Monday, April 21, 2008


Inevitable. Curious. Unseeing. I don't know what to label how yesterday's NYT Magazine's slew of articles on reducing environmental impact and carbon footprint didn't include one obvious choice that individuals and households can make: moving.

This could be moving to a new part of a city (to reduce commute times), to a new city or region, or even simply to a new style of house (one with a backyard, say, where one can grow some of one's food). Maybe the capital intensivity of this moves it off the table as an option, but I'm not convinced; people buy hybrid vehicles and install solar panels. Maybe it's because it was the New York Times. What if the answer is that big cities make big footprints? I don't know if this is true or not; if it were, the city's newspaper couldn't very well advocate people abandoning it. I think the answer may lie deep in the American psyche: Americans move for jobs or when they retire, not for general economic considerations -- that would be called "migration," and those who "migrate" are called "immigrants."

I'd also want to know where one should move. We have a pretty good situation in Austin: lots of sunlight and our own roof meant we could install solar panels if we wanted to, though not without a lot of other capital improvements. And we have the biggest backyard on the block with proven soil for veggies; a rainwater collection system would give us water for the garden. And chickens! We don't hardly heat the house at all in the winter. On the other hand, we can't walk many places, and riding a bike, though doable, isn't comfortable. Portland is walkable year-round, and the hardcore biking season has just begun, plus things are close: the office supply store and post office are just down the hill, and both Whole Foods and Hannafords are easily reachable by bike trail.

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