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Sunday, June 24, 2007

Things We Can Do in Our Community to Help Save the Planet

The issue of global warming has finally captured the media, public, and politician of the left side's attention. Yes, it is probably about 20 years later than it should have been and the effects of global warming appear almost undoubtedly to be upon us. We have wasted too much time with debates as to whether global warming is happening and what is causing it and not enough time figuring out ways to mitigate the damages.

I give the city of Davis some credit in looking into ways that the city can reduce its carbon footprint. But I do not believe the city has gone far enough. And in many ways, the measures that it has taken on other issues, will counteract efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

Here are three ideas that I have come up with.

First, require solar panels on all new homes. Last weekend I visited my parents in San Luis Obispo. Sitting outside in the backyard with their neighbor, I spied their solar panels. He informed me that they have paid all of $35 in electrical bills in the year since they installed the panel. Now solar panels are extremely expensive to install, costing what it would cost to buy a decent new car somewhere between 15 and 20 thousand dollars. However, the belief is that it would pay for itself within ten years. More importantly, it would take a tremendous amount off of the power grid in the city if this were done on a mass basis.

It is probably not realistic yet to require retrofitting of the devices, but when you buy a new house it makes sense. First, what is an extra 15 to 20 thousand on top of $400,000 to $600,000 you would pay for a new house. And second, if you plan to own the home for any length of time, you will make up the money in electrical bills. And there is always the expansion of technology discounts, the more that one buys of this technology, the cheaper it gets.

Unfortunately, the council in April got caught up in the debate on a new project as to whether or not to require such things and many on the council majority argued against it. That makes no sense, this is such an energy saver--utilizing the sun, especially in a place like Davis where perhaps 90% of the days are sunny.

Second, expand the greenbelts and bike routes to accommodate Gem cars as well. Our current infrastructure is not set up to accommodate energy saving electric cars rather than fossil fuel burning conventional cars. If we are serious about conserving, there is no reason that in-town trips should be done with conventional cars--none. But as a friend pointed out, here the city is supposed to be environmentally conscious, councilmembers even drive gem cars, but will not be able to get to the new Target store in them. How much sense does that make? Imagine being able to drive in your gem car downtown without having to use many of the major roads? Expensive, but how much gas consumption would we be able to reduce just by reducing greatly the number of in-town trips.

Third, the Whole Earth Festival taught me a very valuable lesson. Every day, we buy a huge amount of packaging including disposable food containers. At Whole Earth, plates and cups were charged a deposit that was returned to the customer up the return of their plates and cups. The plates and cups were then recycled or composted. That leads to the question--why not do that in town? Why not do that at Farmer's Market? Why not greatly reduce the amount of packaging and disposable food containers that we use and instead either return for re-use, recycle, or compost? It would cost us nothing but an initiative to implement that practice city-wide and it would greatly, greatly reduce waste.

If we are serious about global warming and protecting the environment, then we need to get serious about finding new ways to conserve. Innovation and other saving policies need to increase. So far the council majority has talked the talk when it is convenient, let us see them walk the walk and actually propose policies that impact us all.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting