Marin Independent Journal Wednesday, May 10, 1995
T 00 MUCH GREEN power? No, not enough true green power.
Most people don’t have time to become knowledgeable about environmental issues. They let only a few set the agenda for, and define, green power. They live in communities where they have little control over design. From the immigrant era through the Depression, when financial power and resources seemed limited, many designs gave us neighborhoods where amenities were within walking distance and neighbors lent eggs over fences.
Then came a war. Winning, we found we bad plenty of resources. We designed our living spaces accordingly, around the car, isolated from vibrant community interaction.
Today, we import about half our oil, and a slug of our national debt lies ignored in that bill. Today, the middle class seems to be shrinking and the poor growing. Consequently, the economics of greenback and people power is striking back at green leaf and mouse power.
If Marin and its 88-percent protected space are a microcosm of superbly organized Green Power, then Marin shares in provoking attacks that true environmentalists are about to suffer. Consistently, Marin’s established environmental movement has deftly used its network and media access to foist ruses involving density, traffic, open space, view corridor and neighborhood character to block the following:
- Housing developments that would provide a fair number of moderately priced residential units and instead forced the building of a few pricey, exclusive units.
- Healthy pedestrian-pocket communities near rail lines that enhance the economic viability of returning to environmentally sensitive trains and provide almost enough high-quality, affordable condos ~and townhouses to finally put two Marin cities in compliance with state housing laws.
Is that healthy Green Power? If Marin ‘a environmental power structure does not show opposition from the get-go, it bides its time with delays, calls for studies, etc., with no concern for the developer’s land, staffing costs or needs of the long-distance commuting middle class. Too often the developer,
trusting the faith of environmentalists, believes he has addressed their concerns, only to rind that a last-minute attack leaves bun broke, exhausted or ready to accept whatever the supposed environmental group will allow.
What’s allowed seems good in the short run for the island of Marin, but in the long run it harms regional and global environmental and economic needs. Marin’s Green Power needs more true environmentalists such as the Greenbelt Alliance, which looks at the larger picture.
Marin’s environmental power structure sees little reason to work with businesses, councils and developers toward a win-win solution that benefits mice, people, economics and the environment. Suppose a. developer took a large low-land parcel, proposed enhancing a mouse habitat around an existing pond and then proposed a mixed-use development that provided affordable housing, a tax base, park, open space and view.
What would likely happen? The power elite, instead of working with the developer for the best regional win-win possible, would probably demand, “Since this was wetland 60 years ago, it should be returned to such today!”
Ah, for the way things were before we had 250 million Americans, before budgets needed balancing and we didn’t know Newt Gingrich could preach and teach.
Dwayne Hunn, a MW Valley writer, worked as a People’s Lobby Steering Board member on the Clean Environment Initiative of 1972.