The Green New Deal’s Huge Flaw

Lambert here, with spoiler: Land use.

By Alex Baca, who works on sustainable land use, transportation, and housing policy in the D.C. region. Cross-posted from Grist.

There might be no better monument to the limits of American environmentalism in the climate change era than a parking garage in Berkeley, California. It’s got “rooftop solar, electric-vehicle charging stations, and dedicated spots for car-share vehicles, rainwater capture, and water treatment features” — not to mention 720 parking spots. It cost nearly $40 million to build. At night, it positively glows. And it’s a block from the downtown Berkeley BART station.

That America’s most famous progressive city, one where nearly everything is within walking distance, spent $40 million to renovate a parking garage one block from a subway station suggests that progressive Democrats remain unwilling to seriously confront the crisis of climate change. America’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. In California, the proportion of CO2 from transportation is even higher: above 40 percent. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín anticipates that the Center Street Parking Garage will out-green all others in the state with a LEED Silver rating, making it a perfect example of our approach to climate change: glibly “greening” the lives we live now, rather than contemplating the future generations who will have to live here too.

On Thursday, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey unveiled just such a fix: the Green New Deal, a proposal that bills itself as a plan for the environment and the economy in equal measure. It is designed to steer America toward a low-carbon economy, fulfill the right to clean air and clean water, restore the American landscape, strengthen urban sustainability and resilience, and put a generation to work. With prominent endorsements from leading Democratic presidential candidates, Ocasio-Cortez has brought more attention to climate change in two months than her Democratic peers did in the past two years.

But the Green New Deal has a big blind spot: It doesn’t address the places Americans live. And our physical geography — where we sleep, work, shop, worship, and send our kids to play, and how we move between those places — is more foundational to a green, fair future than just about anything else. The proposal encapsulates the liberal delusion on climate change: that technology and spending can spare us the hard work of reform.

The Environment

America is a nation of sprawl. More Americans live in suburbs than in cities, and the suburbs that we build are not the gridded, neighborly Mayberrys of our imagination. Rather, the places in which we live are generally dispersed, inefficient, and impossible to navigate without a car. Dead-ending cul-de-sacs and the divided highways that connect them are such deeply engrained parts of the American landscape that it’s easy to forget they were, themselves, the fruits of a massive federal investment program.

Sprawl is made possible by highways. This is expensive — in 2015, the Victoria Transport Policy Institute estimated that sprawl costs America more than $1 trillion a year in reduced business activity, environmental damage, consumer expenses, and other costs. Leaving aside the emissions from the 1.1 billion trips Americans take per day (87 percent of which are taken in personal vehicles), spreading everything out has eaten up an enormous amount of natural land.

Environmentalists know transportation is the elephant in the room. At first blush, the easiest way to attack that problem is to electrify everything, and that’s largely what the Green New Deal calls for, with goals like “100 percent zero emission passenger vehicles by 2030” and “100 percent fossil-free transportation by 2050.” The cars we drive feel more easily changeable than the places we live.

But electric vehicles are nowhere near ready for widespread adoption — and even if they were, “half of the world’s consumption of oil would remain untouched,” Bloomberg reports. A Tesla in every driveway just won’t cut it.

The Economy

Even if there were an electric car in the garage of every net-zero McMansion, sprawl’s regressive legacy would persist in the economy. Sprawl requires us to spend more time and more money to reach the places we need to go.

The strongest demonstration of this is the fact that Americans’ jobs are far from where they live. This is particularly true for poor people and people of color, a phenomenon known as “spatial mismatch.” “Highways disproportionately benefit Americans who own or have access to automobiles,” political scientist Clayton Nall writes in The Road to Inequality. “Even when carless Americans do have access to a car, it is not always feasible — as a result of scarce time and financial resources — for poorer Americans to regularly drive the distances that must be covered by suburban expressway commuters.”

Tales of guys who have to walk an absurd number of miles to work — until they are gifted a car — hit local news affiliates every so often. As Angie Schmitt writes for Streetsblog, these are mistakenly cast as feel-good stories about workers overcoming adversity. In reality, they testify to the unjust correlation between job sprawl and racial segregation. Sprawl costs us all, but it disproportionately racks up costs for poor people, nonwhite people, and women.

All that is a result of a federal stimulus for a disconnected pattern of development that imposes an enormous burden on our finances, our environment, and our pursuit of equity.

The Solution

In Alissa Walker’s exhaustive report in Curbed on why electric vehicles won’t save California, she argues that even with breakneck advances in renewable energy and electric cars, the country must still reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled. EVs won’t save the rest of America, either.

But the good news is that if we do account for land use, we will get much closer to a safe, sustainable, and resilient future. And even though widespread adoption of EVs is still decades away, reforms to our built environment can begin right now. In short, we can fix this. We build more than 1 million new homes a year — we just need to put them in the right places.

Unsprawling America isn’t as hard as it sounds, because America is suffering from a critical, once-in-a-lifetime housing shortage. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reported last year that the U.S. has a national deficit of more than 7.2 million affordable and available rental homes for families most in need. Of course, if we build those homes in transit-accessible places, we can save their occupants time and money. But the scale of housing demand at this moment is such that we could build them in car-centric suburbs, too, and provide a human density that would not just support transit but also reduce the need to travel as shops, jobs, and schools crop up within walking distance.

The Green New Deal is ostensibly a jobs program, an environmental program, and a redistributive program. If it’s a jobs program, it must wrangle with spatial mismatch. If it’s an environmental program, it must tackle the fact that an all-electric fleet of cars is functionally, at this time, a pipe dream. And if it’s a redistributive program, it must grapple with how roads paved into suburban and exurban greenfield developments deepen, expand, and exacerbate segregation.

A Green New Deal must insist on a new, and better, land use regime, countering decades of federal sprawl subsidy. The plan already recognizes the need to retrofit and upgrade buildings. Why not address their locations while we’re at it? Suggestions of specific policies that would enable a Green New Deal to address land use have already emerged: We could, simply, measure greenhouse gases from our transportation system or build more housing closer to jobs centers. Reallocating what we spend on building new roads to paying for public transit instead would go a long way toward limiting sprawl.

Where we live is no coincidence of preference. Federal policy has enforced inequities and disparities for both the environment and vulnerable people at a national scale. It’s never too late to address the most fundamental aspect of our carbon footprint: where we live. And building housing near jobs, transit, and other housing — rather than ultra-LEED-certified parking garages — is merely a political choice. No innovation required.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. PlutoniumKun

    The fundamental problem with this argument is that you can’t reverse 70 years of terrible urban and transport policy over the time scales required to deal with climate change. Of course there is no good reason not to put good urban transport policy into place right now – make low density zonings illegal (this is essentially the situation in many European countries) and encourage high density nodes wherever possible. However, this won’t result in the removal of millions of houses already built. And its not necessarily a solution either – just densifying alone won’t guarantee that people end up living close to their work (especially with married couples).

    One short term solution is to use the existing highway network. It is not difficult or expensive to restrict lanes for bus/cycling use only. In fact, it should be a condition of all federal grants. You could even investigate using high speed buses as a short term alternative to building a high speed bus network. But simpler systems, such as the Curitaba bus rapid transport system, are proven ways to very rapidly and cheaply expand public transport. And good bus networks are probably the best cost effective way to desegregate cities as they deepen internal connections (as opposed to rail systems, which often just have the impact of driving up property values around stations).

    It should also be possible to use selective electronic tolls to prioritise EV’s over fossil fuel vehicles on highways. Yes, EV’s are not a final solution, but its foolish to dismiss them as they do use very significantly less energy than the alternatives. Agonising over EV’s is just playing into the fossil fuel industries hands. They are an available technology and can significantly reduce emissions as part of an overall package. The reason why transport emissions are proportionately so high in California and other parts of the US is not just that it is car dependent – but that US cars (well, trucks really) are so grossly overweight and inefficient. It would be foolish to ignore this side of the equation.

    1. Ignacio

      I lived in Berkeley during 1996-1998 and under muy standards it is quite a dispersed city where cars are needed much more than in Madrid. There is a place I liked to go for meditation in the shore of the bay with nice views of the GGB, SF and the bay. Some many more did the same. They just parked their cars in front of the bay and stood there for a while enjoying the panorama. Inside the car. I realised the role and use of cars in the US was much more important than where i live. They transport people, keep them warm and safe while simply enjoying a nice view, watching a film por going to the bank, buying a meal etc. All inside the car. The urban áreas are designed for cars. This should change in imaginative ways as those you suggest.

      Besides, it surprised me the call for massive building of affordable houses. This had to be accompanied with data con the housing stock, empty houses, population, habitants per house etc.and al these are absent in the article. Anyway i agree with the author con the idea that any GND shoul address the urbano development. It cannot be done with the participación of municipalities.

      1. Darius

        The greenest parking garage or suburban stroad or cultural de sac suburb is the one you don’t build. Simplistic but undeniable. Millions of new electric vehicles is nothing more than lipstick on a pig.

    2. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

      “make low density zonings illegal “

      Being a real estate developer formerly active in looking for apartment land in California, one of the challenges we face is simply a lack of availability of zoned land. This is directly where the political directly headwinds hit…progressive Northern California wants the density but not in THEIR neighborhoods.

      You would have to get the government directly involved in the condemnation of private sector land, which on several levels would be a major upending of the social contract that politically would be tough for many to get their heads around. In some California cities, wealthy landowners or real estate interests have a direct hand in controlling the City Council; condemnation would pretty much stop right there.

      1. Fraibert

        In the US at least, I also find it unlikely that states and localities would be able to find the budget to pay preexisting urban and suburban landowners the required fair market values for legal takings of property. The whole point of many decisions by states and localities is to preserve or even increase property values, and I also don’t think courts would look favorably on governmental attempts to deliberately dilute fair market land values just to make it easier to buy out.

        So you would also need to effectively federalize such theoretical large scale takings to even fund them. (Remember: MMT only applies to the federal government in the US. )

        1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

          It’s not just the cost of condemning out land either. Density creates traffic costs that ultimately require land takings for increase freeway widths or the cost of expansion of public transit.

          Including this in the cost of urban housing as impact fees is one of the items that makes urban housing in major cities so expensive, since those financing the deals will effectively require this to be passed onto end users, and helps disincentive the production of more urban housing.

          This passes on these costs to the demographic that lives in urban housing, which is most often a younger demographic that can’t afford it, and is partly responsible for the complaints in urban housing prices in the Is recently. My last urban deal in San Jose had impact fees of $50,000 per unit; most of the residents were in their 20s and 30s and were effectively picking up the tab.

          I hear discussions recently on this board about wealth taxes. If there is support for wealth taxes, why not instead forcing those in lower density wealthy communities to compromise on their housing wealth and accept more density? Does one approach have more “green” benefits than the other? I can’t think of a mechanism to put this necessary into place. I have cursory understanding of some of Governor Newsome’s proposals to punish cities that restrict urban housing density, but ultimately my experience tells me that these are ultimately democratically elected local governments often strongly influenced by well organized and well-funded anti-growth sentiment, and I’m now sure the even state has the political will and resources to take that on.

          1. SerenityNow

            Density does not create motor vehicle traffic–people choosing to drive does. This is a subtle, but massively significant difference. You can have high density and very little increase in driving–especially when you provide infrastructure other than that which makes driving single-occupancy motor vehicles the easiest.

            1. Darius

              A giant condo in the middle of a parking lot on a parkway is density plus lots of car trips. An apartment that shares a street corner with a grocery and a drugstore is density plus lots of foot traffic.

              1. SerenityNow

                Yes I totally agree. The land use (condo) didn’t generate the trips in either mode–the surrounding infrastructure did. Thus if we want to change our cities we need to focus on the travel infrastructure we build, rather than fanciful ideas about land uses “generating” motor vehicle trips

                1. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

                  For an example, Irvine, California’s zoning is based upon, in part, not density, but traffic trips.

          2. Geof

            Density creates traffic costs that ultimately require land takings for increase freeway widths or the cost of expansion of public transit.

            Not so. Increased demand is a consequence of population growth, not of density. On the contrary, density reduces car trips – and transit trips, because in mixed-use neighbourhoods people can walk.

            It is true that transit is a necessary part of the solution. In the U.S., rail transit is outrageously expensive compared to elsewhere. And those costs do get passed on. But building sprawl also requires infrastructure, and the public and private costs are much higher.

            Twenty years ago, my suburban neighbourhood was nearly all strip malls and auto shops. Since the arrival of rail transit in 2002, there have been dozens of new towers (some over 50 storeys), office buildings, and new businesses. Most errands are within walking distance. Density supports better transit – train frequency every 3-8 minutes during the day, many buses come every 7-15 minutes depending on route. It is quite possible to live here without a car, and most car trips are extremely short because destinations are so close (shops, businesses, public services).

            I don’t think this is the best model (towers aren’t actually that green; 4-5 storey condo buildings with internal courtyards would be brilliant), but it’s a vast improvement. Though the planning goes back decades, the implementation has been rapid. And this in a city without the wealth-spinning economy of a San Francisco or a Seattle. It can be done. I don’t think there’s any excuse.

      2. Joe Well

        Everything you said in regards to Northern California is mostly true here in Boston as well, if not most of the US. The working class areas don’t generally oppose development per se, and so much new development has been in places without so many jobs, like Lowell, Lawrence, Lynn. Meanwhile in Cambridge, Brookline, Arlington, developers and housing advocates have had to fight the self-declared progressive lower rungs of the 1% who buy $5 cappuccinos in shops decked in rainbow flags with unironic signs saying “Everyone is Welcome Here.”
        They’ve achieved a skyrocketing of their homes’ value and the segregation of their neighborhoods and have the cultural capital to master the language of progress and win over the media.

        It’s the MSNBC crowd, our enemy in so much.

      3. Lee

        In our SF bay area island town, local low density zoning, enacted through local popular vote, has been overruled by state law and confirmed in the courts. Developers are loving it; longtime residents not so much. The main problem on our patch is that large higher density projects are being built on low-lying, shoreline landfill. These sites are subject to effects of sea-level rise and soil liquefaction when the Hayward fault, currently a bit overdue for the next big one, does its thing. I guess hoping for a major earthquake would make me a bad person, so I’ll say nothing further on that topic.

        And don’t get me started with how big chains and a couple of shopping malls are replacing mom and pop owned shops that were liberally sprinkled about town so that they were within walking distance or a short bus ride from most neighborhoods. These malls and increasing residential density are causing car traffic to become nightmarish in this former relatively out of the way bay area backwater. Being an island with limited roadway access for cars produces major congestion around these choke points, not only during commute hours, but now pretty much all day long. The soul-deadening suburban, car rampant mall-sprawl I escaped from in my youth seems now in old age to have hunted me down.


        1. California Bob

          “… our SF bay area island town …”

          Alameda? Last time I was up there it had a serious access problem; IIRC, you have two bridges and if one is closed it creates a traffic nightmare.

      4. SerenityNow

        Rezoning/upzoning doesn’t require any condemnation or taking at all. It simply allows greater flexibility with existing parcels.

    3. human

      Tax policy and social programs that negate the need for second jobs and two wage earner households would immediately benefit the environment, both physical and social, without the need of any physical infrastructure changes.

      1. PlutoniumKun

        That is very true indeed. I know couples who have huge commutes simply because their jobs are so far apart – there is nowhere they could live without resulting in one, or both, having a major car commute.

    4. William Beyer

      Exactly correct. No one thing will come close to solving our global climate change problems; we need to do it all, and continue to do it for the next century, if we last that long.

    5. Amfortas the hippie

      nobody mentions horses and mules.
      aside from zoning and such, there’s a more prosaic land-use issue that links in with the broader transportation problem: the 3000 mile tomato.
      if yer gonna grow more of what your town eats, close by, and do it without monsatan, et alia…you’re gonna need manure.
      horse manure—-this from lifelong embeddedness in organic—is the best manure for composting.
      good, rich, alive topsoil(itself a dwindling resource) is a carbon sink, too.
      I think it was chicago a while ago that had a “problem” with horse manure on the sidewalks…but at the time i noted that there was no convenient place to hand to put it.
      our attitude to shit should be included in the social engineering side of any GND.
      an even bigger social engineering problem that contains that above, is our too-busyness…hassled, harassed and harried to rush about….we don’t question this acutely enough.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        Thank you, hippie dude! People riding horses, or omnibuses pulled by horses or having their milk delivered by horse drawn carts was the last connection we had to the natural world.
        This Green New Deal sounds a lot like the Fabian derived Agenda 21 to stuff everyone into cities where they will be easier to corral and control. For the same reason all social and political speech moved to corporate controlled online spaces that can be rigorously policed. Have you noticed there are certain issues you cannot even criticize on Twitter? Doesn’t matter if you consider yourself ‘left’, ‘right’ or ‘moderate’.
        It’s about centralization and control, not saving the species, the planet or anything else. Disaster Capitalism. All these ‘save the planet’ plans invariably come out of Foundation World(tm) and benefit the ruling caste.
        An archaic revival would help. I’d rather ride a mule (like Jesus or Clint Eastwood) than a Beemer any day.

