Sheryl Crow and Laurie David (wife of Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm) just rode into the sunset in their biodiesel-powered tour bus to start the "Stop Global Warming College Tour." Kicking the tour off at Southern Methodist University, the soon-to-be-home of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and think tank, i.e. they Anti-Kyoto Monument of Environmental Ennui, may have been a less-than-optimal choice for the sassy duo.
As Crow and David made the media rounds yesterday, people in my line of work started debating just what they could accomplish by handing out energy-efficient light bulbs, doing a slide show and singing a couple new-folk songs. The debate then evolved to a global scale: These two harbingers of the global climate change end-times are trying to motivate Americans to do something for our planet at the grassroots. What if America really started, as a means of necessity, to make our country more ecologically friendly? What if we started to take coal-burning power plants offline and constructed new and more environmentally feasible energy sources? What would that kind of large scale investment (investments with dubious or unknown rates of return are calculated as losses) do to our economy? What if China and India don't follow suit, and for every one coal-fired power plant that we take down, they construct two more?
I kind of stopped listening when somebody asked if we would be willing to bomb China to stop them from polluting. That's a new concept to me: hurting the world to save it? That's like a coyote chewing its arm off to escape a trap, right?
But then I began to think, why are such ecological improvements necessarily a loss? Why would new construction and taking down older polluting plants be economically harmful? Why must ecological improvement and economic growth be mutually exclusive? It seems a bit specious to me.
Look at San Francisco, Calif., or Seattle, Wash., or Portland, Ore., or Madison, Wisc., or even Austin! These cities are striving towards sustainability; abating environmental impact to the point which the environmental gains negate human impact. All of these cities are not only environmentally friendly, but are also economic powerhouses. The investment in their infrastructure to make the cities cleaner, safer and more ecologically integrated has made them attractive, boosting land values and making them sought-after locations for creative-types and progressive firms.
Dallas could do this, too. We could be come the next green-living outpost. Too bad we've got business leaders and council members that would cut their noses off to spite their faces. They'd rather have toll roads running through our greenspace and intruding upon what was supposed to be our own verson of Golden Gate Park... It's too bad that we won't have a dense urban core, afforable multi-family highrises or a downtown peppered with well-manicured parks and recreational facilities. It's too bad that companies come to Dallas looking for a steal, and then they really do, they steal from the communities' investment in infrastructure, developing reinvestment zones that take tax revenue from the city for new bells and whistles for their towers of babel.
What will get us there? What will make us as beautiful and preserved as San Francisco? As ecologically sound as Eugene, Ore. or Seattle? Progressive leadership -- a commodity that we sorely lack.