For once, I get to do some first-hand reporting.
Yesterday Live Green SLC took place at Library Square in Salt Lake City. I traveled to the event via UTA bus and TRAX light rail, which was delightful. When I arrived I was greeted by what you often see at these sort of things: hippies selling hemp clothing and vegan food and Ford salesmen trying to convince you that an SUV that gets 22 miles to the gallon saves the environment. I was initially disappointed, because I fear that both of these groups hurt the environmental movement more than they help. But when the various events in the auditorium began, it was a pleasant turnaround.
John Norquist, president of CNU, was the first speaker. He began by explaining what CNU was. He said that it was formed as a reaction against the work of CIAM, the congress of Modern architects organized by Le Corbusier. He commented on the works of Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and Oscar Neimeyer, all of whom had a large influence on modern suburban development. He pointed out that it was interesting that New Urbanists are accused of being socialist when all three of these men were socialists or communists. He compared city streets to a wetland, all saturated with cars, and how building freeways is a lot like channelizing a stream – it doesn’t solve the congestion, and can lead to more problems. He used Detroit as an example of a city that has fulfilled modernist goals – built enough freeways to avail congestion – that in the process has lost 2/3 of its population and almost all of its vitality, not to mention jobs and industry in its latest hit. “Congestion is like cholesterol: there’s good and bad,” he said. He showed various examples of cities that have torn down freeways and turned them into vibrant, pedestrian-friendly areas (the most impressive of which was Seoul, South Korea). He finished with a critique of the old LEED system, which would award a well-insulated building with solar panels even if all of its workers had to drive 50 miles to get to it, and applauded the new LEED-ND system, set to debut around the end of the year. Afterwards I was able to talk to him about how to attract families back to cities and to improve city schools. Despite his background as a Democrat, Norquist is in support of school vouchers as a way to get around endemically poor inner-city schools. I found the discussion to be quite enlightening.
After a short break, Doug Fine, journalist and writer of Farewell My Suburu, talked about his journey towards being free of fossil fuels. He was quite entertaining and did have some good points, but in some ways he was one of those hippies that I think is holding back the environmental movement (he mentioned multiple times that he meditates and does yoga in his barn every day with his goats).
The night finished up with a movie, Fuel, that I thought was extremely interesting. It documented some of the actions of the military petroleum complex and explained some of the chemistry behind biodiesel and ethanol. At the end of the movie it listed ten things that you can do right now to fight global warming and the importance of foreign oil, which I think everyone should check out and implement to the best of their ability. Here’s the trailer: