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Last month, for example, Worldchanging played host to a two-night event at our local Town Hall, where among other things, Alex Steffen called upon Seattle to become the first carbon-neutral city in the United States. His talks were amazingly well received, and are now airing on the Seattle Channel. If you weren't in the audience, you can hear what else Alex had to say by watching the video from the event on the Seattle Channel site.
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Image credit: NASA
We attended Alex's talks at Seattle’s Town Hall last week. We were excited to hear someone intelligent who spoke of the need for governmental action now to address climate change. The presentation on Wednesday night was informative and laid out both the challenges and the hopes we face in this situation.
However, we were all disappointed in the talk on Thursday night. It was billed as a talk on how to create a Bright Green future for Seattle. As a group, we felt it was woefully short on direction and details about what we could do to make that future a reality.
We got the message that way fewer cars, way more density, and way more political involvement would be key. But frankly, that is all pretty obvious. Fewer cars will mean fewer carbon emissions. How do you propose we get there? Simply creating wider sidewalk areas and slowing traffic is not enough of an answer. How will we make sure people are able to get where they need to go? Right now there are not even grocery stores in all neighborhoods. Is improving that part of your plan? How should we increase the use of mass transit? What are the short-term incentives for living car-free for those who can’t see the big long-range one: survival? What are the steps we need to take to make fewer cars a reality?
More density is something Seattle has been working toward for a while now with its neighborhood urban village work. We are a long way from this resulting in a reduction in carbon emissions. How much CO2 can we save with this or any of your plans? Don’t we need to find bigger ideas, such as finding a way for people to actually live in the communities they work in?
Here are some specifics:
• Abandon the new 520 Bridge idea and get folks who live in Bellevue (or the eastside) and work in Seattle to “swap” homes with Seattleites who work on the Eastside.
• Abandon the new tunnel (please talk to mayor-elect Mike McGinn), moving vehicles is not the “wave of the future”.
• Build (subsidize) “mother in law” apartments throughout the City to create affordable living space for suburbanites moving to the City.
• Build on the program that linked seniors living in large houses with others who could share their house and create a network/program to promote intentional living/sharing arrangements throughout the city/county. Many Seattle homes are larger than necessary for the number of people who live there.
• Stop crying over Boeing moving to South Carolina; by 2030, George Monbiot suggests we better be flying 90% less or else.
We need specific ideas for the short, medium and longer term in the areas of transportation, the ways people live, public education, increasing the political will to act, etc.
The idea of being more involved citizens in the local political efforts would certainly have good results. As you say, 20 people at a board meeting could change the shape of policies. But again, what are the policies we want to shape or create?
Which gets us to the basics of what we were longing to hear Thursday night. “Seattle creates x amount of CO2 per year right now. Our goal should be to reduce that to y by 2020. To get there we need to take these steps in the first 5 years. That will result in this much reduction. It will set us on a course to be at the y level by 2020. Then we need to ramp up by taking these steps. These steps will get us to zero emissions by 2030.”
I apologize for this being so long. My friends and I were very hopeful about learning HOW to make Seattle Bright Green. The talk left us with more questions than answers.
Great comment Spencer. I usually hate it when people go to events wanting to be told what to do and then complain that all they heard were problems and motherhood statements, not solid, practical, easily implementable solutions, but then offer none of their own. You have had this experience, and then offered your own solutions.
I encourage you and your friends (and everyone out there), who have been left with so many more questions, to seek more of your own answers.