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C200: Are We Sustainable Yet?

2011 March 20
by Roger Valdez

< Senator Grasshopper Meets With Constituents >

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.

4 Responses leave one →
  1. Brad permalink
    March 20, 2011

    Ants are also less invasive with their natural surroundings than grasshoppers for what it’s worth. I’m not sure what other entomological analogies we can make…. Cicadas coming out every 17 years? Roaches will survive anything?

  2. Bill Bradburd permalink
    March 20, 2011

    Climate change is only one aspect of sustainability. And carbon emissions are only one element climate change. And roads and transit are nipping at the edges of what needs to be done (e.g., getting cow our of our diet would also have a marked impact).

    No wonder our electeds are confused or don’t care.

    Sustainability means more than carbon.

    And we should be thinking and acting broader than we have been (

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  1. Goddamned Seattle Liberal Hypocrites | citytank
  2. Question for City Council candidates: are you a grasshopper or an ant? | Seattle's Land Use Code

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