Aug '08 - Jul '09
One of the most excellent/torturous aspects of getting a research degree is that it affords me the opportunity to pursue - and think really hard about - topics that interest me. It's excellent because I never felt I had time to pursue such ideas in my design-focused undergraduate degree, but it's also torturous because I can fall asleep obsessing about these things. Take my last post where I talked about sustainable cities. A few hours after I wrote that post, part of Santa Barbara went up in flames ... then North LA ... then part of Orange County. When I see images like this on TV, and then I walk outside and the sunlight is dimmed because of the smoke and my eyes start burning and I start having sinus problems, it's natural to start having an inner dialogue about the environmental health of this city. I mean, why do people live here, anyway? As the author of that article says, on scorched earth whose natural inclination is to go up in flames every year.
photo courtesy of MSNBC
Much of the United States looks to California as a leader in environmental standards, or at least it used to. We have some of the tightest emissions standards for cars in the country, and our abundant sunshine grows massive amounts of crops while it waits to be collected for solar energy. But that's just it - everybody here still drives cars and nobody is rushing out to put PV arrays on top of their homes or businesses. And don't even get me started on Southern California's perpetual abuse of its water supply ... there's a water shortage, literally we might run out of it, but that doesn't stop hundreds of ignorant reckless business owners from washing down the sidewalk in front of their buildings every day. When I pass these people I wish I could yell at them - don't they understand how precious that water is? Like Jeffrey Feldman says in his blog on the Huffington Post, can we stop pretending that California is "green", now?
Downtown LA during the fires
One of the biggest ironies, in my opinion, is the rapid development of cities such as Dubai. It's ironic to me because Americans, millions of whom are here in Southern California, cling to their cars stubbornly, and despite a spike in gas prices over the summer, largely remain undaunted in their quest to get around by auto. Where does all of that money that we spend on gas go? I'm going to guess places like Dubai. So while the American economy crumbles, and Southern California burns, Dubai, awash with cash, is starting to build the Arabian canal, one of the largest land displacement projects in human history.
image courtesy of Arabiancanal.com
But that's not all. I'm extrapolating and generalizing for the sake of discussion, but assuming some of Dubai's money does come from American gasoline consumers, after the big oil companies take some off the top for their record profit, what else can it buy? Apparently the mid-east's largest solar panel manufacturing plant. The irony just got thicker! California is supposed to be "green" and yet, conceivably, 5 people buying gas for a month in Los Angeles could equal one solar panel in the UAE.
image courtesy of Treehugger.com
Needless to say, my head hurts, and not just because of the smoke. I've never been to Dubai but I'd like to go and see it for myself; obviously with that amount of money they can do almost anything, some projects more worthwhile than others. In the meantime, I am hoping to participate in the discussion of how to make the United States more energy-independent again. We certainly have a long way to go....