Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Monday, March 12, 2007

Sustainable Pullman

Why worry about sustainability in Pullman?

Why should Pullman worry about sustainability and what is sustainability, anyway?

Let’s explore the second question, first. What is sustainability? It’s a look at present activities through the lens of the future. When implemented properly, it is a systematic business approach to ensure the well being of the corporation, community, institution or individual to ensure future viability.

That means it has to make business sense beyond near term bottom line concerns. In the case of the City of Pullman, it means looking at more than just revenues and expenditures. It means taking actions which provide for the benefit of the maximum number of citizens today, tomorrow and 100 years from now. The concepts of sustainable operations include economic viability, social benefit and environmental protection. It involves prudent management of capital and natural resources.

How does this benefit Pullman and its citizens? A functional sustainability program does things like examine the various departments and operations of the city to see if economies of scale can be achieved through coordination of material uses, purchasing practices, sharing of resources and appropriate personnel assignments.

It looks at material and resource management by examining demands on water production, distribution, treatment and discharge to ensure adequate supply and plant capacities. It examines treatment methods and materials to see if effective, economically viable (i.e. same or lower cost to deliver the same level of service) alternative exist. It examines pumping and reservoir operations to influence operating times which may consume less electricity or consume it at a lower cost.

It examines planning and zoning to provide for adequate streets, services, and recreation facilities are planned for to accommodate growth. It looks at the appropriate mix of commercial and residential zones. It examines building codes and resource use policies such as low flow fixtures to maximize availability of resources to the maximum number of users.

Is it green? You bet! It encourages conservation where it makes sense. It encourages recycling. It encourages waste minimization. It encourages use of low impact materials. It definitely incorporates the concept of reducing non-renewable resources.

What is it not? It isn’t Moscow. It isn’t anti growth. It isn’t “smart growth” and it isn’t anti business….of any size or type. It isn’t the exclusive province of the lunatic fringe environmentalists.

To be sustainable, something must make business sense. It must serve the public interest and it must not irreparably harm the environment. Think of it this way; if it’s the best environmental solution in the world but it isn’t affordable, it’s useless. Similarly, if nobody wants it, it’s a dead end. If everybody wants it but nobody can afford it, it’s not sustainable. If it significantly harms the environment, it won’t fly. If it makes perfect financial sense but people don’t want it or it significantly harms the environment, it’s not going to work. All three elements must work to some reasonable level or it won’t work at all. In the end, sustainability is just good business sense. That’s why Wal Mart has a sustainability program.

3 comments:

April E. Coggins said...

It seems to me that the word "sustainable" is being hijacked by the left. The word that would more accurately describe their so-called goals is "perpetual," but everyone would be able to see through their absurdity, so they borrowed and have redefined "sustainable."

My breathing is sustainable, but not perpetual.

Barenjager said...

April,
You are correct that the term "sustainable" has been hijacked and used inappropriately by many. At the end of the day, if it isn't business smart, it isn't sustainable. If it doesn't balance the needs of the community, it isn't sustainable and if it results in irrepairable environmental damage and/or depletion of a vital resource, it isn't sustainable.

Many of those who would misuse the term to justify NIMBYism, stop growth, stop all extractive resource activities (i.e. mining, well drilling) or force their neighbors to conform to their ideals of how property shoud be used are actually not promoting sustainability. They are simply using the word to further their agendas.

One thing that really chaps my hide is environmental activism by intellectually lazy, hypocritical and ill educated causnicks. They do more harm to the environment by destroying the credibility of all involved than most of the "harmful" activities they protest against.

Dale said...

Barenjager,

Thanks for taking the time to elaborate on what sustainability is.

I think you nailed it on the head with this post.

Moscow *has* been hijacked by the no-growth'ers under the guise of "sustainability".

A point in time is going to come when there will be a revolt against the no-growth City Council (Chaney, Ament, Stout).

Why, because their actions are not sustainable :)

best,
Dale