        1. TimR

          Wow! Glad to see someone on here making this point. Green New Deal is a snow job… Shouldn’t people here have a little skepticism such as you display? But no, only Big Oil is nefarious… Big Everything Else is totally trustworthy… Just drink the kool-aid, little NCers… There we go…

      2. Susan the Other

        I think this is a good idea. We are so ambushed and freaked-out about e-coli and listeria and salmonella on our lettuce and cantaloupes we’re ready to spray it all with lysol. Dip it in clorox. Irradiate it. Ultra pasteurize it. Can’t we just hermetically seal that filthy chicken farm? There is good sense in going organic – it doesn’t destroy plants and animals – it lets them flourish in a small, dispersed, clean, controlled environments. Not some 10-acre pig farm, just upstream from the 100 acre romaine lettuce farm, that regularly gets hosed down with flesh-eating solvents. Dispersed organic operations; properly regulated (I’m thinking Germany); clean. An entirely new concept for agriculture and lots of the suburbs are just sitting there waiting for their future to happen. Government subsidies could go a very long toward solving two, three or four of our biggest problems. Housing. Food. Networked transportation just outside a city hub. Generating plenty of decentralized-grid electricity. And jobs. Tons of jobs for this endeavor. Jobs that are not with planned-obsolescened enterprises. Nobody will have to uproot and go looking for a job. Or do much commuting. Just delivery in an electric truck. And etc.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          ^^^”…Dispersed organic operations; properly regulated (I’m thinking Germany); clean. An entirely new concept for agriculture and lots of the suburbs are just sitting there waiting for their future to happen…”^^^
          not new at all. Paris, last half of 1800’s especially, is the model for french market gardening.
          all that manure(as well as the humanure produced by that concentration of humans) is prime fodder for gas digesters, making methane for fuel. what’s left over is essentially pasturised compost.(just add a “starter culture” of soil microbiota)
          I’ve wanted to experiment with this for decades,lol…but don’t have the necessary gas-handling skills(and local propane men just look at me askance).
          the problem is collection and distribution.
          if the little town near me wanted to put in a digester style municipal sewer plant(something I’ve long been an evangelist for)…all they’d need is a generating plant. the rest is all there together(landfill, sewer “plant”(several big ponds, currently) and 3 out of 4 big feedlots).
          other places are not so fortuitously situated, regarding such infrastructure.
          on the collection side…like that chicago horseshit “problem”…all those offensive piles seem to be in a parklike downtown setting. lots of plantings and lawns and such right there. why not a line of compost bins right there, too…distributed where the plantings are, as well as where the horses are?
          but like the county and city leadership out here, and the propane men and plumbers, everyone snarls and holds their noses at the mere mention of doing something with all that poop besides depositing it in perfectly good water and flushing it away.
          Here’s your sewer socialism, right here,lol.

          our composting toilet is rudimentary and quite primitive—essentially a big barrel, with a funnel for pee-diversion, with a potty built over it.
          no moving parts, no water(dry composting. pee goes out to a built wetland in an old disconnected gully). I checked some of the piles of the finished product this morning…along a fenceline in the pasture where shade trees will eventually go.
          spongy living soil…no evidence of poop at all,lol.
          volunteer earthworms throughout.
          with a properly built and run digestor, you wouldn’t even hafta worry about humanure pathogens(temps too high) like i do(it only goes in orchard and pasture…never the actual garden)
          I’ve also recently built our regular composting bins—it’s expensive to get rid of old washers and dryers out here…so i end up storing them(…and i took them apart over the last week. drums are painted, filled with dirt and are home for various herbs and things. housings(big metal boxes, now with sides, back and bottom) are now my bins. my capacity is such that I’ll need to enlist another household to become habituated to using a “chicken bucket” in their kitchen…perhaps in exchange for veggies.
          I simply don’t generate enough kitchen waste to feed what I’ve built(you’ve heard of first world problems?…I don’t know what world this problem belongs to,lol.)—and built for nothing at all but an hour or three spread over a week.

          my other otherworldly problem is lack of sufficient good manure.
          those 4 feedlots? lots of bullshit there…but it’s all contaminated by persistent herbicides—big ranchers spray it indiscriminately on their pastures(monocropped…coastal bermuda, mostly…which contains it’s own problems(bermuda spreads like kudzu))…cows eat it and the herbicides pass unchanged through the cow.
          tomatoes planted in this manure….even well composted…look like they’ve been sprayed with 2-4-D. I’ve lobbied the local feedstore to stop carrying these substances. dow/dupont disallow a test for them…so there’s no way to know until you plant something in it.
          for an organic/sustainable guy, it’s a nightmare.
          (and a digester would cook that crap away, as well…at least theoretically)

          all of this, too, points to the incredible interconnectedness of all things.
          we’re far from separate from nature.

          1. clarky90

            Omnipresent herbicide and insecticide use is what disturbs me. Out in the wider world. Insect populations are dropping! (fewer squashed bugs on windscreens…..bees, Monarch butterflies). Also, the human beings that I see around the place, generally are not physically or mentally well. Us humans too, are being systemically poisoned- in the air, drinking water, food, and the prescribed “medicines”. Monsanto, Et alia, are poisoning everybody and everything.

            My plant friends generally like more CO2 and more heat. (I know! I gave them the Al Gore lecture, but they just ignore, or ridicule me!).

            However, Monsanto and their Evil ilk, are NOT friends to the plant, insect, fungal, microbial and animal Kingdoms.

            A Green New Deal should, primarily focus on the end of toxic chemicals being released into the world.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              If the march of global warming brings a multi-month drought to your home, your plant friends will not like that. All the CO2 in the air won’t help them any if they don’t have any water to combine it with.

              If some of your plant friends require a set minimum number of chilling hours to create a long-enough dormancy for them to not leaf out till the next spring really arrives, and if a warming global lowers the amount of chilling hours right where you live to below the minimum required threshhold for any winter-dormancy-dependent plant friends you may have, those particular plant friends will die.

              And so on.

              1. clarky90

                Hi DW. I will read your comments to them! Maybe you can make them finally, wake up? Have you any more info I can pass on to the forest garden? They say that the tree canopy, dense growth and lots of mulch on the ground helps them during drought times?

                I will remind them of how much they need cold weather.

                1. Shonde

                  Or start planting varieties that require fewer chilling hours. I had two apple trees 3 miles from the coast in San Diego County that required very few chilling hours. Had great apples every year!

                2. drumlin woodchuckles

                  You can read my comments to your plants if you wish, but I don’t think it will affect them any.

                  Plants live in a whole different world-of-the-mind than we do. They are intensely pragmatic individuals. They need what they need, and no amount of reading to them will convince them to change their needs.

                  1. juliania

                    Well, don’t you think we’d better fast learn to live in their world-of-the-mind a little bit, dw? After all, they may need us like a hole in the head but we certainly need them! I think that is what Amortfas and others are saying – it’s a different world, as you say, but really that’s our fault, not theirs.

                    1. drumlin woodchuckles

                      I have long thought we should learn to live in their world-of-the-mind and have long spent effort trying to learn how to do that.

                      People who have read my comments over time will get a sense of my ongoing effort in that regard.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              yup. poultry manure is “hot”–high N content–due to the way their digestion works.
              goose poop is excellent, but they wander all over.(90% grass diet. I rarely mow)
              chicken manure and their shavings and hay and such go into compost bins.
              really jump starts the process.
              but don’t put it directly into garden and plan on planting within a year. it’ll burn whatever you grow there.
              for some reason, my local horse people…if they stable their horses at all…didn’t think to include access for cleaning out the stalls. every one of them has abundant extra work literally built in to their horse barns.
              back in east texas, this was always considered.(either bobcat accessible, or at least amenable to backing a trailer right there)

              1. The Rev Kev

                About that humanure that you mentioned before. Would that be a good idea these days? I know that in Victorian times that humanure was gathered in cities and shipped by barge to farmers for their crops but that humanure was a result of an organic diet.
                The humanure these days would be loaded with hormones, drugs, cocaine and a fun cocktail of other chemical compounds. Thus if used on crops that would serve to get those chemicals into the food-chain which does not sound like a good idea.

                1. Amfortas the hippie

                  hence, the digester.
                  i know it takes care of the bad bugs—influenza, e coli, listeria, etc.
                  i don’t know about hormones or prozac.
                  and i don’t know about heavy metals.
                  i don’t even know where those come from…how do they get concentrated in sewers.

                  1. The Rev Kev

                    I heard that here in Oz that water that went through the water purification plants could not get rid of the hormones and were having a detrimental effect on fish downstream as in changing their sex. There was also a story recently how the eels in the Thames River are getting hooked on cocaine. Found a link for the later story for you-


                    1. Amfortas the hippie

                      ordinary wastewater plants are different from digesters. pond(or pools) and settling, filters of some sort, and then chemical treatment…ozone is used, I seem to remember. this process “misses” small molecule sized things…and it also misses the cysts that give you the amoebas that eat yer brain, too…so don’t use tapwater for the neti pot)
                      digesters use aerobic process to cook the organic material, which breaks it down(the bad bugs thrive in an anaerobic environment, it turns out…so one must be careful,lol)…and it’s in a sealed container(for to capture the methane)…gets real hot…nt unlike a compost pile, just hotter and more thorough.
                      idk what would happen to the dope and stuff.
                      we might be too sick and polluted as a civilisation/species for any of this to scale up sufficiently.
                      perchlorate in all our cells and whatnot…

                2. PlutoniumKun

                  A lot of agricultural land in the midlands of England is what is known as ‘sewage sick’ as a result of excessive use of untreated sewage solids in the 19th and 20th Century. Essentially, there are too many nutrients and its gone anoxic, like a lake choked with algae.

                  Human waste is very commonly used in agriculture. It usually goes by the name ‘biosolids’ or something similar. Its normally tightly filtered for solids and lime treated to stabilise and kill dangerous bacteria. It can also be digested (composted anaerobically) or aerobically composted (the latter produces a superior product but produces awful odours). Another alternative is to bake it to a dry product.

                  If its treated and used correctly, biological processes should break down and neutralise most potential contaminants (apart from metals of course), but most research focuses on a relatively small number of easy to measure variants (such as e-coli or nitrogen/potassium). So I don’t think it can be said to be 100% safe. However, the alternative is landfilling or incineration, which is problematic in itself.

                  1. Amfortas the hippie

                    right on all counts…altho I quibble with :”or aerobically composted (the latter produces a superior product but produces awful odours)”. the bad smells come from ANaerobic activity.

                    the solids are dry composted(takes a lot longer, and is seasonal. full barrels sit covered in pasture for a year.), pee is diverted.
                    only time this contraption smells, is when the rain gets in somehow, or the diversion “system” is put back in askew after a changeout.
                    I did a lot of research and experimentation(no info online about how a woman must sit upright for the diversion to work, for instance(a question of aiming. i love my wife))
                    digesters are scalable…this hillbilly method is limited in scalability(need land), but it’s been surprisingly easy for everyone here to get used to…and miss,lol, when we’re in more civilised(sic) places.
                    My microscope is small and ancient, sadly, for i’d love to get a closer look. The oldest piles(3 years) have springtails (hypogastruridae) underneath them, which is always a good sign.

                    1. PlutoniumKun

                      Yes, anaerobic is smellier, but (certainly the systems I’m familiar with), its done in enclosed chambers so there is no major odour problem. Its the most common method here in Ireland for agriculture waste.

                      Its just very hard to aerate sewage waste to ensure a ‘clean’ aerobic breakdown, but I assume it can be done.

                    2. drumlin woodchuckles

                      It may be easier to handle municipal sewage in a theoretically perfect aerobic way in a big low-population-density country like America or Canada than in a small high-population-density country like the UK.

                      I could theoretically think of having large dedicated areas devoted to mixing bio-sludge into soil and then growing specific kinds of plants on it which hyper-accumulate particular poison-metals and anaerobically digesting those plants to get out most usable energy and then concentrating the metal-rich residue for incineration and metal-ash burial in sanitary landfills.

                      Of course it would be better to have a Death Penalty or at least Lifetime Incarceration for any and every person involved in putting cadmium and etc. into the sewage supply to begin with.

              2. polecat

                We deposit what we collect daily from the chicky yard (‘We’ being Yours Truly ..) into the compost bin, along with any soiled straw from the coop, as well as soft plant prunings from from the yard, and whatever kitchen scraps we have … those that the hens don’t consume, of course. We turn/aerate, and let the red wigglers have at it, then let it mellow for about a year before sheat spreading it in the beds. I gotta say that the berries especially appreciate the stuff, and produce very nice fruit !

      3. polecat

        These is also the ‘human excrement’ factor … and no, I’m not, at this moment referring to politicians, but to the waste stream of human sewer systems as they are currently designed and executed ..
        Just look at your utility bill for and idea of the costs of treatment, let alone the wasteful use of water and electricity to do keep things out-a-sight out-a-mind.
        Utter one quip about wanting to install a home compost toilet system to any city official and watch them flip out !
        And, should municipalities loose significant electrical power to pump all that waste to where it needs to go, namely the sewer plant .. well, it would seriously suck to find ‘stuff’ backing up beyond the confines of one’s bathroom ..

        I doubt humanure composting is even a twinkling of an after-thought where the GND is concerned.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          my county’s one city had a 60 year old sewer “system”…a couple of big ponds that discharged into Comanche Creek(green algae all the way downstream to the Llano, and then green algae for miles downstream of the confluence)
          mayor, et alia made a big to-do about getting a federal grant to “upgrade” the system…”build a new, modern one” was strongly implied.
          I quickly set about lobbying for an additional grant…almost unused and readily available…for a big digester instead. my calculations indicated at least enough electricity from that methane(which city/county get fined a minimal amount for releasing) to power the city water wells and extant and more streetlights and such.
          ie: net positive
          we ended up with a bigger, fancier set of ponds…with high tech monitoring for leakage…and green algae all the way downstream,lol.

          my decision to do a composting toilet had to do with the narrowness of my portion of the place(between county road and back fence, it’s about 140 feet. we’re long and thin)…which meant creativity when installing a regular septic system, re: field lines and such. which means more $$ for permits and approved installers…who balk at creativity,lol.
          would have cost me $8K or so.
          under current texas law, if your county or city ordinances and regs do not contemplate composting or other alternative waste management(like graywater), it reverts to state regs…which I followed to the letter even with my rinky dink cracker-rigged model.
          austin has such a policy…as does houston.
          I seriously doubt that the smaller jurisdictions have discovered composting toilets, yet…although they are starting to notice graywater, and incorporating regs for that(in a typically expensive and middleman heavy way, of course.)

      4. Lee

        Dog carts too. It’s about time these pampered critters I’ve kept all my life got a job. Sled dogs seem to love their work, so why not my pibble whose main occupation to date consists only of scaring strangers at the front door and keeping my feet warm?

  2. Clive

    I researched Palm Springs as a possible retirement option. I had it ruled out on the USA’s disincentivisaiton of immigration especially for seniors. But apart from that, the sheer unsustainability of it took my breath away. It was unliveable in without access to a car. Every year it seems that at least one new vast tract was simply carved out the dessert (and it was the dessert, complete with cacti), a highway built or extended, utilities put in and, hey-presto, another bit of sprawl added to the sprawl.

    I never once heard mention of water use or the possibility of water stress. Energy inputs were immense — all, and I do mean all, of the home designs had huge picture windows to admire the mountain or (I’m still shaking my head at this) golf course views. Yes. Golf courses. In the dessert. When I dug around in the spec, all properties came with a 14 SEER HVAC unit (the bare EPA mandated minimum I think). The realtors seemed stumped when I asked about if a 16 or 21 SEER upgrade was available. I felt like I’d been living in another world to even ask. My attention was markedly drawn to the solar panel installation and I was told this would make the home “eco”. I didn’t have the heart to point out that the 3kWe would barely make a dent in trying to keep 2,500 not especially well insulated sq. ft. temperate while subject to monstrous solar gain in day after day of hundred degree heat.

    Then there’s the having to drive everywhere for everything.

    I get the impression that CA residents are a little more attuned to green matters. Well, all I can say is that if what I was shown represents the doyenne of America’s environmentalists’ achievements, I shudder to think what more unrepentant energy hog places get up to.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I can’t help thinking that much of this comes down to what I find is a weird mind block people have when calculating costs. I’ve seen this all the time with people building or buying houses that are too big ‘because, well, I might need the extra bedrooms’. When someone says ‘but how much will it cost to heat all those empty bedrooms?’ you get a blank stare. And then a couple of years later that person complains about the cost of heating oil (as the informal architecture expert in my family, I’ve had this experience multiple times).

      Its not just housing of course – a Texan friend of mine was telling me how his neighbour told him of how much he wanted to own a super sized truck – to drive to work. Eventually he bought one. A few months later my friend noted the truck wasn’t there any more. When he asked why the guy sold it he said ‘I couldn’t afford the gas’. This, apparently, is incredibly common, and one reason why nearly new second hand trucks are so cheap across the US. People look at sticker prices and don’t calculate running costs. I try not to be smug about the very low heating cost of my south facing apartment, but sometimes I can’t help it (just don’t ask about my management fee).

      Incidentally, and completely off-topic, but with reference to retirement, I ran into a former colleague of mine on Friday, who retired more than 5 years ago. He immediately moved to China with his wife (to everyones surprise, he had never even been to Asia before), and the two of them are teaching English in a small city University. At the time, knowing my interest in China, he asked had asked me to take him and his wife out with some of my Chinese friends to dinner in a ‘real’ Chinese restaurants – I was a little shocked at the time at just how little he knew what he was going to face, so I expected it not to turn out well. But when I met him he looked very happy and youthful and said it was the best thing he ever did – after decades of work, he’d found his vocation (teaching) and all his new students deeply inspiring. He can even get by with a little mandarin. It just shows there is more than one way to retire abroad.

    2. Ignacio

      Palm springs and Las Vegas are good examples of development “crazyness”. I like the mohave desert with its Joshua trees, the landscape etc. but Palm Springs drove me mad.

      1. polecat

        Ever look at a night-time satellite view of the Continental U.S. ?? …. in addition to your example above, there’s the concurbation known as LA that just boggles the mind ! One Big Shaker away from Chaos .. no water no power, only the food one has on hand.
        And to observe the gradual accretion of humanity as mentioned above, over time, is to view a kind of viral spread.

