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C200: Are We Sustainable Yet?

2011 March 20
by Roger Valdez

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Remember Aesop’s fable about the grasshopper and the ants? The grasshopper danced and sang away the summer months while the ants prepared for winter. When winter came the ants were ready for the bleak months ahead. The grasshopper was shivering and starving.

When it comes to climate change our politicians and leaders remind me of the grasshopper, and we too quickly follow them, talking about the importance of climate change but failing to take bold actions against it.

We know what to do. Like the ants preparing for winter we should be diligently working to cap carbon emissions, shift our economy away from dependence on fossil fuels, build a smart grid to deliver renewable energy to businesses and households, and upgrade the existing building stock to be more energy efficient.

But we’re not. While elected officials talk a good game about sustainability they’re still building highways. It’s an example of what I call the Sustainability Gap—the difference between what politicians say and what they do about becoming sustainable. Celebrating and investing in cities can help close the gap. I’ve heard dense urban forms described derisively as “ant hills.” Maybe the ants aren’t such a bad example to follow after all.


Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Roger Valdez is a writer who has a special interest in land use. He’s currently reading through and revising Seattle’s land use code with an eye toward making it line up more with the City’s stated interest in becoming more sustainable.