Archive for January, 2007

economic myopia in climate debate

January 28, 2007

The controversy and debate around greenhouse gasses and climate change is all very entertaining. Unfortunately it is also distracting.

Climate change is a certainty — it’s a natural cycle that isn’t going to stop simply because there are humans all over the place now and they would really rather things just stay the way they are. The degree to which emissions from human machinery and politicians are affecting that natural cycle is debatable. And debated it is, hotly. But by focusing on that debate, Canada is missing the point.

There is a long list of reasons for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, concerns about climate change is only one of them. It should be no surprise that many people have a hard time thinking that rising sea levels and warmer temperatures are a bad thing. And the anxious fretting that, if someone in White Rock drives to the store to pick up some orange juice, it will help melt some ice at the North Pole some time over the next 100 years and some sheep in the New Zealand highlands might go blind… it’s all far too abstract. But that’s OK because there are more than enough reasons affecting humans now, right here close to home — things that everyone can understand and agree are not good.

• skyrocketing asthma

• cardiovascular distress caused by air pollution

• waterways polluted by petrochemicals and brake dust washing into storm sewers

• local salmon streams too polluted to support fish

• driving linked to increased obesity, decreased heart and mental health

• economic inefficiencies of gasoline production and distribution

• waste of energy inherent to the internal combustion engine

• serious but underappreciated impacts of engine noise on human health and wildlife

• strain on low-income Canadians in maintaining combustion vehicles

Those are just off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many, many more reasons to question the resistance to public transit, alternate energies, and new vehicle technologies.

I think one of the most counter-productive arguments is that aggressively reducing air pollution would cause harm to our economy. I find this ridiculous for two reasons.

First, our dependence on petroleum is causing incalculable harm to our economy. A truly wise economist would look further than the next few years to determine costs — they would look generations into the future. As much as our current energy systems fuel our economy, they are also inefficient, expensive to maintain, and produce damaging waste.

Second, our need for transportation, food and goods will not diminish. There will continue to be consumer demand for products and services. Skeptics have tried to scare us into thinking we would have to reduce our standard of living to be less polluting — as if pollution is the price we pay for a high quality of life.

Aside from wondering how high that quality really is with so many health problems caused by pollution, I can’t help but think that this is incredibly myopic. Surely, at this time in human history, we should be able appreciate change. We have seen an exponentially increasing rate of change over the past 200 years. How we live our lives has changed dramatically in the past 10 years, but we have adapted — as they did 30 years ago, 50 years ago, 80 years ago, … 100 years ago. We have adapted to new technologies and used those advances to improve our quality of life.

I believe the same would be true of finding more energy efficient means of fueling our manufacturing processes, heating our homes, powering our devices, propelling our vehicles. It would also be true of creating effective public transportation systems, and safer walking and cycling routes.

So, enough of the debate over greenhouse gasses already! Let’s get on with making our economy stronger while improving our quality of life — by reducing energy consumption and increasing energy efficiency.

perception is projection

January 24, 2007

I don’t understand it, therefore it is stupid

Why is this so common? Why would anyone, confused about why something was done in a particular way, jump to the conclusion that whomever did it is obviously stupid? Why assume the right to judge their intelligence?

regulatory zeal floods Semiahmoo relations

January 17, 2007

Under Council direction to create a more inclusive, consultative, and open-minded corporate culture, City Staff have been making great progress in resolving issues without using coercion or resorting to confrontation. I hope Council can learn to do that too. We have been strongly advocating the change within staff, but yet seem to be having a hard time breaking the habit ourselves.

This has never been more blatant than this past Monday when dealing with concerns about a particular boat moored at the pier. Councillor Coleridge said City Hall “needs more power”, should use a “hammer” on the Semiahmoo First Nation (whose members are responsible for the boat), and that the City needs “more rules and regulations”. I couldn’t disagree more… on each point: Power doesn’t solve problems; Using a hammer will only create problems in the long run; Spinning more red tape just for the sake of exercising power just creates more work for City staff.

I’d rather not be a power-tripping, coercive City Council with a fondness for red tape. I don’t think that’s good leadership for our community.

On this issue, Council directed that the boat be removed, and that a bylaw be written saying that no one can use the east float for long-term moorage and setting fees for its use.

That might all sound reasonable enough, until it is considered that there has not been a problem in the past — all this is in response to one boat. And they asked permission before they began using it — it’s not as if they’re squatters who just arrived one day without saying anything and never left.