    3. Brooklin Bridge

      Was this a serious retirement possibility? Is it becaause you just weren’t familiar with that name (never mind area) or, were you doing it as a means of evaluating Palm Springs or more broadly, desert sprawl as an example of the American conquest of nature fantasy persisting from the 1950’s? It’s true there are many USA’s in the sense of totally different perspectives, but Palm Springs as an environment friendly suburban setting (even if environment friendly and suburban setting were not mutually contradictory) is like mentioning Las Vegas as a good place to go camping and get back to nature.

      1. skk

        Quite so. I’ve been there a good few times. All that green green grass, when the temp is 110+, day after day after day. Miraculous, the power of copious amounts of water!

      2. Michael Fiorillo

        It goes beyond housing, permeating the entire society.

        Not to knock on California, but they grow rice there. Rice (!), in a semi-arid, Mediterranean climate, where virtually all the water needs to be imported from other regions.

        That’s got to be as insane as golf courses in the desert… now, multiply that through every facet of the society and economy, and all of our Green proposals start to look more and more like magical thinking, intended to comfort us.

        1. John Wright

          From my view inside CA, post the wildfire that took my home, observing the requests for ever more housing and growth cause me to suspect there is ONE powerful anti-economic growth entity of long term tremendous influence in CA.

          And it is prominently making its presence known.

          This entity is not motivated by real estate prices, the real estate industry, political influence, the need for lower cost housing or the “American Dream”.

          That entity is Mother Nature.

          Go to and see the fire hazard map for CA (the map is zoomable)

          In my opinion, CA may eventually determine that the assumed + sign on much of what is called economic growth may have been a tragic strategic error.

        2. polecat

          Ever page through a magazine, noticing the plethora of ‘stuff’ being advertised … ? Now, multiply said zine by ALL the others at one’s .. uh .. ‘disposal’ … to get a grasp of the kind of environmental externalities produced via contemporary human endeavors. Box .. meet Pandora !

        3. Wukchumni

          Rice is grown in the winter in California when water is if anything, dependable.

          A number of rice farmers sold their annual water rights during the drought and decided to not plant anything those years, as the amount received was so lucrative.

      3. Clive

        It is marketed to international buyers as a desert oasis with a strong slant to retirees. Which is what it certainly looks like, but the “oasis” aspect apparently being piped in from out of state. It is also traded on the laid back west coast approach to life. Most of the spec built housing developments which get flagged on the international realty portals tout their so-called environmental credentials (solar PV, “desert” landscaping / yards, rainwater capture, “sustainable” communities).

        It doesn’t take much investigation to reveal this all as so much greenwash. Oversized homes on denaturalised subdivisions (no natural shading, no thought to orientations of the units which would reduce solar gain but would cause problems with standardised designs and street layouts). The standard three-car garages give the game away in terms of your transportation options. But how many buyers — especially from overseas — know or care enough to look beyond the promotional fibs?

        1. Brooklin Bridge

          I sort of figured; local “bias” on my part – I just wasn’t sure that you didn’t have a specific reason. One gets to thinking, “every one knows about Palm Springs” when that is of course not at all the case. I’d have the same issue if I were looking into (what I imagine as) the beautiful parts of England for the same purpose.

          I also have a bit of an issue with the first rule of marketing claim you make elsewhere (though not with your point about being up front) and I promise, promise, that I’m not trying to pick on you (au-contraire), but if TV ads are part of “marketing,” or the same for news broadcasts (another form of marketing) , then I’ve never seen so much bald face lying in one evening by “marketing” as I have in the entire rest of my life – and that’s been awhile, even including real estate agents and automobile and insurance salespeople (well, maybe take out automobile salespeople – a stretch too far). But clearly I’m missing something yet again.

    4. anon in so cal

      Palm Springs, California is not a beacon of wise environmental decision-making. It developed a serious smog problem years ago, due to excess vehicle traffic and giant irrigated golf courses and lawns which created a smog-trapping urban heat island (like Phoenix, Arizona).

      1. anon in so cal

        Palm Springs traditionally advertised itself to a glitzy subset of Los Angeles and Hollywood as a second home option. Touting its environmental creds appeals to that demographic.

        There are more humble and authentic desert locales with less environmentally-destructive homes, such as Borrego Springs, California, situated near the incredibly beautiful Anza Borrego desert State Park.

    5. Barry

      As a Californian, I have to say that it is a mistake to believe any of the generalizations about Californians. The state is too big and too populous. For example, if you look at presidential voting maps by district instead of by state, California goes from solidly blue to largely red, with the blue districts mapping to the population centers (just like the rest of the country).

      And I can’t predict how politics will go in the high-density areas as places like San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley have been purging nearly everyone who can’t afford $3K/mo rent. Sure, they may remain solidly Democratic, but leftist/progressive?

      Even on environmental issues: you will find lots of the wealthy in CA during severe droughts doing extravagantly wasteful things with water just to demonstrate their power. And Palm Springs, being a town of golf courses in the desert, is a prime example of this.

      1. anon y'mouse

        as a native from that place, a lot of the wealthy believe that they ARE leftist/progressive.

        there is a common observation among us poor folk in those areas. i believe someone who had a different style about them would be terming this “limousine liberalism”. it is “granola/Whole Foods (whole paycheck) hippieism”.

        a lot of people unaware of their privilege. except that they live in “the best place on Earth!” and can afford to sport birkenstocks, drive a prius and eat “organic” etcetc.

        yes, i understand these are stereotypes. i have just been unfortunate enough to meet many of real life examples of that during my first 25 years there.

    6. polecat

      In a rational world these desert dwellings would constructed w/ earthen berm/passive solar design/construction .. as a reflection to living in such a hostile environment.
      Much more energy efficient with much lower energy costs, as compared to typical wood-frame stick-built construction. But we evidently do not live in that kind of world .. yet.
      In my opinion, each and every region of the nation has envirionmental conditions that lend themselves towards the design/connstruction of buildings/habitats that much better suited for their surrounds, then the generalized cookie-cutter dreck that builders-developers offer to the public. Where’s the GND’s stand in this regard ?? I do not see it.

      …. and don’t even get me started on the hazards of worshiping the all-mighty sport of GOLF !!! … with it’s atrocious environmental footprint ..

      1. Shonde

        “earthen berm/passive solar design/construction” Polecat, thanks for mentioning this construction. It was a big concept in the 70’s but my understanding is you can’t get financing for it now.

        A friend did build such a home in the 70’s in Minnesota and it has stood up well through time and is so energy efficient that the local utility company didn’t believe she wasn’t somehow stealing power.

        Such construction would be fantastic for any area with temperature extremes in addition to being relatively tornado resistant.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          and stick it underground, too. Like Uncle Owen’s place on Tatooine.
          brings the price way up, too, for those who like to wave such figures around.
          i considered this for our house. cost in labor alone thwarted that idea.( i don’t have the knowledge or skills, and there’s enormous stresses involved)
          it would certainly be efficient

    7. Lee

      Canada, further from the equator, would probably be a better choice. If you hang in there until the not too distant future, Palm Springs weather will come to you.

  3. pierre

    Hate the title of this article. As I understand it, GND is not a final draft of a law. If we have to incorporate the problem of sprawl in it, then why not? The important thing is to start the conversation and elevate the consciousness in the broader national stage.

    The title reeks with negativity. If you’re not careful, you’d come away feeling the GND would a useless fruitless endeavor and so we just have to give up because, sprawl. Where was the author of this article before GND was introduced into national consciousness anyway? I would assume he’s a passionate advocate to address the problem of urban sprawl but was he able to generate broader political leverage for the cause?

    With (assumed progressive) friends like this, who needs GND enemies?

    1. Clive

      First rule of marketing: Never, never, ever misrepresent your product. While there’s nothing wrong with introducing a concept and, as you say, shoehorning into the national consciousness, if people start off by thinking that it’ll all be nice and easy and fixable without anyone having to make any noticeable changes to their lifestyles or even social interactions but then later on find it’ll need a lot more than tweaks then you’re just setting yourself up for a backlash.

      Telling the majority of Americans they’ll have to live in cities is going to necessitate such a shocking overhaul of the American psyche that I can barely even write it here from the safety of the other side of the Atlantic. Don’t even get me started on what saying that personal transportation (cars and light trucks) will need to be surrendered in favour of public transportation will do to the general population. Any politician brave, or foolhardy, enough to do this might as well make a full frontal assault on motherhood and apple pie. And while I’m out on my precarious limb here, and having mentioned motherhood, dare I even mention that churning out as many children as one wishes to have may need to be subject to limits, even if only financial such as the state refusing to pay for healthcare and education beyond the first or second child?

      The surface has not even been scratched here.

      1. pierre

        By all means, yes, bring all the inputs for a more broad workable program. As I said, the GND is not a final draft of a law. Propose, tweak, suggest, adjust, consider – let’s have more of it. The important thing is to start the conversation and gain enough political leverage for the cause.

        But let’s avoid drifting into negativity that will cause many, policy makers or not, to give up addressing the existential collective problem we are currently facing.

        1. Clive

          More effective, perhaps, though would to be get all the bad news out first. It does seem a peculiarly American character trait to eschew anything that isn’t relentlessly positive. I think that does people a disservice — assumes they occupy an almost childlike psychological development state that results in them unable to deal with anything disappointing. Most Americans I know are quite happy and have come to expect to be disappointed, so I am continually perplexed by this constant cultural reticence to tell it to the population straight.

          1. PlutoniumKun

            I know its good to get bad news out first, but I do think that the constant sniping and negativity from the left about the GND (‘it doesn’t include my favourite bugbear!’) is potentially very damaging.

            FDR was right about how to implement policy during an emergency. I can’t recall the exact quote, but he said that in effect you should do things, but if they don’t work, do something different. We need to get radical policies launched – inevitably there will be mistakes and cul-de-sacs, but the important thing is to get things rolling. If we wait around for the ‘perfect’ policy mix, we’ll be implementing them while underwater.

            And as for negativity – well, I don’t think you’ll ever get a policy going if you say ‘this probably won’t work, but we’ll try to fix things as they go’. Who would support that? Yes, relentless positivity is annoying, but radical change only happens when people are enthused about it. Getting the politics and messaging right is just as important as getting the policies right.

            1. Keith Newman

              Agree completely. When I first read the text of the proposed GND law I was a little disappointed by the lack of specifics. Then I realised, as you say, it is important to get started in a big way ASAP. Getting positive action going with plenty of funding will snowball if the politics are handled well. Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good, or very good in this case.

              1. Yves Smith

                It’s not the lack of specifics. It’s all the happy faces. There is absolutely zero acknowledgment that sacrifices will have to be made and lots of rice bowls will be broken.

                For instance, one young climate change activist (wish I could remember who, I don’t follow them and came upon the tweet by happenstance, but she’s ~15 years old) said that her cohort would be using planes only very very very rarely. There is no way the US will construct high speed rail even remotely approaching what our air traffic network does now.

                This is what bugs me, the grotesque overselling.

                1. Jerry B

                  Yves- I think much of the “happy faces” is due to apathy, denial, loss aversion, etc. The author Rene Lertzman wrote an excellent book, Environmental Melancholia, on the subject of environmental apathy.

                  Basically it is blocked grieving/mourning. Most people do not want to go through the pain of grieving losses which keeps them stuck in the abyss of apathy and denial. Once they are able to grieve and mourn then they can move forward.


                  IMO one major thing that underpins the response of the people in the US to the issues facing us is our lack of psychological development. The lack of psych development was exacerbated in the last 50 years by the focus on the consumeristic and consumption oriented, greedy, behavior of today’s capitalism on steroids.

                  Many authors going back to the 1950s’s and David Riesman (The Lonely Crowd), Rollo May’s Love and Will, and Richard Hofstader’s Anti-Intellectualism in America, have discussed the apathy and lack of development in post WWII American Culture.

                  I have mentioned in other comments the high regard I have for Robert Kegan and his books the Evolving Self and In Over Our Heads. He mentions the lack of development in our culture and that in his opinion most people are developmentally barely out of the adolescent stage and others are in early adulthood.

                  We as a society have to stop treating child development, primary school, and higher ed as job training. And start focusing on developing people to reach higher stages of development in order to deal with the challenges ahead of us.

                  1. Yves Smith

                    This is a very basic point and I am glad to learn I am not crazy, although I don’t think I would have articulated the point you make very well. I have long been stuck by how other societies are not at pathologically optimistic as Americans are and don’t work as hard to push away negative emotions. You see far more, for want of a better phrase, depth of feeling in European films than in American one.

                    Even Australians, who seem constitutionally chipper (I attribute it to all the sun) are far more interpersonally skilled on average and can engage in conversations that we would consider to be too confrontational by adept use of humor. American seem stuck at the high school/junior high school maturity level.

                    1. JohnnyGL

                      In addition to the longer-term cultural impacts of sales/marketing which have permeated everything, I think it’s worth thinking about how much the elites have ruined the concept of ‘shared sacrifice’ in the US.

                      They’ve pushed ‘shared sacrifice’ for decades, as a project to cut SS and Medicare and austerity more broadly. The whole thing has been so cynical that I think it’s heavily damaged the idea of pulling everyone together for a shared project like a GND.

                      The other area where ‘sacrifice’ gets pushed hard as a selling point is in the military. Troops are honored for their service and sacrifice to advance the goals of our elite imperialists. Once again, ruining the concept for the larger society when it’s needed to tackle a problem like climate change.

                      For decades, when politicians in the US have talked about ‘sacrifice’, it’s been a sign that you should hold on to your wallet and prepare for war!

                    2. Jerry B

                      I worked in the plastics injection molding industry for 20+ years in various functions. I was always struck by lunchroom/cafeteria behavior.

                      For the most part during lunch most ethnic groups such as Hispanics/Latinos men or women would eat their lunch in groups and be laughing and talking and seem to be having a good time. Most whites would usually have lunch alone or in pairs and hardly talk to each other let alone laugh together. The behavior of white Caucasians is curious because I believe that most are European descendants.

                      ===You see far more, for want of a better phrase, depth of feeling in European films than in American one===

                      Interesting observation which I agree with. My parents came from Europe so I imagine the majority of white population in the US are European descendants which begs the question if in their home country they were highly social beings with depth of feeling then what happens once they become “Americanized”?

                      I see it in my immediate family. My mother’s family are German and my father is Czech. My mother came here with her mother and six siblings in the very early 50’s. The Chicago area had a large German and Bohemian population and there was a lot of family gatherings and socializing within the German and Czech communities.

                      Starting in the 70’s my parents and I and most of our relatives moved to the middle class and upper middle class suburbs. And over the past decades I have seen the virus that is consumeristic, consumption, materialistic, keeping up with the Jones capitalism infect my relatives.

                      Not the best analogy but it seems like once people leave their home country and come to the US version of capitalism they get caught up in the industrial complex consumption lifestyle and some lose their compass.

                      Over behavior over the past several decades is well illustrated in a documentary you have mentioned, the Century of the Self.

                      Yves, as you have pointed out many times we as a society have to regain our social capital and social cohesion or its over.

                      We have to begin to realize that the affluence and consumerism of the last several decades is an anomaly and get back to a modest way of living.

                      Apologies for the long winded post. It’s still early for me as I am not a morning person so I hope what I have said makes sense in the context of the challenges before us.

                  2. notabanker

                    This ability to grieve is one of the common themes I am seeing across climate activists that are convinced the only actions left to us are radical reshaping of lifestyles. Extinction rebellion covers this in one of their videos.

                    I have to say from personal experience, I was wiped out for almost a week after doing legitimate research and coming to the conclusion that we are in really big trouble. It takes some time to channel that emotion into something that can be useful and pragmatic. I will also say there are many very intelligent, knowledgeable climate researchers that have not made that shift are have essentially dug emotional bunkers waiting for the inevitable and signing people up to live their remaining days on the hippie commune. Perhaps this is another form of apathy and denial, in believing nothing can be done. I think there is a lot of risk that significant populations can wind up in this space, which isn’t very helpful.

                    Finally, I have my own tinfoil theory that people can actually sense in an instinctual way that things are very wrong. Every conversation I’ve had face to face or voice to voice has been virtually identical. I have yet to find a person that flat out denies there is anything wrong and it will all work out ok. Every single person I’ve talked to is quite concerned that something is very wrong but have yet to figure out just how bad and what it all means. When your mind is moving 100 mph constantly worrying about kids, bills, jobs etc… you do not have the capacity to do the research and exercise the critical thinking skills it takes to grasp this problem. To me, getting people the right space to handle this problem is extremely important. Then having the psychological tools in place to deal with it will become critical as well.

                  3. Ignacio

                    We as a society have to stop treating child development, primary school, and higher ed as job training.

                    Very well said!

                2. King

                  Agreed. I wonder what would happen if we tried to ban frequent flyer programs and other similar programs such as the one for getting through security more easily for regulars (for a fee of course). Not even a BIG change but the sort of things that would help and even make the systems as a whole simpler.

                3. Sanxi

                  You say many things I do agree with. But, I ask respectfully why do we need high speed rail? How about renovating existing rail beds to allow 70 mph travel? As a matter of history congress in 1959 made illegal train speeds faster than 71 mph. Yes there are trains (routes) that are faster but each was granted an exception. But, very few. Thus brings up another question why the need for so much travel? Which leads to the fact that only 20% of the population actually use airports and thus air transport. Airports are massive subsidized by the federal Gvt, to the disadvantage to the 80% to those that don’t use them. To me this in inequitable and not just and should be stopped. And that is my day and night job.

