Thursday, January 3, 2008

Replying to A Commenter

Apologies for the long hiatus, but I lost my password and was also caught up in work and family affairs. One of my resolutions for the new year is to use my temporary work downturn to begin to build this community and post on a regular basis. To that end, I retrieved my password and lo and behold! an anonymous commenter posted a comment on my "manifesto" or Sustainable Walworth call to arms. Therefore, I will excerpt his comment and digest it, with respect to our community. Let the debate begin...

First of all, Anonymous wrote: "As a resident of Walworth County, I agree with some of your ideas, we need to be smart about future growth. I would like to see some alternative transportation options, like buses, however I do not want to see a whole train system in Walworth county."

Buses and jitneys (smaller van-type demand response vehicles) are useful options for local transit and feeder routes, such as to the Harvard Metra Rail Station to Chicago. They would be a useful first step in preparing Walworth County for the first stages of peak oil that we are now beginning to experience ($100.00 a barrel oil today). However, longer term, an electrified rail system using existing trackage and new trackage down the rights of way of existing roads is far more sustainable. Rail cars and locomotives have a fifty-plus year service life, unlike buses, which typically hit the boneyard by age 15.. as does the personal car. Plus, electrified rail can use wind, alternate energy more efficiently than a bus (however I am not opposed to electrified or locally produced biofuel powered bus transport), and rails take up much less land space. Also, if trains are used for freight, they can eliminate much trucking, which destroys the roads (ever drive on I-43), and reduce our dependency on oil. Face it, we need to move away from oil posthaste. I would like Anonymous to comment on what his objections to rebuilding rail here are.

I would love to see more waterfront land dedicated toward public access use for people who live in Walworth County. I am a boater who likes boating on Lake Geneva, but access is limited.

Here here. Williams Bay has a nice area to hang out by Lake Geneva that is publicly owned with good parking and by the lake. Unfortunately the train station that serviced it years ago is gone. Another problem is that most waterfront land is already developed and extremely expensive. A 2-tiered fee system for boating with lowered fees for County residents and higher for out of state/area residents may help the locals with better access and provide monies for lake management, restoration and access.

Anonymous said "Growth in inevidable (sic), Sho-deen, was just a stupid idea. Instead of retail and residential development we need more manufacturing business in Walworth County. Lets give tax subsidies to business that will provide higher paying jobs.

I am all for helping relocalize manufacturing and developing high-wage jobs. We need to concentrate on attracting companies that look to the future - sustainable building (see my links), renewable energy such as wind and solar - attracting installers and fabricators, farm equipment, and sustainable agriculture initiatives. We also need to emphasize quality and durability, which will demand higher wages and skills. Stuff that is built and used here will command more respect from customers, command a higher price and hence a higher wage. If you want high paying jobs, rebuilding the rail infrastructure is a good start. For blue collar labor, the railroad industry has some of the highest wages and benefits. As for tax subsidies, they can be dangerous, and must be structured properly to avoid give-aways to firms that "take the money and run", staying around for only a few years before closing up shop. Furthermore, to save on shipping costs and environmental impacts, we should force manufacturers and big retailers that move in to build only where there is access to rails, or to provide that access themselves. 18-wheeler long haul trucking is an environmental and fiscal dead end in the age of peak oil.

Residential developments, if approved, will need to be built around an entirely new paradigm, that emphasizes sustainability and local self reliance. Future posts will build on this theme and also provide a critique of residential developments as currently built here.

Finally, Anonymous concluded with "If your sustainable Walworth blog is just a site for tree huggers and environmental wackos who are brain washed by Al Gore, you will never get anywhere."

Previously, the writer was quit reasonable in tone. Now comes the ad-hominem and strawman attacks reflective of someone who has had a little too much of the Rush Limbaugh corporate apologist arguments for preserving the oil industry status quo and endless "growth", regardless of general benefits to society, let alone the environment. Name calling is not a way to win over converts or to endear yourself to an audience.

For an antidote to the Rush Limbaugh arguments carrying water for the oil companies and Wall Street elite, I would advise dear Anonymous to google search the "Limbaugh Lie of the Day". The commenter on that podcast takes apart these specious arguments and proves that renewable, local economies increase our well-being with a side benefit to the environment.

Now, I would assume Anonymous wants public access to the lakes for fishing and other activities. The status quo course of ever increasing resource usage, inappropriate development and "growth" will ruin our recreational resources that he is so proud of.

Face it, we all want comfort, security, a clean environment, safe and durable products, nutritious and safe foods, gainful employment, and clean water. It behooves us to work together so we all can have these things for many years to come.