Electric cars wont save us #1

By Steve Austin

Joe Romm is a dedicated climate scientist who runs the blog Climate Progress.  Unfortunately, he has a fixation with electric cars as being the savior to the world’s climate peril. Recently, he posted an article entitled Here’s what charging your electric car will look like in 2030.  His premise:  “The future is electric cars — and cheap charging.”

This seems dead wrong.  If carbon pollution risks destroying civilization, then how on earth will electric cars be the “future?”  They require massive amounts of CO2 emissions to produce, require massive amounts of CO2 for infrastructure to drive on, and are toxic to the environment.  Further, electric cars are, and most likely will be in the future, owned by the wealthy of the first world.  In the energy constrained future, electric cars will siphon limited electricity away from communities that will need it the most so that the elite can continue to pretend that life in the time of climate change isn’t too bad.

Icons of social and environmental justice, electric cars aint.

If climate change is indeed the peril that scientists tell us it is, then mitigating it will mean the end of the industrial era.  With that will come the end of the suburban life that demands personal vehicles for living.  Pretending that electric cars will allow us to drive happily into the future is delusional.

And it hurts the cause: when deniers see commentary like this they can rightfully say, “it can’t be too bad if all it will take is electric cars to solve it.”  To them, and to perhaps the majority of Americans, promoting electric cars seems to make dealing with climate change about lifestyle choices, instead of the radical reimagining of our civilizational structure that addressing the climate peril demands.

The promotion of electric cars as the “future” by climate scientists tells the world that if we simply change a little, then we can keep the current system going.  We need to hear from scientists:  is that true?  If it is, then all hope to mitigate climate change is gone as people will simply choose not to play along by driving an electric vehicle.   If it is not true, then we need to push back hard against those who should know better.

A new emphasis on beauty may be just what it takes to save America

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And Beauty for All is a new organization whose purpose is to bring beauty into the forefront of our national consciousness.

“We believe all Americans appreciate beauty, regardless of their political views, origin, economic status or creed, and that working to restore beautiful landscapes and create beautiful places is a non-partisan cause that can bring us together and build community in polarizing times.

Beauty appeals, and ugliness repels, writer Sandra Lubarsky points out, because beauty is life-affirming and enhancing. Beautiful landscapes offer a harmony of parts that we instinctively feel is good and healthful. By contrast, gashes in the earth, oil spills, and the like are as wounds to our own bodies, and garbage and litter give us a sense of life-threatening disarray.”

Climate reckoning for landscape architecture

By Steve Austin

The summer of 2018, with its unprecedented global heat, fires and droughts, is forcing a reckoning upon landscape architects. The full effects of climate change are now clearly visible. The world has warmed more than one degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution. We are on track for more than 2 degrees Celsius warming. What are we to do?


The chart above shows the actions that must be taken to avoid the existential threat of even more global warming: humans must essentially cease using fossil fuels within 30 years.   And more than that, we must take actions to drawdown excess carbon dioxide (CO2), so that in the years after 2050 a climate balance can regained. If we are to ensure a livable climate, we must enter the below zero era. These are the prescriptions outlined by the Paris Climate Accord, which unfortunately has become a political casualty in the USA.

Landscape architects will be vital in helping to achieve the goal of keeping the climate within the boundaries conducive to continued civilization. Yet, this chart portends that the processes, tools, and materials that we use in our work today will not be available to us. This in turn will have dramatic implications for design and professional practice.

Ultimately this chart tells us that within the lifetimes of many landscape architects practicing now, the profession of landscape architecture must change. The sections below lay out the key areas of our profession that will be impacted. Continue reading “Climate reckoning for landscape architecture”

Below zero landscape architecture

By Steve Austin

As the destructive impacts of climate change accelerate, we are at a critical point in history. The chart above shows the path that civilization must be on by 2050 if we are to have a chance at maintaining a livable climate by reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2). It also points the way toward to a dramatically different practice of landscape architecture.


This chart shows the two requirements for any possible success. First, our civilization must essentially cease using CO2 emitting fossil fuels within the next 30 years. And, we must draw down much more CO2 than the little we do emit. This is no longer about “zero carbon”: this will be the “below zero” era. Unfortunately, getting there is far easier graphed than done.

There are two reasons for this. One is that society, and landscape architecture, is Continue reading “Below zero landscape architecture”

‘We are climbing rapidly out of humankind’s safe zone’: new report warns dire climate warnings not dire enough

From Ecowatch:  Offering a stark warning to the world, a new report out Monday argues that the reticence of the world’s scientific community—trapped in otherwise healthy habits of caution and due diligence—to downplay the potentially irreversible and cataclysmic impacts of climate change is itself a threat that should no longer be tolerated if humanity is to be motivated to make the rapid and far-reaching transition away from fossil fuels and other emissions-generating industries.

In the new report—titled What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk—authors David Splatt and Ian Dunlop, researchers with the National Centre for Climate Restoration (Breakthrough), an independent think tank based in Australia, argue that the existential threats posed by the climate crisis have still not penetrated the collective psyche of humanity and that world leaders, even those demanding aggressive action, have not shown the kind of urgency or imagination that the scale of the pending catastrophe presents.

Politicians must set aside blinkered ideologies in the climate endgame

The disaster is upon us.  The writers of a commentary in The Guardian lay out precisely where we stand:

“For climate change is now an existential risk to humanity. That is, a risk posing large negative consequences which will be irreversible, resulting inter alia in major reductions in global and national populations, mass species extinction, economic disruption and social chaos, unless carbon emissions are reduced far more rapidly than proposed under the Paris agreement. The risk is immediate, in that it is being locked in today by the insistence of Australian conservatives and their global kin to expand the use of fossil fuels when the carbon budget to stay below sensible temperature limits is already exhausted.

It is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path to restore a safe climate. We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to a war footing, will eventually be accepted as inevitable. The longer that takes, the greater the damage inflicted upon humanity.”