shifts_work_to_china/

+ “Two recent announcements from the U.S. solar industry indicate that low-cost manufacturing capacity in China is affecting the viability of production in North America.  General Electric (NYSE: GE) last week confirmed plans to close a solar panel manufacturing plant in Glasgow, Delaware, according to a report by The New Journal.” – http://www.sustainablebusiness.com/index.cfm/go/news.display/id/19196

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All over the USA and in many other post-industrial nations there is environmental blight and ecological devastation found nearly everywhere, especially in many cities and suburbs.

Thus I propose that we engage in a long-term phase of ‘constructive destruction‘ wherein we tear down very many of the old, useless, and decrepit buildings, shuttered factories, decaying neighborhoods, and so on and put better things in their place or even return those areas to natural greenspace.  Luckily this is occurring in some areas of the USA, but not at nearly a quick enough pace.  This will serve to create many jobs, since it would take literally decades to remove, rebuild, and/or retrofit many of the old buildings and areas which were rashly built in the last 100+ years of mass-industrial fervor.

This is already happening in some American cities; read: “US cities may have to be bulldozed in order to survive: Dozens of US cities may have entire neighbourhoods bulldozed as part of drastic “shrink to survive” proposals being considered by the Obama administration to tackle economic decline

For instance, if we take an old factory which has been closed down for decades, a building (or buildings) which is nothing but an ugly scar on the landscape that attracts crime and creates pollution: we could employ dozens if not hundreds of people to descend upon the site and tear the old factory down, being very careful to fully recycle any potentially reusable materials.  After the process of destroying/dismantling the site is finished, local/community planners could be employed to find various ways to re-utilize the newly opened up space.  If there is no need for new industry or jobs in the area, the site could simply be turned in to ‘ecodense’ housing (if it is needed), or a public park, or it could be reforested, or a school could be built, or a local lake/reservoir could be dug there, or even large public garden(s) or orchards could be created, and so on and so forth.  The possibilities are literally wide open, because obviously anything is better put in the place of ugly, blighted, and abandoned buildings or old factories.

The main point of this process of ‘constructive destruction’ is to remove as many of the now useless buildings and abandoned eyesores which were built in the past but which now are worthless and serve no real purpose whatsoever — in doing this we would in turn create millions of new jobs merely by cleaning up the hideous industrial wreckage of the past.  There are plenty of new ways in which almost all of these blighted areas could be reused, and many people in the local areas where these abandoned buildings or neglected sites are located would certainly have many ideas for things which could be created or put in their place.

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