Where you live matters. Who chooses in what type of building you can choose to live in matters too. Undoubtedly most people want to live in walkable communities, yet in many areas it’s actual illegal to build places that don’t rely on cars. Low density sprawl is bad for everything yet municipalities in North America continue to only permit single family dwellings. It’s time to let people choose in what type of building they want to live in instead of forcing only low density in new developments.
ZONING STUFF YOU CAN DO
1) Join the Climate Town Discord. Since there’s not a great/accessible database of everyone’s local zoning meetings (as far as we could find), we think it would be pretty slick to harness our community’s collective power to make it easier to get this information. We just created a channel called “#zoning” (https://discord.gg/cqRpTpeAH2), where you can drop by and tell us how your local zoning meeting smelled, or share a link that we missed to help other Climate Townies affect change in their community. (And in case you’re like me from a month ago and have no idea how to use Discord, here’s a helpful beginner’s guide – https://support.discord.com/hc/en-us/… to-Discord)
Everyone is well aware that low density, sprawling, and energy inefficient is bad for the planet. Years of mindless development have left us with homes which are not well built for the current climate. It’s imperative that we get these homes to be climate friendly, here’s how. The Guardian has a nice article on the various ways people can convert their inefficient housing into a climate-friendly structure.
Deep reductions in emissions will involve revamping the major appliances in the home, such as the water heater, furnace and air conditioning unit. As these items become older, they become wasteful and they will need to be replaced by more efficient appliances that run off clean electricity.
Some of these replacements will be relatively innocuous, such as the installation of heat pumps, which will be in the basement or on the side of the house. Heat pumps work on principles similar to a refrigerator, shifting heat from outdoors indoors and vice versa. They can heat and cool your home and can also heat your water with an efficiency rate four times greater than a gas-powered version.
We need to change the way we build and live if we’re going to avert catastrophic climate change, and it’s time we think about the biggest carbon offender: the suburbs. Suburban living is car-centric, energy intensive due to the design of the houses, more expensive to maintain due to low density, and embodies other problematic issues. It may sound like a daunting task to switch the suburbs from an unsustainable system to a sustainable one, but that’s exactly what people are trying to do.
According to new research publishedÂ last week by Teicher andÂ twoÂ colleagues, if theÂ trend away from downtown cores continues, it is essential to urgently refocus some of the effort to fight climate change from cities to suburbia.
It’s well established that the suburbs are bad for people’s health, the environment, mobility, and are associated with many other societal ills. However, amongst people who don’t live in the suburbs there is a profound distaste in sub-urban living that suburbanites don’t seem to understand. The revulsion people have to the suburbs predates our collective knowledge of the harm suburbs cause, so what is causing this disgust of the suburbs? That’s what Suzannah Lessard investigates in an essay in which she connects how we talk about (and conceive of) physical space influences our thoughts about it.
The problem with transcendence for progressives is that it is conservative in a profound way. I would venture that Howards End expresses a conservativism in Forster, in the sense of valuing what has accumulated over time, and the ways in which it can amount to something more than the sum of its parts, its uses, its price; a conservativism that was at odds with his progressive values yet could be expressed through a relationship to place depicted in Howards End; but only because that world was depicted as sufficiently obsolete that issues of power and status, of exclusion and exploitation, were not at play. The actual form of suburbia, in contrast, breaks up landscape into tiny pieces, spreading out indefinitely, undoing the pastoral terrain as contextâ€”as something larger than ourselves. It balkanizes an age-old archetype of providential orderâ€”much as most progressives would resist that quasi-theistic idea. The pastoral landscape is the last resort of secular humanists in search of a quiet expression of their sense of transcendenceâ€”and the suburban formation destroys that. Long-shot speculation? Well, yes. But maybe it opens a tiny chink in the mystery of suburbophobia.
The Canadian province of Ontario just elected a new government that’s focussed on making Ontario worse. In a few short months they’ve done a lot of damage including messing with municipal elections (making them harder to participate in), removing a carbon plan at a cost of $3 billion, and defunded governmental roles that monitor effectiveness. In short, they are behaving like anarchists. Clearly, none of these things are good.
This led to University of Waterloo urban planner Pierre Filion wondering what happened. His conclusion is that the suburbs did it. The actual physical environment of the suburbs is a source of support for this destructive party to gain power. So if we want to build a better world step one might be to dismantle the current infrastructure supporting suburban lifestyles.
“When the planning solutions are put forward, they need to be put foward in a way that is adapted to the suburban lifestyle, to the people who are living in suburbs, and that really takes into consideration what is going to help them,” said Filion.
“I don’t mean to say that suburbs are totally negative to work with â€” this is certainly not the case â€” but it needs to be shown that what is going to be put in place is going to help them,” he said.