For all of us who’ve ever felt a little smug (and even trendy) about doing the right things for the environment, this article is a gentle poke in the ribs. Its premise is that many middle-class or affluent people feel better about themselves for such acts as buying a new fuel-efficient car or for becoming “locavores”—eating only food that’s produced within a short distance of where it’s consumed, thereby saving energy costs to transport it. But the author cautions against false savings and hidden costs to the environment: “Locavorism is appealing because it feels enlightened but entails no actual sacrifice. A colleague of mine produces her own eggs by raising chickens in her backyard. But she also drives individual hens to the veterinarian, giving her breakfasts an impressively huge carbon footprint.”
Consumption itself, he argues, is the problem. He cites a flight he recently took from Melbourne to New York; each passenger’s share of the fuel consumed on that single flight was “greater than the total amount of energy that the average resident of the Earth uses, for all purposes, in a year.” The solution, he says, isn’t to make planes more fuel efficient but to travel less. And this applies to everything from vehicles (forget the Prius and use public transportation instead, he advises) to more-efficient lighting.
How does this view apply to our own field? Take the problem of combined sewer overflows, for example. It’s now common practice in many places to use green infrastructure to reduce CSOs and avoid or delay the building of new treatment plants. This is a welcome trend, economically and environmentally. If the pace of development continues, though, eventually all the bioswales and permeable pavements and other infiltration measures won’t be enough to offset the increased runoff. What’s the solution? We can’t cause it to rain less. Two possible remedies—either using less water for household, commercial, industrial, and irrigation needs, and therefore sending less of it to the sanitary sewer system, or else limiting the amount or type of development that’s allowed—are beyond the scope of the stormwater manager.
To what extent do you think consumption—of water in particular, and of fuel and other commodities in general—should be a stormwater concern?
Upcoming Forester University Webinars
February 9th, 2012
Differentiating & Monitoring Groundwater Plumes
Threatened by various plumes of mobile contaminants, urban potable groundwater resources require groundwater professionals to not only determine the source of individual plumes, but apportion the contributions of multiple sources within a composite plume. Join William G. Soukup, P.G. of Cornerstone Environmental Group LLC to discuss the analytical and interpretive techniques for differentiating plumes and their sources, as well as tips to improve long-term plume monitoring and management. Read More...
February 23rd, 2012
Stormwater Pond BMP Management:
Design, Operation & Maintenance
Stormwater ponds are one of the most common urban rainwater runoff BMPs thanks to their reliability and predictability, but performance is design and maintenance dependent. Join Shahram (Shane) Missaghi of the University of Minnesota to explore stormwater pond design, operation and maintenance presented in an integrated stormwater pond management plan that effectively manages your stormwater and protects the water quality of your natural resources. Read More...