                  1. coboarts

                    CA already has good Amtrak routes, just needs a second track and a little tlc:
                    Coast Starlight: Los Angeles-San Jose-Oakland-Sacramento-Portland-Seattle
                    Pacific Surfliner: San Diego-Anaheim-Los Angeles-Oxnard-Santa Barbara-San Luis Obispo
                    Southwest Chief: Los Angeles-Flagstaff-Albuquerque-Topeka-Kansas City-Chicago

                    1. Synoia

                      Have you traveled these routes? I have, and they are slow. and expensive.

                      If CA had invested it;s high speed train dollars in fixing the existing lines, we’d be better off.

            2. Lee

              [FDR] said that in effect you should do things, but if they don’t work, do something different. We need to get radical policies launched – inevitably there will be mistakes and cul-de-sacs, but the important thing is to get things rolling. If we wait around for the ‘perfect’ policy mix, we’ll be implementing them while underwater.

              Of late this spirit seems to be largely limited to regime change in other countries and Sillycon Valley bezzles. U.S. domestic policy is stuck in neutral or perhaps reverse.

          2. pierre


            Agree 100% on putting a check in population growth.

            To be sure the drafters or proponents of GND are not omniscient individuals who would have gotten all the bases covered.

            And even assuming that we are able to get to the point where every possible additional proposals from every stakeholders are considered and/or incorporated into the GND bill, there’s no guarantee we’d be able to ditch that tolerable degree Celsius increase to reverse the calamitous effects of global warming.

            That doesn’t mean we should then just give up, undermine or cripple what GND started, resume our merry ways, full speed ahead damn the torpedoes towards planetary life extinction.

            I mean I get it that the neoliberal skunks are perhaps more than willing to take the plunge towards the abyss in their tunnel visioned pursuit for wealth accumulation but should we also hitch the ride?

            1. Chris

              There’s a reason so much of classic scifi deals with the dystopian concepts of limiting population growth.

              How do you decide which demographic gets to reproduce? How do you handle the religious implications given many of the world’s religions give their believers the command to go forth and multiply? If you limit it to those who can afford it, aren’t you walking into economically rationalized eugenics? If you limit everyone, like China did, don’t you face the possibility of demographic collapse? If we’re a nation state, and we believe in our way of life, don’t we have the right and interest to make sure it survives?

              And what do you do to the people who break the rules limiting population growth?

              I think we could do some things like minimizing tax incentives for larger families in the US. I think we could do things like optimizing help for families with 2 children or less. I also think we could provide a lot more support and care for those who want to foster and adopt children. But I can’t see us ever really being able to control population growth in the developed world. I also can’t see the developing world letting anyone tell them how many kids they can have.

              1. Paul Boisvert

                The US fertility rate is already 1.80 as of 2016, below the replacement level of 2. We only add population in the US because of immigration.

                And the global fertility rate has plummeted over the last 50 years, from 4.45 around 1970 to 2.36 by 2015. It should be below replacement rate within 3 decades or so. We should be so lucky to have that same massive success in reducing population growth rates reflected in our reduction of CO2 emissions–it is the latter, not the former, that is the problem.

                1. Jerry B

                  Jeremy Grantham is a British investor and co-founder and chief investment strategist of Grantham, Mayo, & van Otterloo (GMO), a Boston-based asset management firm. He has mentioned that based on his research the world population will level out:

                  Whatever the reasons, it looks increasingly as if global birth rates will slow for a long time, and that before the end of this century, and perhaps much sooner, global population will start to fall until once again we are below the long- term sustainable capacity of Earth. The critical period is precisely this century.

                  One of his most critical issues aside from reducing CO2 emissions is food production (droughts, etc.) and feeding the world population until the population begins to decline.

                  I highly recommend reading most of Grantham’s essays which are in GMO’s quarterly reports. GMO has minimal gatekeeping to get to the reports. Create an account, password, etc. then login.

                  I have read most of his quarterly essays going back to 2012.

                  Grantham’s essays are usually the second part of the reports but for me they have been highly informative and very, very, sobering.

              2. Anonymous

                You’re asking all the right questions. People who “break the rules” is the problem with socialism in general.

                Socialists demand that people who play by the rules and live within their means subsidize those who cheat. For Socialists, the focus is always on going after pockets of wealth to create “equality,” rather than demanding an equal measure of personal responsibility from all. Socialists don’t want chance or merit to determine success; they want to choose winners and losers by fiat.

                Given the opposition to population control from all sides, I think border control is the closest we’ll ever get. It forces irresponsible cultures to accept the consequences of their actions, rather than allowing them to export their problems to others who live within their means.

                And if that doesn’t work, nature will correct the imbalance, as it does to all populations that exceed the carrying capacity of their resources. We can have border control now, or drought, famine, disease, and war later. The choice seems pretty obvious to me.

                1. pretzelattack

                  we’re causing the border crisis with our policies south of the border. and financiers not playing within the rules and extracting rent and causing job loss is determining “winners” and “losers” in this society. stop pretending it’s a meritocracy.

              3. rob

                One thing that needs to happen anyway, is to start teaching kids that religions are myths. Society needs to teach the history of the world, and that includes how religions came to be. It also exposes the fact that none of them have ever had any evidence in the last 10,000 years. And despite people waiting five thousand years or so;since the latest “big three” came along. the god of Abraham, is a no show.

                The people ought to be allowed to have kids or not, no need to engineer anything, or make it a “law”.. considering that many religious folks around the world do have too many kids, or are being told contraception is against gods will and all that. The simple act of exposing the lie of religion is a place to start in getting everyone on board to being an “earthling”,and the fact we all are on the same planet, and we are not going to be “saved” by some god coming back for us. We need to all realize we are in this together.

                Too many “believers” are ok with everything going to blazes, because they think they will be saved. And then there are all the ones who want their church to prosper by having many new “believers” bred to join the fight.

              4. Massinissa

                “How do you decide which demographic gets to reproduce?”

                We already sort of do that, though. Its called “The Market”.

                For what its worth, it IS succeeding in making population levels level off in much of the industrialized world.

            1. Clive

              Of all the examples to illustrate the point you’re trying to make, that’s about the worst. We’re absolutely drowning in coverage. From both sides of the arguments. I can barely glance at newsstands now with the tirade of screechiness assaulting my cognitive abilities — from all the major titles across all the spectrum of options. That’s before you’ve got to the mainstream media — which does at least try to be balanced. Depth and intelligence of coverage gets hopelessly lost in that attempt at balance, but it is at least trying for objectivity and neutrality although I’d argue for a little more polemics and leave the viewer to pick out what they want to decide from it all although that’s as fraught with difficulty as the anodyne fence-sitting.

              What is an issue is information overload and the sheer volume of coverage. That, coupled with a lack of truly outstanding and genuinely accurate sources. There’s tonnes and tonnes of partisan, one-extreme-or-the-other diatribes from the non-mainstream channels (mainly the internet of course). But well collated, fair, unbiased and above all utterly and inviolably truthful information — well, you can count that on the fingers of one hand and still have a thumb, a little finger and a middle finger left over.

              I’m not getting the GND avoiding any of that. It seems to be falling into the same quagmire — a descent into ritual denunciations of each side by the other.

              1. Synoia

                Brexit “dialogue” is less productive than children in a fight.

                He did, she did, ……

                I’d observe that the planning for Brexit — Have a Referendum, Do Article 50, failure to plan, identify and address all issues, is a clear demonstration of Bad Project Management, Bad Executive Management, coupled with No Clear statement of benefits and No Strategy whatsoever.

                Similar to the planning for WW 1. “It will all be over by Christmas.”

                Or the TSB switchover to a new system.

          3. Barry

            @AOC tweeted today:

            ‘You say you love your children, but you are destroying our future.’ Our sea levels are rising. Droughts are worsening. Wildfires are spreading. Storms are coming. There’s precious little time left. We must mobilize our economy around a #GreenNewDeal before it’s too late.

            I *think* you are critiquing the GND, but I’m not seeing relentless positivity in the urgency of the GND.

            1. Yves Smith

              The GND is selling its solutions as painless save increasing taxes (which if you understand MMT isn’t a real issue and even if it were, “rightsizing” our military would go a long way towards the cost). That is the part that is bullshit.

              1. notabanker

                I agree with you this is a problem, and I believe it traces back to the mistaken assumption that is still prevalent in mainstream that economic growth and carbon consumption can be decoupled. There is still legitimate debate in the scientific community on this. Nathan Robinson refers to David Roberts as being a sensible resource on climate change education. Roberts wrote this for vox:

                If you dig into that piece, you will see a piece done by Schroder and Storm that make the case that this is based on Obama’s proclamation that the US has been able to demonstrate this. The premise of which is not valid as the US has outsourced it’s carbon intensive production and is actually driving not through production but consumption.

                While I personally prefer to deal in the worst case scenarios given how apocalyptic they are, I also struggle with how ignorant society is as a whole on this issue and what will be the course of action to shift that mentality, then channel it into solving the problem. Or to rephrase, I agree with you Yves, I’m just not sure fighting that battle right now with everyone is worth it , or will be as effective as at least getting started on the agenda and continually moving the Overton window. I realize there is great risk in this never happening, or happening too late.

                Finally, I am by no means saying you should simmer down on this. Your post on GND not being enough, and frankly, your reactions to the comments, forced me to rethink and research this whole topic. And I thank you for that. We need credible people driving, and questioning, this agenda.

                1. polecat

                  Our society wouldn’t be half as ignorant if we had a press that wasn’t rotten to the core, looking out to it’s own gain, at the common’s expense !

            2. lambert strether

              IMNSHO, AOC has adopted the only rhetorical approach that will work (granted, for some definition of work): People’s children (for whom, after all, at least in the aggregate, much of the population has undertaken a serious moral obligation, over-riding much else).

              Gawd knows, forty years of “save the planet” and “the science” haven’t done the trick.

              1. Barry

                I agree but also think that we are seeing an inflection point, where the prevailing narratives are collapsing, like a membrane we’ve been pressing against has finally burst.

                It’s a well-known fact that rich and powerful men get away with sexual abuse and they must be indulged because of the important work they do or anyway because they’re members of the country club… OR maybe we can just stop putting up with the abuse.

                It’s a well-know fact that we Americans love our big gas-guzzling cars and that there is no market for electric vehicles… oh wait, last week in my 15 minute drive to work I saw 19 Teslas, 15 of which were Tesla Model 3s, and I don’t know how many Nissan Leafs and Chevy Bolts…

                It’s a well-known fact that only the Democrats can fight the Republicans and so we must abandon all progressive aspirations but nevertheless vote…

                It’s a well-known fact that only hippie Californians want to hug trees and save spotted owls…

                I just don’t think that what we’re seeing is just AOC picking the right marketing ploy. The world is primed for big changes; the world is having more and more trouble pretending that we can keep doing what we’ve been doing.

          4. lambert strether

            > It does seem a peculiarly American character trait to eschew anything that isn’t relentlessly positive.

            I read about American politics all day. I would not say that relentless positivity is the most salient feature of that discourse. Even if you take American Exceptionalism as its basis, it’s not too hard to flip it over and see a deeply pessimistic picture of an America beset by enemies.

            I see the entire problem as one of capital allocation, which must be put under democratic control if the greatest number possible are to survive. Naturally there will be a good deal of, er, resistance. But “You must do it, Catullus, you must do it. You must do it whether it can be done or not.”

            We already know the default setting: The 1% in bunkers with a servant class plus lots of robots and AI. (Not saying that will work either, but the delusional 1%-ers might think it does.) The elite has known this for some decades. That’s why they’re treating the country as a teardown. I would prefer to avoid the default.

            1. Joe Well

              Thank you, Lambert.

              My experiences with Europeans, Americans, and Latin Americans do not convince me at all that Europeans are more emotionally mature and Americans less so.
              Psychologists have studied the Latino dividend whereby all else being equal, Latin Americans have lower levels of depression. There is no comparable phenomenon among Europeans.

      2. The Rev Kev

        I think that you dodged a particularly large caliber bullet there by not going to live in Palm Springs. Some of what you said was simply unbelievable. I checked out that town using Google satellite images and it is as bad as you say and there sure are a lot of golf courses for only 50,000 people. If either the electricity or the water fails for that town it is game over player one. This is going to be a massive effort to convert America into a more sustainable country but I think that the resistance against this plan is going to be fierce. The issues that will arise such as the possession of personal cars or being able to live where they want to or living an energy-intensive lifestyle is something that will not be willingly be given up. This could lead to a schism between who will adopt this new lifestyle and those who want to keep their cars and their suburban homes. I think that millennials will choose the former lifestyle while older and richer people will choose the later. The thing is, supporting all this suburbia is not cheap and those that live closer into the cities may not be willing to dig into their pockets to support those who insist on living a suburban lifestyle. Some of the outer suburbs, like some suburbs in Detroit, is simply going to have to be abandoned if they cannot be made into semi self-sufficient satellite towns. This is going to be messy.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          ^^^”The issues that will arise such as( ….) being able to live where they want to or living an energy-intensive lifestyle is something that will not be willingly be given up.”^^^

          an anecdote: mom moved the family farm from east texas to the northwest texas hill country….and has been attempting to eradicate mesquite ever since.
          everybody knew that the local flora was radically different out here, and that mesquite,at least in the flats, takes the place of pine.
          mesquite, while imported from the south by spanish cows, ain’t going anywhere.
          in this, she unconsciously abandoned a large plank in sustainability:work with the land, not against it.
          if folks want to live in might near death valley, they’d better get used to heat.
          as in Dune…”i am a desert creature…”
          making Reno into Atlanta is silly.

        2. Tom Doak

          It was on Highway 10 near Palm Springs where I once saw a billboard advertising new homes “In The Low Millions” . . . without a hint of irony. And I’m pretty sure that was 15 years ago!

          The one factor you’ve not included in your analysis is that many of the homes there are second [or third] homes for the wealthy, instead of year-round residences. [The population in the winter is way more than 50k.] Palm Springs from Christmas through the end of February is like the Hamptons for the west coast. All the people with big money in Seattle and Portland and SF have places there to get out of the cloud and into the sun, not to mention those escaping Midwest winters from Minneapolis or Calgary.

          It is completely unsustainable as you say, but designed for those who can afford to be.

        3. drumlin woodchuckles

          About 15 years ago or so a retirement-age cousin of mine and her husband said they were thinking of retiring to Phoenix. I suggested they consider not doing that, because Phoenix would get hotter and especially dryer over the years to come. They would have to live through water rationing and water shortages. And if they lived long enough to have to want to sell their retirement house, they might discover Phoenix by that time to be generally recognized as so un-livable that they would not find a greater fool to buy the house.

          So they moved to Florida, which while it will present problems, will not present the same problems of heat-death and dessication as Phoenix will.

        4. Monty

          Its not as crazy as most US desert colonies. Look at the incredible wind farm in the canyon as you drive in. It has got to be one of the largest in the world. It’s absolutely enormous with thousands of turbines in never ending arrays. There is also geothermal energy in the hot springs and incredible solar PV potential. Water in the springs comes from deep aquifers and provides for all the residents, without tapping the Colorado river.

          1. tegnost

            wiki Coachella Valley Water District

            FTL…Groundwater Management/Replenishment. CVWD, (in cooperation with Desert Water Agency) operates three groundwater replenishment facilities throughout the valley. State Water Project (SWP) water is percolated at two facilities and Federal Colorado River water is percolated back into the ground at the third. The groundwater management program has been very successful in maintaining the overall health of the aquifer. Replenishment amounts vary from year-to-year depending upon the availability of SWP water.

            Refilling the aquifer implies maybe it’s less sustainable than you claim?

            Also the wind farms kill lots of birds, but when was the last time you made a buck off a bird?

      3. Ape

        Transport in Germany is even better in tiny villages. Why? The villages are dense and walkable.

        In fact us-americans tend to live in bigger urban agglomerations than germans. The travel problem isn’t that Americans live far from cities – the problem is that americans live in these shitty developments that look like something soviet planners would come up with (if they had that much money to waste).

        1. Pelham

          But why do so many Americans prefer to live in these “shitty developments”?

          I agree, they’re pretty awful by most measures. But having lived most of my adult life wedged into urban apartments — even fairly nice ones — with neighbors overhead stomping around at odd hours and close-quarters living with fairly disagreeable people next door (I’m not necessarily excluding myself as one of the disagreeables), I found a move to even a somewhat downscale suburb a blessed relief.

          It was a tiny house, but we had a private, screened-in porch that was great for settling in and reading in the summer and a substantial garden in a small backyard where we grew flowers and pole beans. We had a real fireplace, and there was a basement where we had a pingpong table and I installed a little exercise equipment I used every day. Overall, the sense of having a place of our own, a tiny territory with clear boundaries, was kind of wonderful.

          Maybe it wasn’t sustainable by any environmental reckoning, and we eventually had to move. Now it’s just a cherished memory.

        2. Which is worse - bankers or terrorists

          One thing you notice is that the size of cities is just different in the US as compared to the EU, and this simple fact makes density quite a bit more difficult to manage as the commutes are longer. Metro Phoenix and metro Madrid are the roughly same population, but I think it is correct that Phoenix is the 15th largest metro area in the US, while Madrid is the 3rd largest in the EU after London and Paris (someone correct me with respect to European metro areas if I’m wrong here but I think it is difficult to think about the Randstad and Ruhr Valley as contiguous metro areas in the way say Southern California and DC are).

          The larger size of these cities does create certain economic benefits, but also certainly creates infrastructure strain as well.

