What should word of the year "Carbon Neutral" mean to NEO's future?

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 11/22/2006 - 19:27.

 As an excellent sign of the times, on November 13, 2006 it was announced "Carbon Neutral" is the Oxford American Dictionary Word of the Year. Unlike what is typically defined here as underpinnings of sustainability, being Business as Agents of World Benefit, I see this trend toward individual social responsibility reflects the real world, being Individuals as the Agents of World Benefit, and, in fact, I believe it is only through individuals as agents that businesses act as agents of anything, and so the rising of Carbon Neutral as the word of the year is very hopeful for the future of the world... this reflects social consciousness becoming mainstream.

From the Oxford University Press blog, they explain "being carbon neutral involves calculating your total climate-damaging carbon emissions, reducing them where possible, and then balancing your remaining emissions, often by purchasing a carbon offset: paying to plant new trees or investing in “green” technologies such as solar and wind power."

Further, from OUP: "The rise of carbon neutral reflects the growing importance of the green movement in the United States. In a CBS News/New York Times Poll in May 2006, 66% of respondents agreed that global warming is a problem that’s causing a serious impact now. 2006 also saw the launch of a new (and naturally, carbon neutral) magazine about eco-living, Plenty; the actor Leonardo DiCaprio is planning a environmentally-themed reality TV series about an eco-village; and colleges from Maine to Wisconsin are pledging to be carbon neutral within five years. It’s more than a trend, it’s a movement."

"Erin McKean, editor in chief of the New Oxford American Dictionary 2e, said “The increasing use of the word carbon neutral reflects not just the greening of our culture, but the greening of our language. When you see first graders trying to make their classrooms carbon neutral, you know the word has become mainstream.”"

Now, consider this... if the people of NEO care about the community being Carbon Neutral, let's assess the carbon impact of area development projects, like the new Cuyahoga County office building plans. Here it is intended to demolish a historically significant building by Breuer, but never mind that foolishness and consider the social issue of the times is the massive embodied energy investments already on-site here, as producing all the concrete for that structure created huge amounts of CO2.... bank your carbon on that. Add the carbon emissions of demolition and haul away that, and then for construction of a new building and the production of the materials required to build that building. It is safe to say it is impossible to offset the environmental impact of wasting so much embodied energy of the existing structure, and wasting so much energy on the materials for construction of the new structure, so any green or energy saving planning around this scenario are irrelevant and in fact insulting... this is a highly negative carbon strategy at the extreme. In fact, an analysis of this situation would likely find the entire county couldn't offset such an environmental affront for decades, if ever.

Now, what is the carbon neutrality of Steelyard Commons? Crocker Park? Westlake and sprawl developments in general? Highly negative. That said, consider the plans to develop downtown housing by Wolstein and Stark could be viewed as offsetting some of the carbon emissions their suburban developments have caused, if they reduce commuting of people from the suburbs to downtown. Getting creative, perhaps tax credits could be offered only for downtown developments selling to people who work within walking distance of home, and provide public transit credits and on-site carsharing but no on-site parking.

If NEO is interested in being viewed as a socially conscious community, and taken seriously as a player in the new economy and in the field of alternative energy, we must start moving toward being Carbon Neutral as a population, and that principle should be part of all community planning, especially of those paid by the Individuals who are the Agents of World Benefit, who want to see Carbon Neutrality, at least 66% of which care about global warming. In planning for the new Cuyahoga County Office complex, and University Circle and the innerbelt trench and bridge for that matter, I believe is is now essential we include in all metrics and algorithms the greenhouse impact of the developments and that they be carbon neutral.

Upside, if we use our brains in making this work, we will define significant ways to capture $ billions from area development and spending to allocate to alternative energy. Consider if the requirement for the County to build a highly negative carbon loss project is to allocate a level of funding to offset the burden created for society and the environment, that could be invested in the highly popular concept of building solar and windmills off the shore of Lake Erie, to provide green power, and to plant trees, to help absorb the CO2 being created. Consider if for ODOT to build their freeways, bridges, and offramps and access roads, they must provide the communities they impact with enough funding to offset the harm caused to the environment by the construction and negative traffic impacts. Add on to the developers of suburban malls and sprawl the cost to offset the emissions caused in the development, and by the commuters created. Yes, consider that. I believe the word of the year is consistent with the attitude of the country, which just voted out of office lots of hot air and gas and wants a clean start for the future. Those who still don't get this will be quickly ousted from office and shut out of business opportunities in the future.

How? Consider, last year the Word fo the Year was "Podcast".

Cuyahoga plan to waste 3,000,000+ gallons of oil

I just noticed this posting from 2006 on the recent hits list and while it took over a year to become clear we now have one real number on the environmental harm of waste by two Cuyahoga County Commissioners and Robert Madison's plan to demolish the Breuer - according to a world-expert (from far away from Northeast Ohio, as no relevant experts have surfaced here), the environmental cost of just the embodied energy of the Breuer is over 3,000,000 gallons of oil. As I pointed out a year ago, local planners and "leaders" do not have sophisiticated understanding of environmental issues or do not care - either way, they must be replaced.

Disrupt IT