Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Our Growing Footprint

I have been a little pre-occupied this past week thinking about things other than this blog. Maybe, tonight I can get back to what is going on here.

I saw over on Steve Austin's Bluegrass reVISIONS that we have five years before our carbon emissions should peak or we have reached the tipping point of our slide into doom. Well maybe not that bad, but we need to adjust our lifestyles to make less of a carbon footprint than we do.

He states that Put simply, this means either that we must rapidly scale up renewables or we must reduce economic activity. I wonder if that could not say that we rapidly scale up AND modify our economic activity so as to achieve the same gain from alternative sources. I am not sure that it has to be an either/or situation.

Steve does ask what this means for Lexington, but he seems to be the only one asking out loud. Since the end of May 2008 the people of Lexington have thought about a lot of thing that they could be doing, but none of them concerned our carbon footprint. Football, basketball, horse racing, whether or not a new energy efficient building should be built downtown, downtown traffic patterns of one-way vs two-way, these all made the list, but not "can I live closer to my job?" or can I find an alternate mode to get to work?". These thoughts maybe made the fleeting moment list and were quickly dismissed as Lexington does not do this kind of thing.

Some thoughts that should have been making the rounds are:
  • Do I need the fenced in yard that I hate to take care of every weekend of the summer and fall?
  • Do I need to run the HVAC all year round just because the house/apartment is designed to prevent flow through air ventilation?
  • If the bus(or other transit mode) came by my house would I take it on a regular basis?
  • If the grocery was closer to my house would I need such a big refrigerator to store things , or such a big car to haul them or would I need to buy so much in one trip?
  • Would my carbon footprint be smaller if I put more of my own on the ground?
On a city-wide level, has there been any discussion of what we can or should do to encourage people to modify their lifestyles to reduce their carbon footprint? In terms of meaningful discussions, I would have to say NO and in many instances the city leaders actions have done exactly the opposite. The government, on a regular basis, encourages those living in the outer reaches of the urban sprawl to boost the idea of downtown living by adding to the carbon footprint and coming downtown on the off traffic days. The Farmers Market, the weekend festivals throughout the year, the Second Sunday events to promote a cleaner healthier lifestyle, these all add to the overall carbon footprint, not take away from it.

Don't get me wrong, I think that all of these activities are worthwhile, but in places that make ecological sense more than economic sense. I can remember when some of the city's biggest events started out as neighborhood style happenings. The Shakespeare plays were held originally in the grassy field of Bell Court, until it grew too big and moved to Woodland Park. Now it NEEDS the setting of the Arboretum and the associated parking spaces to make a profit. What future does this bode for the new amphitheater in Beaumont Centre? Does this mean that there should be more of these play productions in more neighborhood settings?

I have already posted about the Second Sunday events and the city has responded with monthly escorted bike rides in various sectors of the city, but these all will originate downtown where the participants will have to drive with their bikes, to ride out to the suburbs and return to their cars to take their bikes home. Would it not make more sense to start where the people ARE and go to where some other people ARE and return, then next time start at the previous destination and go the where other people ARE, working your way around the suburban rings of Lexington? There is NO NEED to increase the pollution on an off traffic day all for the name of clean living and exercise.

Has the city encouraged the owners of our downtown buildings to install some type of passive solar collectors on their roofs, or cylindrical wind generators on the upper floors of our high rise structures in an effort to lessen their use of carbon generated electricity. I know that the upper floors of modern building are designed to handle the unseen air movements of the urban climate and that there are several natural wind tunnel like area in the downtown area. Has the city, with its power of granting zoning and development opportunities, sent a clear suggestion of its intent to combat our negative carbon footprint image with some of the proven methods of urban design? Quite the opposite, up until the bursting of the housing bubble, our Urban County Council has continued to send the signal that the current "status quo" will still work in Lexington.

That is about enough for tonight. Maybe we will have more to think about tomorrow.

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