“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┬áby 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!

6 Responses to ““We Don’t Know How to Get There””

  1. Adam P

    I almost went to that (I’m a committee member of ULI Seattle’s YLG). From my experience urban planners have always had their own unique lexicon, and from my limited experience in the field terms like this have exploded onto the scene.

    I think that paradigm shift if the perfect word for what we are going through right now.

  2. Dan Staley

    That sounds like Breakthrough Institute (BI) stuff – Bert Gregory may be affiliated – spoken by the likes of Marty Hoffert, Amory Lovins and Schellenberger & Nordhaus types.

    Saw Hoffert a few weeks ago at a similiar conference speak of the same sorts of things, but in a more technical nature of how to get there. Interestingly, Joe Romm is wailing about how BI is being needlessly technical solution-oriented; his premise is that all we need to do in order to implement things to stop carbon footpring growth is to the negawatt thing and change human societal behavior. Just like that!

    Anyway, I personally think we have a pretty good idea of where ‘there’ is: somewhere on a heading between 125 and 140 degrees. The societal ship has sailed and some of the crew is arguing about who takes over the wheel to steer, others are wrestling for the wheel, many are arguing that we shouldn’t sail until we have a precise direction, some are complaining that the ship doesn’t have enough regulation to control emissions, and others are complaining that they are on board at all. The climate denialists are left at the dock.

  3. Vanderleun

    And we’ll still be there waving as you sink slowly into the sunset.

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    [...] Uh-huh, it’s a staggeringly monumental task. Progress is being made, but the bottom line is we still don’t know how to get there. [...]

  5. An Open Letter To The Livable Seattle Movement | hugeasscity

    [...] I want to finish by expanding on my initial accusation of moral irresponsibility (since I think I’ve already pretty well covered the intellectual dishonesty bit). We are facing an unprecedented global crisis in both resource consumption and global warming. There is overwhelming evidence that dense urban development is a key strategy in mitigating this crisis. So in my view, by publicizing specious and demonstrably false critiques of density, the Livable Seattle Movement is being morally irresponsible. It’s analogous to the global warming deniers, when one piece of contrary “evidence,” whether ill-founded or not, can quite effectively muddy public perception and significantly set back progress. [...]

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    [...] Yup. Uh-huh. Dang. [...]

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