      4. redleg

        This is one more reason why rural US voters don’t like Dems. Electric transportation as it currently exists will not work in the vast expanses of the rural US. Telling residents there that these vehicles are going to (or even should) be mandatory raises hackles because the technology 1) won’t work very well there, and 2) isn’t cheap. At least in my neck of the woods, the rural economy isn’t doing very well, and calls for expensive policies like green technology and $15/hr min. wage is a huge obstacle for Dems.
        I’m just the messenger here- Not my personal view, but I hear that from my rural clients all the time.

        1. Barmitt O'Bamney

          Green dreamers need to remember that yellow vests can also be found in ‘Murican sizes. (Check Walmart and TSC for inventory) When our Gilets Jaunes hit the streets, I doubt they’ll be showing up armed with only some pithy slogans on posterboard signs.

      5. Unna

        Take away gasoline cars from rural people without providing them with vastly discounted electric ones paid for by high taxes on the wealthy, isn’t that what Macron is trying to do? And he got riots in the cities as a result.

        Passing laws forcing-nudging (?) North Americans that makes owning a gasoline car unaffordable – except for the wealthy, of course of course, who can afford the high gas taxes and any environment sur charges, making them live in what are likely to be overcrowded, unaffordable, economically/class segregated, high crime, dystopian cities, plus disallowing them the right to procreate – do you really want an armed revolt on your hands? Shots fired from the roadside at BMW’s anyone? America is in a pre revolutionary situation as it is according to some. Do you really want a guy in power as president that makes Trump look like Mr. Rogers? If people manage a GND like that, I’d say the country would split first. And then what good would the GND do? And don’t count on the military or the cops to be the environmental enforcers. Only Deplorables become cops and join the military.

        We need action, but urban centred solutions thought up by wealthy urban elites with the suggestion that TINA and that Americans just need to get their minds right by downsizing into misery while the wealthy can still have it all is a road map to nowhere.

    2. flora

      Author is a member of both Smart Growth America and Complete Streets projects.
      In this article, he inserts his groups’ work focus into the GND without explaining where he’s coming from, or listing these two groups and their focus on urban planning, particularly street design. So it does come across as nay-saying instead of as a supporting information article, imo. (And maybe just a bit of professional turf warring).

      1. PlutoniumKun

        Yes – there is nothing wrong with those very admirable projects. I do, however, have a problem when people are negative about policies because they don’t buy into your own particular hobby horse. As I said above, getting urban policy right is hugely important, not just about climate change. But urban policy alone will not solve the problems, simply because there is too much legacy sprawl.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          I beg to differ about “admirable projects”…Complete Streets is a Trojan Horse for the “Creative Class” to remake the world better for them and harder than Hell for the working class! 5 million miles of bike lanes for 50 members of the leisure/upper income class…bah. Try hauling construction tools on a bike commute…

      2. Skip Intro

        Thanks, the article had a real whiff of agenda/BS about it. I was immediately jarred by the example of the green parking structure that he mocked because it was right near the BART station. It is as if the author had no idea that people might drive to BART rather than driving all the way into SF or beyond. Maybe he is ignorant, maybe he just likes scolding people for not living in another country.

    3. Sanxi

      “America’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation.” That belief is not based on truth as in reality. In the US 7000 sites produce 90% of all carbon emissions. Worldwide it’s 123,711 sites that account for 93% of all carbon emissions. Thus there is very little people can do other than in their capacity of citizens to shut down these sites, but that means going after the billionaires. Cars and the suburbs have their own set of problems of which two come to mind, they do indeed consume absurdly large but hidden quantities of energy. Second they are inherently dehumanizing and disconnected from all known prior living arrangements humans have used since the end of the last ice age. As energy equals cost, in this case both sunken and ongoing it begs the question how is this going to paid for going forward. Answer it isn’t. As to the inherent insanity of the suburban model, the insanity starts with those who thought it was a great way to live and those that continue to believe in it. Insanity here is defined in not being reality based, but reality continues to believe in you. Say, like climate chaos.

    4. Barry

      I agree. If the author feels his issues are an extremely important part of successfully addressing GCC, then he should be at the GND table, not dismissing the GND for failing to mention his issues in the earliest draft documents.

      If ever there was a chance of getting serious solutions heard, it is through the GND, which has broken through the barrier that oil money and the MSM have imposed on national discourse for too long.

      If the lefty hardcore environmentalists and the conservative right team up to neutralize the GND, it will used as proof that we should give up trying to change our trajectory. Forever.

      1. UserFriendly

        Yeah, and how exactly does one get a seat at the GND table? I’ve tried, it’s a small table that doesn’t want to hear anything they don’t agree with already.

        1. Barry

          I just don’t recall ANYONE selling it as painless. And I do recall people besides you comparing it to a mobilization on the scale of a world war. I myself think it’s much bigger.

          Do we get onboard with the GND and make sure it is comprehensive enough, or do we shoot it down and wait for some other process to convince people the way we do things has to change?

          Can’t it be a foot in the door, for example, that gets things moving in the right direction? Like Robert Moses turning a little mandate into a mighty empire of parks and parkways?

        2. Barry

          Please elaborate on that. I think it would be important to examine the dynamics of the GND, and what tactics should be brought to bear to ensure all the best solutions get included.

      2. lambert strether

        > If ever there was a chance of getting serious solutions heard, it is through the GND, which has broken through the barrier that oil money and the MSM have imposed on national discourse for too long.

        I do not regard the detail of the GND (by which I mean AOC’s GND Resolution, and not anything else) as very important. I think it’s good to have the policy proposals all in one place “on the table” (though they will change). And I think it’s better to develop spokespeople (AOC, perhaps Sunrise Movement) who do not come from the scientific community or the environmental movement, since from a political perspective they’ve failed miserably. (To take an example from another realm: If you don’t have health insurance, and have no prospect of getting care, is it better to have a diagnosis, or to live in ignorance? Certainly there’s a case to be made for living as happily as possible, as long as possible, until the inevitable makes itself known. The scientists/environmental movement have given us the diagnosis, but for whatever reason lack the capacity to deliver care.)

        What I regard as important about the GND is:

        1) Finally drags the collapse of the biosphere into the political realm (a remarkable achievement in itself);

        2) Urges that the Federal government, and not “the market,” play the leading role (with plenty of space for localism);

        3) Places the GND projects under the rubric of “mobilization” (rhetorically effective, since it reminds o World War II/New Deal success, and conceptually, since that’s the scale and scope of the work)

        4) Proposes the “deal” that makes the mobilization possible: Dignity (“Four Freedoms”) for the 90% in exchange for pitching in.

        As for the projects themselves, those need to get hashed out in the political process (where the GND finally drags them). This article is in essence proposing one of them. It’s not bad to propose.

        (For the software engineers, I think of the GND more as a framework than a program.)

        1. Barry

          I agree with just about all of that.

          As for #2, I might so far as to say that economists, as a class, should not be at the table, or at the grownups table.

          Anyone who thinks that the solutions to what ails us must fit into a framework defined by what they think ‘the economy’ or ‘the markets’ will bear has their priorities backwards.

          Thinking that ‘the market’ is more real than the environment is part of what got us into this mess.

          I might quibble with your point about the failings of the scientists and environmentalists as spokespeople. This goes to my previous point about an inflection point being reached. The message is not heard until it is heard. It’s not a one-sided function of effective messaging or finding the right people to deliver it.

        2. pretzelattack

          scientists aren’t a political movement; it’s not their jobs to get everybody mobilized. we’ve always needed articulate politicians to get on board with this, and now we finally have some that aren’t tarred with the neoliberal brush.

  4. thoughtful person

    “America’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation.”

    I’ve always seen buildings, heating and cooling, was the largest generator of greenhouse gasses. I think the IPCC has a table?
    Here’s a link to us EPA graphic page, has transportation at 14 %…

    In any case, yes, a lot could be done using appropriate social technology.

    Take group houses.

    One example, many cities have zoning laws which require houses to be occupied by no more than a couple people who have different last names. Getting rid of this requirement and allowing denser occupation of existing homes could reduce energy use per person.

      1. Earwig

        I recently moved back to my rural hometown in eastern WA. I can’t imagine how transport emissions are separated from ag emissions. Giant tractors, combines, etc. guzzle fuel. The big crew-cab pickups are needed to haul huge hay bales to where the cows are this time of year, but they are also used to go shopping in distant cities and to haul gas-powered toys like snowmobiles and four-wheelers up to the mountains for entertainment purposes.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Someone described modern agriculture as ‘the direct conversion of oil into milk and beef’. Deep reform of agriculture is absolutely essential for human survival.

          1. lambert strether


            I remember some commenter here advocating strongly for grasslands, as opposed to forests (better carbon capture; I tend to think the more ecological complexity, the better, on general principle, though that’s not very scientific).

            We could, for example, have the Great Plains revert to prairie. Don’t make anybody move, since the population isn’t very dense anyhow. Pay them to take care of it.

            1. Pookah Harvey

              Great Plains Restoration Council has been working on the idea of a buffalo commons for the last 20 years.

              Hundreds of counties in the American West still have less than a sparse 6 persons per square mile — the density standard Frederick Jackson Turner used to declare the American Frontier closed in 1893. Many have less than 2 persons per square mile. The frontier is actually expanding. Most of this frontier expansion is in the Great Plains. Kansas actually has more land in frontier status than it did in 1890.

              The backbone of the Buffalo Commons movement is the work — over a period of decades — to re-establish and re-connect prairie wildland reserves and ecological corridors large enough for bison and all other native prairie wildlife to survive and roam freely, over great, connected distances, while simultaneously restoring the health and sustainability of our communities wherever possible so that both land and people may prosper for a very long time.

          2. redleg

            Corn, soy, potatoes, etc.
            The farmers that I work with that do no-till farming point to a fuel savings of 75% or more, selling tractors, eliminating most irrigation, and time savings.
            Farming practices need revision, big time.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              one of the problems, eternal but made worse by the more starry eyed bean counters,is pricing.
              often high, unpredictable, overhead…and low, low returns.
              is it the middlemen, the speculators?
              or is it that, like medicine, agriculture doesn’t really fit all that well with Profits Uber Alles? (if so, and it took us 10,000 years to learn that, this should rightly be a humbling revelation.)
              there are ghost towns all over my corner of the world. wide spots, with maybe a handful of people…ancient ruin of a dentist’s office, or a post office…a general store…
              there used to be people out here.
              and economic activity.
              this is not to paint too rosy a picture, given slavery was the go-to answer before that time for this problem.
              but I read kropotkin or bakunin or whomever, and think, ” why is the most fundamental activity of mankind(provision of food) priced as if it were worthless?”

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                ” why is the most fundamental activity of mankind(provision of food) priced as if it were worthless?” . . . is a question that Charles Walters asked long and hard and over and over in his newspaper and in his books. He also made very detailed efforts at understanding it and describing it.

                During the WWII years food was priced as if it were valuable. Part of that was Forced Parity Pricing, which was made easier by wartime difficulty in importing food . . . a kind of functional protectionism. But also the legal forbiddment of selling domestically food below a legally mandated minimum price helped make food-growing into an earning-a-living activity.

                Walters described how several decades of stealth Parity-price reduction and erosion, combined with Free Trade import of enough foreign food to destroy domestic price structures, created a Market Stalinist forcefield designed to exterminate millions of “small farms” and drive those millions of people into the cities. So as the farm-income-living of all the farmers around all those not-yet-ghost towns was carefully destroyed on purpose by the International Free Trade Conspirators, the little towns lost their farmer customer-base and became ghost towns whose people joined the Forced Free Market march to the cities.

                At least that’s my understanding of the bare-bonesiest basics of what Charles Walters wrote.

        2. tegnost

          I’m curious whether you fled seattle, or came home from a different part of the country? Reason being I’m wondering what demographc shifts are going to do to the “cascade curtain” in washington state

    1. Pelham

      But globally, what’s included in transportation emissions?

      I’ve read that the thousands of container ships that ply the oceans emit an insane amount of CO2. Just 15 of them in one year emit as much CO2 as all the world’s land vehicles annually.

      Just think, if Trump is successful in cutting back on Chinese imports (no evidence for that so far, but it may still happen), he will have done more to curb greenhouse gas emissions than all the insipid and ineffectual climate agreements to date.

      More seriously, we need a more focused GND. How about a crash program to build nuclear power plants to replace all fossil-fuel plants and a complete ban on container ships and the like unless they’re powered by wind? How far would that get us?

      By the way, I’m serious.

      1. Dwight

        Chief strategy officer at Exelon, America’s largest nuclear plant operating company, does not think we will build even one new nuclear power plant in the U.S., because of their high construction and operating costs.

        Money spent on nuclear is money not spent on renewables and storage of renewable energy, which is what the Exelon guy thinks is better.

          1. Synoia

            Then you do not understand the nature or cost of decommissioning a Nuclear Plant.

            The only rational solution is to Use Less Electricity.

            10% of what we use now.

            Once we accept that, then proper dense cities, elimination of commuting, no “vacations abroad,” buses and, trains for transit become the only solution.

            A reversion to the 1920’s or even earlier, or a complete rewind of the 20th Century.

            1. aletheia33

              synoia, what is a ”proper dense city”?
              the cities pre-1920s were much less dense than now–is that what that expression means?

              though come to think of it, they did have some terribly dense sections, with overcrowded tenements. and terrible problems with public health… no parks… people fled the density for some good reasons. i would have fled if i had been there… even in the mid-1990s, i did flee. and gave up a lot so i could spend the rest of my life in a small rural town.

              some people just start to die when they have to live in big cities. others thrive in them.

              so could you please clarify. thank you.

  5. jackiebass

    Most new proposals have flaws. That isn’t a reason to do nothing. You have to start somewhere. I live in a rural area with no public transportation. Owning something to do things like shopping and going to work are a necessary. What I’ve noticed is people own a bigger more powerful car than they need. The majority of vehicles where I live are trucks or big sport utility vehicles. 9 out of 10 have only the driver. Instead of encouraging people to buy big vehicles , just the opposite should happen. Encourage people to buy smaller more fuel efficient cars. One way to do this is to put a premium on the cost of a big car through a tax on them . When I grew up in the 50’s there weren’t many cars. In ten households probably only 3 owned a car. Now most households own more than one car. I’ve also noticed that people building new houses build bigger houses than they actually need. This is probably due to “cheap” money. At the time I grew up you didn’t need to travel far to shop. My little home town, 1000 people, has all you needed. The root of our problem I think is that our economy is based on consumption. We are encouraged to consume so our economy can grow. Couple that with an increased population is a recipe for self destruction. It simply isn’t sustainable. We need to rethink what constitutes a good standard of living. Just being able to consume more isn’t necessary the answer. I live in NY and I constantly hear that people are leaving NY for other places. For me I believe it isn’t a bad thing. Fewer people means fewer demands on society. This means less destruction of our environment. As I’ve gotten older, I’m 77, I realize money and “things” aren’t the most important thing. We can live a better life without many of the things we have been brainwashed into believing we need. I remember growing up without most of the modern conveniences we have today. I and I believe most people look back at these times as being some of the best of times.People are so busy working that they have no time to enjoy what make life better.

    1. John Beech

      I see this all the time as well, but what’s the alternative? If a fellow needs a truck a few times a week (or month), then he usually buys a truck . . . or my approach, owns more than one vehicle.

      This is why I ride a Harley Sportster 3X a week to do errands (4-5000 miles per year). It gets maybe 50mpg. However, I also have a 1974 Chevy Step Van (like what a UPS driver delivers packages with). Why? For when I need a truck. Why, again? Simply because, a) I needed it to help move the family from NC to FL 15 years ago, b) it only cost $1000, and c) despite only getting 9mpg it remains entirely too handy to get rid of. So it stays in the fleet and accumulates a mere 1000-1500 miles per year and may go a month between starts.

      Do I have any other cars? Sure, an old Ferrari for when I feel sporty (500-1000 miles per year), and an equally old Rolls Royce for when we go to the theater or dinner (1000-2000 miles per year).

      What don’t I have? A car payment!

      1. anon

        …and you,undoubtedly, have a full set of hand tools and know how to use them. Few people, today, have that acquired skill. My local mechanic charges over $100/hr and the minimum bill is usually $600- $700. (In CA they require semi-annual smog tests for all vehicles–no matter the age.)

        1. Synoia

          I live in CA and don’t have semi-annual smog tests. But then I don’t have a car either.

          I use a Bicycle.

      2. lambert strether

        Most of the software cars will break down irreperably, as will all computers that aren’t made to be repairable (like the IBM PCs and IIRC Apple II). Hang on to that old tech!

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Interesting that the Obama Administration’s “cash for clunkers” program targeted exactly those old tech cars for buy-up and physical destruction . . . to create “space” to be filled with new digital chip-cootie cars.

  6. Jon Paul

    Bad analogy time. Imagine if doctors discovered tomorrow that if smokers could bicycle 12 hours per day, stand on their heads for 8 more and only sleep 4 hours per night, then they would not contract lung cancer or heart disease. So they spend all their time trying to figure out how to work from a bicycle. That, in a way – to me, is the green new deal.

    The simple solution: stop smoking. The green simple solution: families stop having more than 2 children, incentives for those who only have 1. You don’t need to figure out how to get by on fewer cars if you have fewer drivers. That logic can be extended to almost any enviroment-impacting activity. I’m just not sure this could reduce impact in time. Even if we could somehow make the changes necessary to save the planet, I doubt we can do it for 8 billion people, and I’m almost certain our efforts will fail if we keep adding 200,000 people every day.

    Obviously, we would still need a plan for moving to more sustainable transportation/housing etc. Another thing to do would be to measure/estimate a family’s carbon impact and tax it proportionately. The more of a carbon-hog you are, the more onerous the tax. Private planes would be made downright painful to own, as would 10k square foot houses, 2nd and 3rd homes, etc.

