“We Don’t Know How to Get There”

This morning I attended a breakfast meeting put on by the Urban Land Institute featuring a presentation by Ewe Brandes on their recently published book “Growing Cooler,” which details the relationship between housing density and greenhouse gas emissions (see related post here). The room was filled with the likes of Diane Sugimura and Joe Tovar, along with the typical ULI real estate development crowd and a smattering of architects.

During the opening talks given by Bert Gregory of Mithun and a woman (I’ll get the name) with King County, and through the wonky (as he put it) presentation by Brandes, I kept having the feeling I was witnessing something almost religious in nature. Terms like “new economy” and “paradigm shift” and “new American dream” flowed freely. Now, I’m about as cynically skeptical as they come, but this sort of language in this context wasn’t setting off any of my highly sensitive bullshit detectors. On the contrary, I found it moving, and dare I say, hopeful.

Brandes wrapped up his talk discussing the reductions that the IPCC is calling for–70 to 80% from 1990 levels by 2050–and how difficult that will be, and how we have loads of potential ideas and strategies but it’s all so complex no one can possibly integrate it all into one well-defined plan of action, much less get everyone to adopt such a plan.

And the very last thing he said was this: “We don’t know how to get there.” Tell it like it is, brother!