It's the Environment, Stupid.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Eco-terror hits the wrong target

I'm not a fan of eco-terror. In fact, I think it is a very ineffective form of protest and gives environmentalists a bad name.

For example, take the latest from radical enviro group, Earth Liberation Front, or ELF. ELF took credit for torching a couple of multi-million dollar homes in Woodinville, WA. Their spray painted message was, "Built Green? Nope black!" The destruction was reportedly intended to dispute the green claims of the expensive houses.

The houses, I'm guessing, were specifically targeted because they're part of "Street of Dreams" - an annual event where high end show-homes are built, furnished, toured by the public, then sold to rich people. (No one was living in these houses at the time because they were still on display.)

Now, I'll be the first to slam McMansions, irresponsible development and sprawl (as I have before in this blog). But I completely disagree with the ELF strategy in destroying this development because it isn't green enough or because the houses were encroaching on wetlands. If anything the developer should be praised for using and featuring green building techniques such as pervious sidewalk materials and supplies made with recycled content. Houses are constructed every day with zero regard to green building (I have no doubt there are many going up just down the street.) But these Street of Dream homes actually had green elements.

I grew up not far from Woodinville. Back in the day it was a few modest neighborhoods, a couple of restaurants and a big ol' nursery called Molbaks situated among a whole bunch of trees and empty acreage. Now there are big box stores, a multi-plex movie theater, many more neighborhoods, and a whole bunch of Starbucks (and Tully's.) Molbaks is still there, but the trees are long gone.

The Street of Dreams mansions are really just a byproduct - and now casualty - of this larger development. The ELF doesn't seem to care about the severe expansion of the Microsoft compound in nearby Redmond (which incidentally is a major contributing factor of the influx of new money in the area.) And they don't seem to care about the mini-McMansions and cookie cutter developments on the other side of Redmond, in Issaquah - a much grander slaughter of the tree-scape, with more roads built, more stores and parking lots built, and more sub-developments built than in Woodinville. (That's just my observational opinion, you'd have to check with the King County planning department for real numbers there.)

Unfortunately most of America is made up of car friendly, development hungry, individuals who all want their own piece of the pie. The public process seldom rules in favor of small growth or even smart growth. Battling this system isn't easy, but it surely won't be won by torching big houses. It is going to be won through educating developers and planners and those making the decisions about building better, building smarter and building greener.

(The photo above is from the AP article.)