    1. Chris

      Aside from my comment above to Pierre, there are two obvious limiting devices to overpopulation in living creatures that I am convinced we’ll experience again in my lifetime: rampant disease and plague. I get all the worry about population growth. I understand how if you could in someway deal with it equitably, it would yield benefits to many different societies. I just don’t think we’re capable of doing it.

      What I do think we’re capable of doing is sleep walking into multi-drug resistant bubonic plague that goes around our world at lightning speed because of global supply chains. Between that and a few 1000 year level natural disasters fueled by climate change, I think the problem could very well sort itself out. I’d like to be optimistic and think we could be smart about things, but I live too close to DC and talk with too many of my neighbors. There is no way I can see our society ever changing. There is no way the rich and powerful will allow the kind of required changes proposed to ever be enacted. What they are capable of doing, indeed, what they’re paid to do, is to ignore warning signs while lobbying for their own causes.

      So I’m going long Black Death 2.0 when it comes to population issues. And I’m reading a lot more Phillip K. Dick when thinking about how to frame conversations about the topic with all the right thinking folks I live around.

      1. Summer

        Those are always the subjects that get danced around 1) Viruses 2) Population.

        If there is no will to change the consumption patterns and way of life for those who use the most resources, when the sh– hits fan, it’s staring everybody in the face what the plan will be.

      2. Dwight

        I’m reading George W. Stewart’s 1949 novel The Earth Abides about a post-plague world with very few people. Very interesting. The difference now would be a quick temperature rise when climate-cooling particulates fall from the atmosphere with the collapse of industrial civilization.

        1. Wukchumni

          “Earth Abides”

          My favorite of the genre, and Stewart weaves a tale that unfolds unusually, as it takes it’s sweet time in getting there.

      3. lambert strether

        > There is no way the rich and powerful will allow the kind of required changes proposed to ever be enacted.

        What they said in the England, the United States, France, Latin America, Haiti, our Civil War, Mexico, Russia, China…

        I don’t think revolution is an aberation. I think it’s a norm. In fact, the rich and powerful have often been forced to allow “required changes” — French peasants burning the feudal land records, for example. Now, American exceptionalism may have rendered us uniquely supine. But I would bet that was a common feeling in all these other countries too.

        1. Synoia

          It’s a chaotic response for a system with multiple equilibrium points. When a System gains enough energy there is a sudden moves to a new equilibrium point. In such a system there is no “absolute” rock bottom equilibrium.

          The PTB suppressed Occupy, but all that does is store more energy for the eventual shift in equilibrium.

          To Gilet Jeunes perhaps.

          1. aletheia33

            thank you, synoia, for this concept. i do think we have already entered a new phase, and the “sudden moves” you mention may be happening and may continue to happen going forward. energy has been stored and will make the next equilibrium shift.

            with that, one begins to see so many variables in play simultaneously, and so many more will be: what we cannot know is much bigger than what we can know will “work” or will turn out to be “not possible”–to use terms whose meanings themselves will keep changing, faster and faster.

            with that understanding, we can learn to think differently, with more respect for what has “worked” before, more humility about what we think we know, and more openness to what we do not yet know. and any single person who does manage to learn to think differently from the neoliberal paradigm and the USA mass delusion will be able to move far more than their own weight. like bucky fuller’s trimtab, in a way.

      4. redleg

        With all the RUSSIA!!!! warmongering, nuclear war comes first, then the plagues.
        In my pessimistic thinking, the biggest question is who fires first since this appears to be inevitable.

        1. Jon Paul

          I’m no sure the next war will be nuclear – that’s sort of planning for the last war. I’m far more worried it will be biological – and more gruesome than anything we can imagine.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      That “carbon-hog” tax is basically a different version of Hansen’s fee-and-dividend. The fee will increase the price of fossil carbon, and the more of a fossil carbon-hog one is, the more of those fees one pays as they are wrapped into the prices which bear the fee as passed along to the consumer. And rightly so.

  7. jfleni

    Paying for GOOD public transit is the only way to go; me and my s##box
    is retarded if not crazy. Right ON transit!

    1. Yves Smith

      *Sigh* Please tell the gilet jaunes, or most Americans. There are hardly any cities dense enough where public transportation can handle most commuters. I lived in Sydney, where that actually WAS the case, by design, hardly anyone used a car to commute…but virtually anywhere in Sydney, you still needed a car for provisioning and socializing.

      I think of Birmingham, Alabama. It still has enough sprawl that a really good bus system would still only make a difference at the margin.

      And what about people who live in cities of 100,000 or smaller?

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        or 4500.
        i’ve often thought about what a fair and equitable…but also functional…rail system would look like from my front porch.
        the answer, of course, looks silly to most people i know:

        that necessarily means a slower, more considered lifestyle.
        it was a big deal to “go to the station”.
        my great granddad lived that way, but he was a farmer…and made his living that way.
        sold everything they produced(that they didn’t eat, that is) in the little town, 10 miles away.
        in contrast, i must compete with “farmers” who run slaves on the other side of the planet.
        and again, by what divine mandate is this fundamental activity(sine qua non) rendered so worthless?
        seems like a pretty big oversight.

    2. John Beech

      Any takers on whether this comment is written by some who lives in a city and votes Democrat? Try living where Walmart is 10miles away. The feed store is 15 miles in the other direction. The nearest gas station is 5 miles. The theater? 40 miles. Public transport? Hah!

      Please put yourself in another’s shoes before opining. The very point Lambert makes is related to how half the country doesn’t live where public transport is even possible!

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        My shoes walk around in a suburb with me in them and it still seems to me that public transportation though it could be much better, remains an important part of the transportation mix. Our train service alone cuts out thousands of cars going into Boston and surrounding areas like Cambridge every day. Our excellent small bus service for seniors that covers a very large area, for ex., could be expanded to include anyone, as one example. Just as one will not solve all waste in trying to make an older home more energy efficient (without running into costs defeating the purpose), so public transportation will not solve all problems. But it could be a hell of a lot better (and energy saving) and more extensive than it is now. And on the topic, I see no reason in theory at least that individual vehicles operated by Uber like drivers and managed much the way Uber is managed, only by local government or highly government controlled entities, couldn’t be part of public transportation. This would at least allow (and I emphasize allow and not achieve) for a more energy oriented and people oriented and less profit and monopoly driven policy.

        Clearly, as you point out yourself, this post brings up another dimension affecting energy/co2 usage that needs to be addressed, but like population control, will take time -even with draconian measures- under just about any plausible scenario of policy to achieve.

        The issue I see is that no matter what domain or issue one brings up, if it involves public weal, private enterprise is, more often than not, antithetical.

      2. SerenityNow

        People choose where they want to live, and the majority of them are not engaged in any kind of farming or subsistence. Rural residents receive a lot of benefits in the form of road access paid for and maintained by someone else.

      3. jrs

        this is probably increasingly false as more and more people move to urban centers, in the U.S. and globally. Urbanization is a real global trend.

  8. John Beech

    Labert makes a honest effort with his take on the GNDs shortcomings. Face it folks, honesty is generally lacking, e.g. hypocrisy abounds, amongst politicians (Democrats and Republicans). Source? The 10 y/o videos that routinely surface of Democrats calling for a wall.

    As for AOC and Markey’s proposal? So what? It’s a marker in the ground placed by people with no clue how the other half lives. Lambert hits the nail on the head by observing we in the portion of America where subways, Acela, walking, and yellow cabs don’t rule have a say in this as well.

    To say nothing of how much I love a juicy steak or burger – so hands off our cows!

  9. rob

    One big problem with movement in a good direction, is that people are like children who don’t want to do “what they are told”. And the more they are “told” the less they want to do it. They even then dig in their heels and ignore the parental figure. Then they see the hypocrisy of said parental waiving finger and say, ” see, screw you too, I might as well do whatever I will and screw what happens next”…. and it does…. as it always will.

    The push back on this green new deal is already forming camps. Those who want to discredit AOC and her audacity, and say… shes just a fool.(girls like that never liked me anyway).. see her plan won’t work. Those who want to show they are holier than thou, and say, look at my austere life… why can’t you all be like me… . And those who want to tell all us children, we don’t understand the work we will have to do, to complete the course,etc….. All a bunch of ego problems. None of which will help, but all of which will need to be anticipated and incorporated,and worked around.

    The other beginning point is there will be no “just before the crunch happens”. Cause , the “crunch” is gonna happen. We need to look past the fact we won’t “save” anything, and just start being smarter anyway. We will have to do this, even if it won’t “work”, because it is still a good idea.

    So people need to stop worrying that not everything is going to get fixed. This is triage, not elective surgery. It is like the decisions we can make, we must make, then let the decision to do better come later. But we must make sure the decisions we make won’t be hindering the future moves we must make. IMO. For example, energy production…. nuclear may have its place eventually, and for now we have the ones already operating, that we can’t get rid of anyway. So we have that covered for a decade or so….
    So the decision is to ramp up solar, PV and parabolic, wind, and wave and tidal… even hydro electric is a possibility, depending on water … after all some places seem to be getting less, and some places seem to be getting more….. But what all these things have in common is in their particular region/resource specific viability, they are clean, and sustainable, and safe.

    as far as housing and transportation, the role of the federal gov’t is to think big, not small. They should be planning on doing the things that will effect people in large ways. Like doing the interstate and federal scope and coastal work, so that the states and regions can piggy back off of the things the federal gov’t can do.
    They ought to be protecting the water,and air as well as creating regulations that affect the multi national corporations who create blueprints for their business plans that are affecting all the states, regardless of region. They ought to be finding funding for research to be used as a basis for guidelines that can be used in making plans. They need to be there to back up when a state tries to resist some corporate model imposing upon its particular resource.
    It seems to me the small contributions first, are better than worrying about fixing the whole thing all at once and forever. Even getting one electric vehicle into a household, will be a start. Then that family can have a chance to find ways to stop using the other gas guzzlers. But with the corporate energy provider already getting more renewable and sustainable energy production online, things will be moving in the right direction. There are so many specific projects to contemplate, but all of them are “someone’s” business model. There will be winners and losers.

    The idea of making sides, say between the city dwellers and those who live in the rest of the country….is a false start.
    Here in america, I hear people in cities always making points as to their “sustainability” , but really that is a fiction. sure the cities have density and mass transit, but the reality is the city only exists because everything they need is created elsewhere, by people who live elsewhere. The food they eat isn’t made there. The work forces they manage, don’t live there(mostly). The people in cities make money by managing and exploiting work forces in other locations around the globe. so the shipping costs and the sprawl that is a factor in all those communities by the people who render them profits are theirs to share the burden of also. A city isn’t self sustainable. And it isn’t really any cleaner than anywhere else…. We are all consumers. some more so, some less… but we all make garbage.
    So planners shouldn’t think that creating false pictures of a perfect world will be to just socially engineer a society that doesn’t really exist, in reality. We need to fix reality, not fantasy.IMO

    But as far as people driving oversized vehicles and maintaining oversized houses and all that….WTF…. come on already….

  10. Michael

    Another great article. This goes back to the issue of remaking the suburbs, or as the auto industry hopes, to continue them.

    As I post yesterday regarding Horan’s article on the viability of Uber, and the intertwined relationship between ridesharing and autonomous vehicles. I believe there is a industry related movement against mass transit and towards continued sprawl.

    ” A Brookings Institution report last year estimated that from August 2014 to June 2017, a total of nearly $80 billion was invested in the area by the auto industry and venture capitalists.”

    From my perspective, autonomous vehicles and ridesharing are two aspects of the same coin, ie to privatize and monopolize transportation by the current transportation and fossil fuel industry. As the investment alludes, this effort will not stop until they achieve their goal, since they have too much at stake. Additionally, for this ruling elite, this is an ideological imperative to defeat mass transit. Just as the automobile companies bought up all the trolley lines of the US in the 1940s and then proceed to rip them out, this will be a priority for them.

    Additionally I need to point out that we are the only advanced nation on the planet with no high speed rail, but instead beset with super highways, and massive air travel. To me there has always been a method to the madness.

    The question for the rest of us: how will we respond?

    1. lambert strether

      Also, if you have robot cars, the rich people who don’t die in the plagues can still get from point A to point B without walking or waiting a long time. So there’s that!

      1. polecat

        Not if the victims were to open up richies ride like it was a can of sardines ala Road Warriors looking to enter Vahalla …

  11. anon in so cal

    What would it take to convince Americans that climate change is a serious threat, then motivate them to care, and take action?

    We live in a solidly Democratic area. Are many Democrats deniers? Evidence suggests, yes, based on the abundance of behemoth ICE SUVs cruising around.

    Could the US at least take baby steps and raise CAFE standards?

    Separately: the elephant in the room: demographic growth: 7.7 Billion people (and counting) clamoring for an upper-middle class lifestyle spells doom for biodiversity.

    Isn’t biodiversity what we’re concerned about? Or are we solely focused on saving humans, as a species?

    1. Yves Smith

      This is a critical issue and IMHO is why the happy faced discussion of GND is unwise. The only time the US has mobilized on the scale needed here is during a war or economic collapse. The public needs to understand that if we don’t address these issues, between climate change impacts and biosphere loss, we’ll see radical and unplanned relocalization, which in turn almost certainly means the loss of most chip manufacture. Or as one person put it, when the break happens, assuming humans make it, we’ll be looking at Little Home on the Prairie lifestyles.

      People need to get how high the stakes are, but since it is at worst their children (or so they think) that will feel the effects, it’s way too easy not to do enough.

      And in fairness, it’s also hard to do much by yourself. Try food shopping in a big city while avoiding the use of plastic.

      1. JohnnyGL

        I actually think the idea of a ‘break’ is a little misguided. I think episodes from history show that the shape of decline will be more of a long process than a one-off event like a dam breaking.

        I think it’ll be a multi-generational process with a series of steps down a staircase with short plateaus and additional mini-falls and crises with western society progressively losing something(s) energy-intensive that the prior generation grew up with.

        I think my grandchildren will end up with a much lower energy intense lifestyle than we have today. Their grandchildren will have an even less energy intense life. I think my grandchildren will see things like lawnmowers, leaf-blowers, and snowblowers in a museum like my kids now would look at a rotary phone like the curious artifact of history that it is.

        I also think that the current US empire will feel a lot more ‘expensive’ in the next generation or two, because of real resource constraints as maintaining US hegemony is an energy-intensive process.

        1. Yves Smith

          The reason I disagree is that modern society depends on many highly interconnected systems. They are very fragile and the drops in activity in systems that are seen as essential will be abrupt, and we don’t have much in the way of fallbacks. Start with how much runs on just in time manufacturing. The UK has only 2 week of food supply.

          What happens when:

          1. Chip manufacture declines precipitously?

          2. Electricity generation becomes erratic?

          3. Potable water becomes scarce (this starts happening on a large scale in 2050 and we see it arriving early in places like Capetown).

          1. Dwight

            I agree, and this is what we need to prepare for. Climate change is inevitable and coming sooner than anticipated, and reducing emissions now won’t change that. We need to adapt with resilient communities and economies and to the extent possible, aim for lower carbon emissions in our plans.

          2. Jerry B

            Yves-just curious why you have singled out Chip manufacture? So are you saying that we should all start buying books again? LOL! I would imagine that the decline in chip manufacturing will not occur for a few decades yet, right?

            And of course Chip manufacture would decline. For the past several years I have tried to thin out my large library of books. I have focused more on building the “library” in my hard drive on my laptop. I like hardcover books but they are heavy and bulky and if my wife and I downsize in the near future moving all the hardcover books will be hard and take up space.

            Now you’re telling me I need to start investing in books again?? LOL! I feel like the Tommy Lee Jones character in Men in Black when he mentions having to buy the Beatles White Album again when a new disc medium (album, eight track, CD) comes out!! :-)

            1. Barry

              Zeroing in on chip manufacture makes sense to me. You could think of it as the pinnacle of our technology-based civilization. To make things that small and precise requires an infrastructure of bigger devices which requires an infrastructure of bigger devices… and all of the materials acquisition and refinement that feeds into it, not to mention the training and organization that builds and maintains such things.

              Now think of how many devices in your life depend on such chips.

              It’s a very dicey proposition to expect to dismantle the system we have while keeping the ability to produce technology at that level.

              Hence the need for a massive, planned, orderly mobilization if we have any hope of preserving what we think of as technological civilization.

            2. aletheia33

              right very funny, and in the same silly vein may i remind you that there is this institution called the library, which i bet you can still recall :). from your local library you can request virtually any book you want to read via interlibrary loan. i am continually amazed at how few people are aware of this service, which in my town we pay for with our taxes. if there is no library near you, you may want to consider downsizing to a place where there is one.

              if you downsize into a home near or in a downtown, you can walk to that library and back, or maybe even take a bus, without undertaking any of the expense or carbon problem of taking a car there.

              apropos of that, and not to single you out jerry b but just to engage in a self-indulgent rant here, there is also this long-forgotten pastime called conversation, that people used to engage in at great length, sometimes in front of a roaring fire (oops, may not be allowed in future) in a tavern (oops, not so easy for the women, who had to meet in their homes over quilt making, but who really wants to converse at length year after year with their spouse only).

              by making conversation people used to get to know one another quite well, which of course could become very problematic in some ways socially. however i bet it was better than the level of disconnection that we are experiencing now, where our mastery of just talking with one another is so rudimentary we hardly even know how to discuss with one another “what is to be done” without getting into a shouting match on twitter and/or stopping speaking to/being spoken to by/ our neighbor.

              1. aletheia33

                OTOH there is a lot of push and encouragement going on today around learning to talk to people who are very different from you, or who you think are, until you learn to talk to them and find out they really aren’t. so there’s that!

