Letter To The Editor Bob Kiedaisch
The report that Orange County will receive substantial sums of stimulus money for weatherization programs is an encouraging development. Providing many homes with better insulation and energy star appliances cuts down on our power use and costs. This federal assistance can help our communities move towards sustainability. But, it remains the local responsibility of our communities to focus diligently on sustainability, notwithstanding economic hard times. In fact, communities that achieve sustainability are more stable and less affected by shifting economic conditions.
Sustainability means living in a manner that can be sustained or continued. It is the development and preservation of a good quality of life in Orange County that can be enjoyed now and by future generations. People have long strived to develop communities where they can live the good life. But in recent times, Orange County communities have experienced increased growth pressure and the influence of interests pursuing only their own short terms goals. Therefore, insisting that our community leaders stay focused on sustainability may be more important now than ever before.
How we manage our water, food and power supplies, transportation, open space, air and water quality, and, of course, sewage are some of the major concerns. When working towards sustainability, communities must identify, utilize and coordinate existing assets. Then, wherever appropriate, merge existing assets in innovative ways with new technologies. For example, we have valuable farms in Orange County that are often threatened with residential development. Wouldn’t it make sense to preserve our farms and get their products to local markets? This way we cut down on transportation related air pollution and create local jobs. If we concentrate new residential development in existing residential zones, where services are already available, travel distances for goods and services would be shorter and transportation related air pollution less than if the developments were more isolated. This would also help preserve open space and perhaps eliminate the need and cost of some roadways that might otherwise have been needed.
Also, in regard to our agricultural assets, innovative ideas such as the vertical or elevated farm could be considered. These are indoor farms on the floors of high-rise farm buildings. In some cases, they may have their own generators powered by fossil fuels to produce the necessary lighting and heat. The released carbon would be contained within the building to benefit the crops that absorb it. A variety of local produce would be available year round, and new jobs may be created.
Additionally, our power supply assets should be identified, utilized and coordinated. Our government agencies should encourage alternative energy such as solar, wind and geothermal power. Laws that may be hindering such power development, often unintentionally, can be modified. These power sources can be connected to the grid but we may want to explore the feasibility of a localized form of the power trading. Perhaps, solar could become the energy source for some of our communities and wind for others. We could connect these sources so at times when wind production is insufficient but solar production high, power could be borrowed from the solar community and vice versa.
There are a host of innovative ideas relating to sustainability in terms of energy conservation, community and building design and location, and transportation. Community leaders in Orange County need to stay on top of them to make choices that are smarter in the long run and avoid those with unreasonable hidden costs or detrimental health consequences.
Bob Kiedaisch, Co-President of Orange Environment Inc.