So there are two things that make me uncomfortable with this decision.

First, it is supreme overkill. This is a huge amount of work for City staff to respond (not to mention on-going enforcement) to a single event that hasn’t occurred in the past and, considering the unique circumstances (First Nation fishing boat that first asked permission to moor there), there is nothing to suggest that it would happen again.

Creating a bylaw makes things very inflexible. It becomes more difficult to weigh the circumstances at hand and give latitude if reasonable. Bylaws are black & white and adversarial. They don’t encourage friendly problem-solving.

There are a long list of situations in which that rigid consistency is very important. But in the case of maintaining the east float as short-term visitor moorage, there hasn’t been a problem in the past and likely won’t be in the future, so I see no need to bureaucratize it.

Second, this is a very simple problem which only requires a very simple solution. I am very confident that a brief meeting of Semiahmoo and City representatives would find a mutually acceptable resolution. They might come to the exact same conclusion as Council — that the boat should be removed. But consulting them would have been respectful. It would have also allowed for the real possibility that there might be other solutions or negotiated compromises that could be found through dialogue.

Forcing someone to do something is not how to build respectful and constructive relationships. I feel that, in deciding to force them to remove the boat and threaten them by making a new bylaw without even attempting to talk with them first, Council has acted incredibly rudely.

The Mayor insisted that the message would be conveyed “diplomatically”. But my concern is about the message, not how it is delivered. No matter how politely or sensitively they are told, it doesn’t change the fact that they were not consulted prior to the decision being made. They had an agreement to park their boat at the pier, and then the City decided to have it removed without talking with them. What kind of values does this reflect?

Choice Theory quotes – coercion and education

January 11, 2007

If you know something, you know it; if you don’t, you don’t. You can’t know it better or worse. Where you can demonstrate your competence is in using knowledge.
– page 238

All you get from coercion is resistance, no matter where it is used.
– page 246

interesting Choice Theory quotes

January 6, 2007

These are our choices when we want to stop [feeling hurt]:
(1) change what we want,
(2) change what we are doing, or
(3) change both.

– page 71

The problem is that our [subconscious ideal] worlds do not recognize the impossibility of any picture we put into it.
– page 150

Most of us fear being creative because we are afraid that something new will be criticized.
– page 175

trees or forest?

January 3, 2007

Some people wonder why I feel so strongly about letting trees grow tall, as nature intends for BC. It probably comes from the vision I have for this community.

It’s not just that I want to have lots of trees within the city, what I want is for it to feel as though there is a city within a forest. Rather than the trees appearing to be imposed upon a street, I want it to feel as though there are buildings and streets inside a forest.

Not only is this what is perfectly natural for this corner of the coast, it is perfectly in keeping with the ‘green appeal’ that drew so many people to live here in the first place. The green character of this community is valued by almost everyone who lives or visits here.

An important part of how to retain and enhance that character is to
• protect existing trees;
• plant more trees;
• plan redevelopments around existing trees;
• plan for significant stands of trees in new developments.

Let’s honour the natural appeal of White Rock by protecting existing trees and planting more. Let’s see the trees for the forest. Let’s be an enchanting city within the forest, by the sea.

New Year Resolutions for 2007

January 2, 2007

I. Build and support satisfying personal relationships

Spend more time with friends

• Go out at least once each week
• Have guests over at least once each month

Write birthday cards

• Design a birthday card

II. Be more effective in my role as a City Councillor

Conduct a performance review

• Collate data from 2004 review

Build stronger professional relationships

• Develop a contacts database
• Answer all communications within 2 days
• Show up on time

III. Communicate with clarity to infect people with optimism

• Rebuild website

Study and practice NVC

• Speak in positives

IV. Learn lots

Read no less than 5 books

• Choice Theory
• Consensus Decisions
• The New Suburbia
• Emotional Intelligence
• Psychology of Decision-Making

Finish writing papers on urban planning

V. Get fit

• Gain 10 lbs of muscle
• Walk no less than 4000 steps each day
• Do no less than 40 pushups each day
• Eat when I’m hungry

VI. Have more fun

• Learn to dance

VII. Establish greater financial stability and confidence

Start my own business

• Build 6 bird baths

VIII. Create a comfortable and impressive home environment

• Build arches
• Install hallway floor
• Install kitchen shelving
• Finish tiling kitchen
• File all paper piles
• Purchase dining room table and chairs