              2. Jerry B

                Thanks Aletheia.

                ==and not to single you out jerry b but just to engage in a self-indulgent rant here, there is also this long-forgotten pastime called conversation===

                No worries but I think you missed the point of my comment which was mostly tongue in cheek. Obviously having a love of books I frequent my local library a lot and have borrowed many books from the library. Before the digital era I was a bookworm and will be if and when the digital era fades.

                Along with borrowing books from the library, I like to own them because I mark them up with underlines, notes, highlights, post its, etc. Along with reading library books for knowledge I check out books from the library to see if they are worth buying.

                On to conversation. I completely agree with your point. If you have read NC recently you may have seen a recent Water Cooler where Lambert posted a comment thread between Amfortas and I about conversation and more specifically the idea of fieldwork. By fieldwork I mean taking what we have learned on NC and having face to face conversations with people about the challenges society faces.

                Lastly, as I mentioned in my above comment I have created a “digital library” on my laptop as a way of having an extended or embodied mind. Andy Clark is a professor of philosophy, Logic and Metaphysics at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. I have included a link here to the extended mind section of Clark’s Wikipedia page.


                In the above section some of Clark’s extended mind ideas are to help people with Alzheimer’s remember information in their lives.

                I have no family history of Alzheimer’s. My mother passed away at 82 because her body gave out, not her brain,which was going strong. But I still do not want to take chances so I am creating a digital extended mind of my brain to help me if and when cognitive decline comes. And also as a legacy i.e. something to pass on to my son. Hence my question to Yves. But I think I will be long gone before chip manufacturing ends.

                1. aletheia33

                  thank you jerry b for explaining your situation further. the idea of creating an extended mind for oneself to help with cognitive decline, and as a legacy, is interesting.

                  i imagine that engagement in such a project itself might tend to postpone one’s cognitive decline.

                  i will look for that water cooler thread you mention. thank you.

          3. JEHR

            Yves, the most important of these, of course, is potable water; we can do without chip manufacture. If electricity becomes scarce or erratic, then we will do without it. Can you imagine no electricity? I can, as I lived on a farm without electricity and we used kerosene lamps and wood stoves. The change is going to be very abrupt and very difficult until we learn to live within our means.

            1. Barry

              Potable water, shelter, food, healthcare should all be baseline requirements for whatever we do.

              I’m not so sure that living as you did on that farm will count as living within our means if 7+ billion people suddenly don’t have the technology that supports us now.

              There just isn’t enough kerosene or wood for such lamps and stoves.

              And the pioneers who go out and start rural communities with stepped-down technological practices had better watch out when 6 billion people flee the cities that no longer work.

              1. Wukchumni

                We humans did without oil as we know it for about 69,850 out of 70,000 years of our existence on this orb, and yeah going back to the past is gonna be a bitch, but it isn’t as if it’s uncharted ground.

            2. redleg

              With limited electricity, water volumes plummet by several orders of magnitude. It doesn’t matter if it’s groundwater or surface water.

          4. JohnnyGL

            I don’t disagree with you on the near-term vulnerabilities. There’s probably going to be a string of breaks like those you describe above, but those are outages, as opposed to a society-wide breakdown.

            Electrical outages happen because of storms here in New England. There’s good odds that they happen more frequently and last longer when they do. But that’s not a system-wide breakdown where society descends into a pit of despair.

            We’ve also seen long, drawn out recoveries from disasters like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina. There’s probably going to be more of that sort of thing, and it will definitely get worse, especially in certain localities. But that’s not a post-Soviet Russia level collapse like some people seem to expect.

            To your point about water scarcity, there may come days where people in Las Vegas and So. Cal where the tap water doesn’t come out of the faucet for several days, or even weeks. Cape Town came close, but I think they didn’t quite get to a full blown shut off. Didn’t they hang in there with rationing until the rains came?

            In any case, I think Nestle will be happy to deliver truckloads of bottled water to those localities…I say it sarcastically, but it’s probably coming. Flint, MI looks like it might be the introductory chapter in this story.

      2. lambert strether

        > The only time the US has mobilized on the scale needed here is during a war or economic collapse.

        H.Res.109, Preamble:

        Whereas the House of Representatives recognizes that a new national, social, industrial, and economic mobilization on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era is a historic opportunity—

  12. Summer

    Should hopes be pinned on making “cities” sustainable for ever increasing populations?

    But more offen than not, disease will eventually run it’s course. Yes, now and in the future. Viruses belong here as much as any other living thing.

  13. Pat

    I hate to be donny/debby downer, but not recognizing that any Green New Deal will face not only a huge hurdle getting passed, but will have to be fought for close to forever is not recognizing both the power of our corporations and oligarchs, but the lack of patience and trust of the people.

    Whatever gets passed is going to be it for a very long time. There will be no ‘improving it’, only dismantling it probably for decades. To limit that dismantling, they need to make sure they do not promise things to the public that cannot be delivered, such as few disruptions to their lives or better transportation or even that it won’t cost them more. Selling it might be hard, but don’t ever lie to the public. Now I would try to make sure the public clearly bares less of the cost than various industries do, but as we know the powerful do seem to manage to make others pay their way so that will possible so managing public support for dismantling will be very difficult. However making those in the best position to bare the cost and the disruption necessary for any green new deal will make passing any real attempt to confront the problems of climate change politically…well impossible.

    I’m not even looking at the actual proposal. But anyone who thinks that demand eliminating problems regarding the proposal from those with a stake in getting a real and comprehensive deal passed because they are being too negative haven’t paid any attention to the history of public good change in America. Everything left off the table will not get on the table for decades. And most of those passionately involved don’t see decades as being an option any longer. Beyond that, if you cannot deal with disagreements from friends, you are really not ready for those with real stakes in the status quo NOT being changed. The possible PR aspects of negative friendly reviews are the least of their weapons.

    1. lambert strether

      > I hate to be donny/debby downer, but not recognizing that any Green New Deal will face not only a huge hurdle getting passed, but will have to be fought for close to forever is not recognizing both the power of our corporations and oligarchs, but the lack of patience and trust of the people.

      I don’t know anybody who thinks the GND will be easy to pass*, or that the 1% won’t fight it tooth and nail. Who on earth would think such a thing? Certainly not me.

      * In a non-watered down form

    2. Chris

      I thought the thesis of the article, and the comments from most of the people who read it, were not about how easy or not it was going to be to pass something labeled a “Green New Deal.”

      What we seem to commenting on are two main points:

      1-the liberal urge to act like incrementalism is sufficient for all complex long term problems and drastic change is unnecessary.

      2-the number of people who profit off of the status quo and twist any criticism of what’s being proposed to either derail the proposed minimal change or shoot down critique as being un-American/leftist smears/Russian bot inspired/etc.

      You have a whole bunch of people who keep painting themselves into corners and just don’t see why they should stop and do something different… because they make too much money to even think about stopping. Even getting the minimum passed will require more political will than has been shown in decades. Getting a real Green New Deal that alters how 30%+ of our economy functions will require a monumental effort over a lifetime of dedicated activism. And it still will be too little too late.

      That’s why I’m long Black Death 2.0 :/

      1. c_heale

        I’m long wheat rust or some other form of crop failure. There is an apposite phrase here from Benjamin Franklin “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

        We have to do something now. And what we can all do is conserve some energy, consume less, walk instead of driving. And get in the faces of those who are currently the powerful of this world.

        Hopefully some of our descendents will survive.

  14. JohnnyGL

    Good post and good quality comments, too! Special shout out to PK and Clive who always have good stuff, in particular.

  15. james wordsworth

    Uhmm….. tax the crap out of gasoline. Right now, when owning a car, for many the cost of the car per year (ownership cost) is more than the cost of gas. If gas were $10-15 or more per gallon you would see a very rapid shift to denser living (and smaller cars – not these asinine suvs), maybe car pooling, maybe public transit. You need to modify the incentives and behavior will follow.

    1. Dwight

      Taxing the crap out of downtown parking would be more fair. If I had my way, driving in urban areas would be limited to commercial delivery vehicles and buses, with smaller buses in less dense areas. In DC and surrounding areas, this could easily be done within the Beltway and probably well beyond.

    2. Chris

      Sure! That worked so well in France, right?

      We need to multiple solutions for this problem because not everyone lives in SoCal or San Francisco. You can’t rely on electric powered cars in North Dakota. You don’t typically have a 2 mile commute in Iowa. You often need to drive long distances in Southern Virginia to go food shopping. Etc. Etc.

      The USA has all the problems that sparked the Yellow Vest demonstrations now. With many more guns. You really want to crystallize all that class revolution now?

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        ^^” You really want to crystallize all that class revolution now?”^^^
        well…it really depends on the kind of day i’ve had…

        you’re right, of course…and perverting hegel, so is everybody else on here.
        tax the crap out of gas…outlaw suv’s…mandate bicycling…millions will suffer and starve.
        try to do it “the right way”, ala a robust gnd worthy of fdr…and the Machine will kick into gear and roll right over us.
        some days, i lean pretty far over to the side that accepts that our global elite are not human, at all…that they really are the independence day aliens…cosmic locusts…and that they’ve just about had done with our fair world.
        “They” have known about these sorts of problems…the unsustainability of just about every system we all rely on….for 40+ years….and have insisted that we do the opposite of what such knowledge would suggest to you or I.
        and we don’t need to worry about the coming AI apocalypse….we already have AI: corporations, hedgefunds, theBIIS, the frelling System itself…
        some ELF whackos murder all the CEO’s…and tomorrow all of them will be replaced, and the Machine rolls on.
        we mere humans have already been supplanted by our own creations.

        “our desires and possessions are the strongest fetters of despotism”-Ed Gibbon

    3. redleg

      That’s what the Yellow Jackets are protesting against, at least in part. A fuel tax increase hits rural areas harder, and generally the rural economy is less able to absorb higher costs.

  16. Steven

    If you haven’t seen this one (and can find a copy), take a look: Taken for a Ride on the Interstate Highway System In the US (and apparently throughout what has been perhaps mistakenly called ‘Western Civilization’) it is all about making as much money as quickly as you can. That’s ‘economic planning’ free-market style. The Interstate and Defense Highway System was a sick joke, a testament to the gullibility of the American public from the get-go. Imagine 160 million people hitting the road to avoid the consequences of a Russian attack.

    Even as a sop to the Teamsters it doesn’t stand up. (Maybe it does to real estate developers who as Hudson notes still constitute as huge portion of the economy even in our current highly militarized economy? But if that was the intent explain the brilliance of autonomous trucking.)

    Another Green New Deal Huge Flaw… (Assuming it actually works) what comes next in this age of automation and off-shoring? More business as usual? More perpetual economic growth? For people like Trump the opportunity to continue ‘keeping score’ by accumulating more money than they could ever use? For the rest of us, finding life’s meaning in work and careers with no time off for personal and cultural development?

  17. Joe Well

    I’m amazed that no one’s used the word “telecommute” so far.

    Telecommuting has often been discussed as a boon for the environment.

    And it’s a political winner.

    Most people hate commuting, hate work travel, hate meetings, hate office politics.

    Meanwhile, there is so much pent-up demand for “work-from-home” jobs that it is a focus of scams.

    What about a federal law that every employer with more than 10 employees has to have employees telecommute by default and totally justify (and pay a penalty for) any in-person jobs? We could couple it with a requirement that they have to hire a large majority of US citizens and permanent residents, so no incentive to offshore.

    Even many jobs that involve tending machines could be done remotely with just a few people physically standing on the floor. That would clear the roads and trains for the people who do have to work in person.

    Of course, this would wreak havoc on commercial real estate for a year or two, but all that dense building could be converted into apartments for the dense living we need.

  18. crittermom

    Lack of public transportation yet the need to travel to where the jobs are.

    How about we begin by stopping the outsourcing of customer service jobs, bringing those jobs to the people sprawled across this land that need jobs, instead?
    These are jobs that do not require a degree but could be done by those who’ve lost jobs due to loss of manufacturing, mines closing, etc, with really no age barriers involved.

    I think of this each time I must contact a company & end up communicating with someone in the Philippines or India.
    How many thousands of those jobs could be brought ‘home’?

    It would eliminate the need for a second car if one spouse could do this, at least. Immediate results.
    It is not necessary for people to travel to a call center to perform these jobs. They can be done from home. I’ve worked from home in such a fashion, myself.

    Is this a solution? Of course not.
    But it’s something that would not require years & huge money for high-speed transportation, electric vehicles, or moving much of the populace to the cities. It could be implemented now for those with internet access, while we work on those more expensive, longer-term needs to cut emissions.

    It would be a small start, but with immediate results, including creating jobs in some of the poorer areas where they’re most needed, yet would have a positive impact on carbon footprint with less travel.

    Yes, it may require upgrading the internet in more outlying areas, which we already know is needed.
    But why not offer incentives to those companies that provide that service, instead of to those monolithic companies coming to large cities lacking the housing for their employees (driving housing higher for those already living there), that outsource their call centers overseas?

    I think we should be punishing those companies that outsource jobs which could be done here, to the extent that hiring people here for a higher wage would still be cheaper for them than paying ‘fees’ or whatever to outsource those jobs.

    Stupidly simple idea, I know, yet it has a ring of common sense to me.

    “During the Great Recession, the Federal Communications Commission convened a coalition of US call center firms called Jobs4America that pushed clients to keep their operations in the United States by emphasizing the risks and complications of going overseas, such as fraud, travel time for executives and lower customer satisfaction.” “The group ceased operations, however, when President Obama left office and leadership changed at the FCC.”

    A bill was introduced regarding my point, but apparently, no action taken since March 2017.

    Time to reintroduce that bill?

  19. William Hunter Duncan

    The Minneapolis 2040 plan is a lot like the Green New Deal. Rezoning for density seems the holy grail of progressives. I am not opposed to that, however, I have pointed out repeatedly, if the underlying economics are not changed, with a greater focus on the economic empowerment of regular people at the expense of corp, bank, billionaire and rentier-structure, rents are not going down no matter the density.

    If it is not also a serious restructuring of attitudes about taking care of the land and water, it will just be about huddling the masses in cities while rural becomes the playland of the wealthy.

  20. Carolinian

    Add in Phoenix as a region where the real estate industry rules and an example of what any AGW fix would be up against. It’s not just the Koch brothers and oil that are in the way. These days real estate–that component of FIRE–is a key sector with giant rice bowls.

  21. Barry

    I would like to ask the NC community for a clearer sense of what they think a positive approach to the GCC crisis would be, because if I were to summarize the positions I’ve been seeing here, and in attacks on Tesla, self-driving cars, etc, it looks something like:

    “Anyone who is having any success changing any of the variables of our current trajectory is doing the world a big disservice because they don’t appreciate how serious things really are like *we* do.

    Also, some of us love our life far away from urban centers so we need our cars.”

    That can’t be right, right? So what are the solutions?

    Lest you think I’m either one of Yves’s GND ‘happy faces’ or a green-markets type, let me tell you what I think needs to happen if civilization and the planet are to survive:

    * All the population centers near the water need to move to higher ground.
    * The new population centers must have pretty small footprints.
    * They must be built where, to the best of our ability to discern, they have the least impact on the highly-interconnected and severely damage biomes of the planet.
    * … where there is enough water.
    * They must be designed to require much less energy expenditure for heating, cooling, and transportation.
    * The land that is good for growing things must be used for growing things
    * It needs to be cultivated in ways that increase living soil depth and doesn’t depend on exterminating insects
    * People who work the land should live close to the land they work
    * If we don’t manage our population size so as to stop exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet, our population size will be managed by nature. That is to say, the hard way. BUT, if we do convince the very powerful that the population needs to be reduced so that civilization can survive, each very powerful group will mobilize us to try to make sure some other group is the population that gets reduced (and they will burn a lot of fuel to do it). That is to say, the other hard way.

    I can’t say I’ve done much to make any of that happen. But then who am I to criticize people who have done far more than I to disrupt the narratives that would doom us for sure?

    1. William Hunter Duncan

      I was for awhile admin of the Doomstead Diner, where we discussed these issues at length. The general consensus there sounded a lot like what you discuss, that without a deliberate scaling down of expectations, without society returning to a responsible agrarian foundation, the future is likely collapse, dystopian and dark aged. But the future 25 generations hence looks bright!

      1. Barry

        It’s a testament to my claim not to have done much that I have not heard of the Doomstead Diner.

        I don’t tend to think of my list of solutions in terms of scaling down expectations (unless we mean expectations that we can succeed as our parents did). I think of it as an outline of what a survival scenario would look like; and therefore a set of objectives around which to do global mobilization.

        It could be the work of lifetimes, of shared purpose, employment, building, improvement.

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        aye. I cut my intertube teeth at LATOC.
        we talked about all this, at great length, for years before Matt got spooked and folded it all up.
        I hope for an enlightened, egalitarian and compassionate future…and work towards that where I can.
        but I expect Doom..”collapse,dystopia and dark age..”…the only question is when.
        “Carry the Fire”

    2. Chris

      Criticism of Tesla on this site, IMO, is distinct from any comments or criticism of the GND.

      Tesla is about hyping Elon Musk’s ideas to generate cash flow. It’s about putting a glossy futuristic cover on crappy execution and poor design to market over priced products for selfish people. Read the safety manual sections on your typical Tesla on the topic of battery fires, then go watch some examples on YouTube, then realize that most fire stations could handle 1 or 2 of such vehicles safely with the recommended safe distances in the manual. And ask yourself how much extra money Tesla is devoting to help combat the problems they’re creating.

      Or, look at all the home power wall hype, check out the videos on the solar powered roof, and ask one simple question: where do all the wires go? Or, better yet, how do the solar cells in the roof tiles perform when they get hot, because that tends to drastically reduce power generating efficiency. It’s all hype. Nothing real to see here.

