May 25, 2008

Dear Community Leader,

I am running for Mayor to put the issue of sustainability at the top of the public agenda.

Most of us realize Mother Earth is running a fever that will get worse before it gets better. Once we inject a particular puff of CO2 up in that beautiful spacious sky, its effect on the planet's energy balance and on global weather doesn't even begin to decline for a century or so, while much of it lasts for a millennia.

And respected scientists keep shortening their best estimates of the time left to us for making the fundamental changes needed now to avoid climate changes which will threaten not just civilization but our children and grandchildren.

Yet even though many people would like to slash their contribution to the problem, our addiction to fossil fuels is harder to quit than even cigarettes. Almost everyone is locked in to existing technologies and infrastructure, and there's not much room to make major changes in the short term. So efforts to date tend to focus on "Phase 1 sustainability," relatively superficial changes such as hydrogen cars, plasma combustion of garbage, and other high-tech opportunities for consultants to make money. But while small, short-term changes like fluorescent lights or minimizing HVAC use are good steps, they're just the first step.

And the danger is that the money, energy, and other resources already in the pipeline for relatively cosmetic changes won't be available later on when more people realize that truly fundamental changes will be necessary, such as we ought to basically stop driving. Why are we building more roads instead of converting existing ones to gardens?

But enough bad news. The good news is that, if we do it right, "Phase 2 sustainability" offers us healthier and happier lives than many now experience. And to do it right, we need a much bigger concept of physical efficiency, where the goal is clean air and water, healthy food, and shelter from the elements, not just a trivial or intermediate goal like better mileage. And it's not like everyone needs to jump to Phase 2 right away or completely, but those who do want to should have our support, encouragement, and investment.

Consider the advantages and benefits of Eco-Villages. With small farms close to small towns and a revival of traditional crafts and trades, we can deflate fossil fuel consumption enough to just drown it in the bathtub. (And we won't need nuclear power either.) By living in harmony with nature - including human nature - we can enjoy life with a balance of physical and mental activity, plenty of fresh nutritious food, and a friendly community that is economically secure because it is relocalized and self-sufficient.

The myth of technology says that without modern gadgets we will face discomfort, deprivation, and disease. But modern technology is never going to change biology or human selfishness. There is also the myth of the boring mean small town, where youth drink and fight because there's nothing else to do. But modern technology can't solve cultural problems. Only people can choose to exercise our cooperative instincts more often than our competitive ones.

I hope you will join me, before and after the election, in advocating and building a truly sustainable Sacramento, designed and constructed by empowered Sacramentans. If you would like to discuss any of these ideas in more detail, you can contact me at

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