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Monday, June 13, 2011

Sustainable Development

In a class on sustainable development for real estate majors. "How do we do sustainable development?" First, we must get to the root of "What is sustainable?" (Awkwardly, growth is the opposite of sustainability, and America has a political ideology *built* on growth, and the promise of future growth).  I'm leery of the question "What is sustainable", because 'steady state sustainability' is a global issue, while development is a local issue.

'Using less' is not a theme that is going to resound with most Utahns--Envision Utah has gained ground beating the drum of 'efficiency', and promoting a sense of intergenerational sustainability ("Our children and grandchildren").

I think that their is a general understanding that to be MORE sustainable, we need to make better use of our resources. What that specifically MEANS is a very big question. It's a little confusing because it's not just a matter of traditional environmentalism--that the earth is worth saving on it's own merits--but that 'green' actions are a matter of enlightened self-interest (and inter-generational self interest).

So, what are we going to run out of?
Land? Water? Air? Roads?

No shortage of land in Utah. Not for development, not for open space. And even if we did pave it, we'd still have the National Parks/Forests/Monuments nearby. Water? Not yet. Water is funny. Looking at multi-century trends, Utah is very wet right now. Looking at the past five decades, we're not doing too badly. We have a couple of bad years where the reservoirs start to run dry, then we have a couple of good years and they fill up. Air? We're not running out of air, but we are running out of clean air. Living in a valley, most Utahns suffer when inversions trap cold, dirty air between the mountains under some warm air, so that is something that is present. Roads...we can always build more roads. And I think this is where Envision Utah does well. They start to stick a price tag on the COST of just 'build more'.