      There is one aspect of Tesla that does inform critique of the GND. Both are convinced techno utopianism will make any real sacrifice or change unnecessary. We can glide on with a new and improved status quo, consuming as we like, driving as we like, doing what we like, where Elon only gets richer and better. This is impossible. But for some, it’s an alluring vision. And just like Elon, they’re willing to lie cheat and steal to realize it.

  22. William Hunter Duncan

    Also, to paraphrase the neocons and neoliberals….the Green New Deal probably needs an organic Pearl Harbor, such as the Thwaites glacier or Greenland ice sheet to collapse. As in…about 2 billion people on the move.

    Of course, the Green New Deal has been discussed in certain circles since the 70’s. That should mean the concept is mature and ready for implementation….

    1. Barry

      Here’s one thing I’ve learned from the neoliberals: a small group of dedicated, organized people can change the trajectory and the very character of a large and powerful nation.

      Here’s one thing I’ve learned from #metoo, AOC, the GND and other things happening now: people can come to see the man behind the curtain and change the narrative. As with market indicators, you can just draw a projection line from the current trend and predict the future.

    2. lambert strether

      > the Green New Deal

      I think what matters is the GND that made it as far as a House Resolution, because that’s what’s in the political realm.

      If I had read these comments before put up the cross-post, I would have said that the post contains a category error: The proposals by the author constitute a bullet point within the GND, a project, and in no way contradict it. All the bullet points are negotiable, by definition, since it’s a Resolution, not legislation.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        “Green New Deal” is a great slogan, but what is the Green New Deal? I thought it had something to do with our electric power infrastructure. Are electric vehicles and mass transit also part of the Green New Deal? This post wants to make zoning laws and urban planning part of the Green New Deal too. I suppose the Green New Deal must have a very large tent, which makes this post’s efforts at shooting down the dreams of others seem most ungenerous.

        Wasn’t FDR’s “New Deal” a broad label for a wide range of programs? Those programs appear to me to have been efforts to try almost anything in the hope that something might work. The ‘happy-face’ panaceas which seem to be stuffing up concepts for the Green New Deal leave me very uncomfortable. The New Deal wasn’t about panaceas. It was a large series of attempts to repair various parts of the social structures collapsing under the weight of the Great Depression. The World War II effort, whose spirit the Green New Deal seeks to invoke, was a fairly straightforward conversion of existing industry to build weapons. I don’t think the problems we face now can be dealt with through any similar straightforward redirection of our efforts. There is no clear path forward. I greatly fear the Green New Deal will misspend the best hopes and energies of our jaded public.

        But if the Green New Deal is a “Resolution, not legislation” … Does that mean it will have much the same effect and impact as a New Year’s Resolution? There is neither a President nor a Congress willing to try Green New Deal initiatives and the Court is every-bit as poisonous as that which shut down New Deal legislation. There is no Industry to redirect and the problems we face are deepset into the structures of our economy, its philosophy, and the philosophy of government. Neoliberalism will not die though a resolution.

  23. Tomonthebeach

    Unlike EU, our towns and villages were never built for protection from marauding hoards. When cars happened, US sprawl was enabled. In the EU, sprawl was constrained by what had been there for centuries. Most EU cities still have narrow streets that only Smarts and Fiats can navigate safely. In my little town in Eastern Europe, people still get around on donkey and horse carts because they are cheaper and traffic is light.

    Pollution in the US was inevitable as for centuries growth of GDP has trumped safety and comfort. Now we are choking on the mess that fouls our own nests. Pollution is sort of a history of capitalism.

  24. rob

    The idea is a good one, but the same old problem is that those jobs in other countries, means people(the ones who count;the rich ones)/companies/corporations here ; save money on payroll/taxes/infrastructure,etc…. .Most of that money not spent here goes into their pockets, the rest goes into political campaigns and lobbying efforts to keep all the tax breaks,incentives,profit protections on the “books”.
    The green new deal needs to have a couple of different schedules.
    One for little people , and what we can and should do, if possible.
    another for small business and what they ought to try and do. and another for the businesses large enough to have specific tax breaks enumerated in the IRS tax code, and what they HAVE to do to keep their tax breaks.
    All because we are talking about completely different scales of the problem. and refineries and industries in texas,and new jersey, shouldn’t be hiding behind the feelings of rural households across america.
    The things that can be done on large scales, like if amazon was supposed to let its work force telecommute instead of building its second headquarters on long island, would be something.
    It is like water conservation,
    The building industry is supposed to tell all homeowners they have to have toilets that flush less than 1.6 gallons /flush(which is commendable and not a bad idea anymore), but commercial interests in the same area, if they have the money can dig wells that get 100 gallons a minute rates and connect them to 36″ mains and they can pump them 24 hrs a day, if they want, and they have the money….. so all those people scrimping on water usage, don’t really add up to squat, compared to a lot of commercial users, who have no restrictions. The field needs to be fair. The burdens need to be spread around, on anything good.
    but to your point,
    We need representation, the way too few representatives of good character in our government, won’t get anything done without help.

  25. bondsofsteel

    So, I read the linked articles… and I still don’t get why EVs are not a large part of the solution.

    The Bloomberg article talked about how a large % of CO2 emissions are from electrical and industrial production. Yes… we need to solve those problems too. But EVs are so much more efficient (100 mpge+) that even with coal generated power they would cut emissions in half. EVs also localize the emissions to power generation which make other solutions possible.

    The Curbed article was focused on reducing overall miles traveled. Yes, we should do that. The anti EV argument was that EVs still pollute via braking/tires and cause congestion. Sure… congestion (efficiency of EVs goes up in congestion; high speeds reduce mileage), but braking isn’t a problem (almost all breaking is reversative; most EVs will never replace brake pads).

    Sure EVs alone will not get us to 0 (or negative emissions) which we’ll need to avoid disaster. With 40% of emissions tied to transportation, they will help us reduce total emissions faster than any other current technology.

    1. lambert strether

      Forgive my ignorance, but do we know how EVs affect greenhouse gas production, when the entire supply chain is taken into account? I’m skeptical. I mean, if the grid was entirely powered by coal (as it is not, fortunately) EVs would not help very much.

      I would also like to know how fast EV production can ramp up, and how rapidly existing “clunkers” can replaced. If existing gasoline powered vehicles will be overwhelmingly dominant for some time, it makes more sense to invest the most effort there.

      1. heresy101

        My long comment on the article was disappeared and some of the EV questions were addressed.

        The EIA and Calif are projecting about 30-40% EVs by 2030-2035. Things will probably go faster though as the battery mileage goes to 250-300 miles, such as the new Kia Niro.

        VW will only make EVs (even an electric Microbus) and half of Audi and Porsche will be EV models. MBZ is introducing 19 models this year. Nissan, Renault, Kia and Hyundai, the Chinese have many models and the Nissan NV220 delivery van will only be electric. Ford may use VW’s base model but is coming with an electric F150 (the best selling vehicle in the US). Only Toyota (riding on its Prius) and GM are dragging their feet. Even the USPS and UPS have multiple trials for electric delivery vans. Several companies are close to introducing short and some long haul trucks.

        As renewables become more of Calif’s electricity mix (60% by 2030), EVs will have less and less GHG impact. By 2045, it will be 100% and new cars will have to electric.

        1. Yves Smith

          Your comment was not “disappeared”. It went into moderation and you apparently didn’t notice the alert. Please read our site Policies, which discuss moderation. You clearly haven’t and your later compliant gives your troll points.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        There have been quite a few studies on this – all the reputable ones that I’m aware of find that even in worse case scenarios EV’s produce less CO2, both in operation and in full life-cycle analyses. That study I linked to, for example, indicates that even with a very high coal power generation (Poland as the example), an EV emits 25% less CO2 than a diesel powered alternative, which in turn is more efficient than a petrol engine.

        There are obvious choke points in ramping up EV’s, although I personally think they are exaggerated – although they may be overcome by, for example, very bad environmental practices in lithium and rare earth mining. The reason I think they are exaggerated is that very significant progress has been made in reducing the need for rare earths in electric parts, and (perhaps most importantly) in making cars significantly lighter (see, for example, the BMW i3).

        The general replacement lifecycle for a car in the US is 11 years. However, a significant issue is that since EV’s are vastly cheaper to run per mile, then rapidly conventional cars will be sitting longer in the garage – a typical family may use the EV for all day to day driving, the older car used only for long weekend trips. So while it would take a couple of decades for full replacement of existing cars, the cars actually being used on a daily basis will be the EV’s.

    2. redleg

      As someone who works in rural MN, specifically the whole northern 1/3 of the state, I would never use an electric vehicle for work. The distances are too large to guarantee a charge will make it to the destination, which in my case is often farms or other remote locations.
      This is something that most environmentalists fail to understand. What works in cities will not necessarily work past the suburbs. This is also one reason why Trump got elected and Dems are have been losing state elections.

      As a DSA-type, this complete ignorance of rural issues demonstrated by the Clinton-wing of the Dems is utterly frustrating. They have completely conceded rural areas to the GOP. Talk to farmers about how green agriculture can save money and reduce dependence on seed/chem/finance monopolies, and how medicare for all will provide better health care (not access!) at lower cost, while omitting talk about what rural people consider urban issues (e.g. guns) and rural voters will vote blue again.

  26. heresy101

    OMG, what a rotten way to start a Sunday with all the negativeness and glass half full perspective.

    The assumptions are all based on the “Smart City” view that I don’t want to live in. Thirty-five years ago I bought in Berkeley because it looked like it was going to be a great town even though I worked in Walnut Creek. Today, I wish I would have purchased in Walnut Creek, which has become one of the nicer towns in the Bay Area and Berkeley has fallen to a place that even destroyed its Grocery Outlet and has no low cost shopping.

    Attacking electric vehicles is so lame and doesn’t understand what is happening in the transportation area. Cars are moving rapidly to becoming all electric as battery life reaches 300 miles. VW is going all electric (even an electric Microbus) and Porsche and Audi are going 1/2 electric. Nissan, Renault, Kia and Hyundai, are adding many EVs. Ford may use the VW platform and will introduce an all-electric F150 (the best selling vehicle in the US). The only real hold-outs are Toyota and GM. Even the USPS and UPS have number of test runs for electric delivery vans. By 2045, new gas/diesel vehicles will be banned in CA.

    New houses are not going to be inefficient and will be all electrified as SMUD is doing.

    Renewable energy will power all this new electricity. All CA new houses under 4 stories will be required to have net zero solar generation beginning in 2020. Offshore floating wind farms will provide a large part of California’s electricity generation. Can 100% renewable be done? Yes, this commenter has helped take a small municipal electric utility to 100% carbon-neutral in 2020.

    Public transportation in the Bay Area is being financially damaged with Uber and Lyft being allowed to operate.

    So, this is your glass is half-full look at the world in opposition to, the woo is me there is no hope, attitude of the article.

    1. Yves Smith

      We have repeatedly published posts on how the limits on certain materials in turn limit how much energy can be generated on a renewable basis, at least given current technology, and new technologies generally take a decade+ to get into commercial production. Plus some of those critical materials have high environmental costs.

  27. Duck1

    The GND is basically green capitalism, where the state saves the system from collapse by organizing various programs that we have been discussing, some or many of which may be helpful. Certainly getting to the outer limits of discussion by the political system’s current inhabitants. (Pelosi-“green dream”.) My observation would be that the reality of the situation is running capitalism in reverse. Is it really possible in this system for M’ to be less than M? I wonder if collapse is baked in the cake.

  28. Adam Eran

    OK, New Urbanists have been preaching this (and getting very specific about it) for more than a half century now.

    That said, California persists in enabling edge city development. Prop 13 is one culprit. Taxing property more prevents land speculation (see The speculators can currently buy outlying ag land for a few thousand dollars an acre, then sell it to builders after they’ve got the go-ahead to develop it for 50 – 100 times what they paid for it. Exchanges shelter that profit from income tax, too.

    So…in the Sacramento, there are 20 years worth of infill unbuilt, and the speculators are proposing literally thousands of outlying acres be granted development rights.

    Unsurprisingly, with longer roads, water and sewer pipes, these outlying developments are far more expensive to maintain than infill, particularly denser infill.

    There are solutions, including retrofitting sprawl, but not much interest, given the public policy favors the speculators have been given. The big cheeses in CA politics very often have the development plutocrats behind them too, so I don’t hold out much hope for change.

  29. drumlin woodchuckles

    Suburban Americans may accept plans to Mayberrify the suburbs they live in. They (we) will not accept plans to Hong Kongify us so that the Upper Class and the Over Class can have a demographically-cleansed
    multi-million square mile zone of New Wilderness to play in.

    Any serious effort to impose Hong Kongification will cause the loaded guns to appear and come out in their tens of millions.

  30. William Hunter Duncan

    One thing I can say about the Left, it is good at deconstructing why the GND won’t work. The Right of course is on the whole defaulting to “COMMUNISM!”, except not even savvy enough to know America is in many ways like a “National Socialist” nation.

    Of course the GND need not be a centralized boondoggle, if we American people could truly believe in something again, if we could once again truly believe in ourselves. It is like we have been thoroughly trained to default to tearing down the Other, even with the GND we can’t help ourselves.

    I quit as Admin of the Doomstead Diner sometime ago because I grew tired of repeating all the ways this society is doomed. Instead, I want to build something. I want to create something beautiful out of the wreckage of the industrial. I want to empower people and community to take care of each other and the earth. I want to face the future with intention.

    That sounds a lot like what the GND could be….

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      My knowledge of the Great Depression is sketchy. I remember reading a little bit about how many small to medium-small groups of people tried different approaches and experiments on their own right where they lived. This did not turn them into opponents of the broader National New Deal Effort.

      So persons and groups of people could try to build little New MiniGreen MiniDeals in the meantime right now even while trying for the Green New Deal at the national level. And some of the successful experiments at the regionalocal level might inform discussions and conflicts about what to put in the Green New Deal or at least facilitate through Green New Deal policies.

      1. William Hunter Duncan


        That is why I suggest Humans are anarchic in the core. No matter how bad it gets, as soon as people have an opening, they start connecting and trading, building an economy.

        During the Great Depression, people all over America started attempting to build new economic foundations, even new currencies. Of course the central authority put the stop to that, but it says a lot about what people are capable of when the times call for it.

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      “I want to face the future with intention”
      the most positive, and at the same time most heartbreaking, revelation I’ve had, was that what it will take to change the world is to change one mind at a time.
      it takes a lot of time and effort and forbearance to do that…and meanwhile, when you have a success, and move on to the next…some agent of darkness moves in and undoes it,lol.
      Don’t mean that you stop…
      weeding the garden is never “finished”…and as you said above(i think), it’s gonna take an eco-pearl harbor for anything like a majority of humans to become aware enough to take all these myriad problems seriously enough to actually change their own lifeways.
      including how many kids they have(!)
      how does one make living the way I do cool?
      (and I ain’t perfectly “green” by any measure…but I’m well down that path…largely due to a creative response to poverty and bad luck with institutions.)

  31. John Ashley

    There is an easy way(according to the GND proposal) to get buy-in.

    Let’s take 1 small,controlled,mainly poor landmass and lay out the LAW and ORDER on 3-4 points from the GND.

    1. let’s prove the case that we have 10-12 years or it’s too late.
    2. detail roll-out , funding, labor and training needs.
    3. detail expected milestones for 1 yr – 2 yr – 5 yr goals.

    That should be enough to get buy-in.

    In case you need a good test lab, how about Puerto Rico.

    Even the war was not started without a detailed plan and decades of testing/funding of course the mobilization was very costly in terms of humans.

  32. VietnamVet

    Humans plan. We have the scripture, education, and science to try to predict the future on a small globe in an expanding universe. The first thing the Green New Deal needs are facts, likely trends and sustainable goals. There will be revolts and a world war unless there is a way for humans to peacefully and equitably regionalize the world’s economy. We must share the earth, air and water. The able-bodied need jobs. Everyone needs shelter, food, healthcare and a purpose in life. Conservation and planting trillions of trees is job intensive. Public transportation and education are primary needs. If there is good will, the future is survivable.

  33. Amid Vats Hod

    The only thing preventing such proposals from being adopted are vested interests.

    Were we to experience another GFC the answer just might come sooner ie so long as the criminal banksters were not, like previous, bailed out. They cause the problems & need to pay. But that’s the hard way.

    We have to change. Its a worldwide problem & a huge opportunity that we have to embrace or be left behind.

    The GND is a blueprint that indeed signals a much brighter more sustainable future.

  34. greg

    No need to worry about any of this. In the absence of sufficient trauma, humanity in general,and America in particular,is incapable of any coherent response to anything.

  35. Tim

    Individuals are procrastinators; sum it up to a society and you have massive procrastination, later justified in laziness and finally realized in survival.

    Trump wants to build a wall between countries, wait until you see the wall around Florida in 100 years. That is my take on about how good we’ll do with this problem.

    Wrote my whole comment without realizing Greg just said the same thing differently above my comment.

  36. Lambke

    Thank you, the article accurately points to the need to integrate transportation regulations with building regulations.

    The Kid Cities mechanism solves that problem. Cities, those quaint 19th-century places of a million people, have become metropolises with more than 10 million people. We need not more subway lines segregating people within urban growth boundaries, but an infiniteTransit flyway which unifies metropolises with multiple, amentiy saturated, dense, mixed-use hubs separated by low value land for other uses.

    Recognizing distinct scales (there are 7 Levels of transit, and possibly governance) that 21st century life operates between will make living better, create more innovation and reduce energy costs.

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