Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Exchange on Cambridge's View of Environmentalism

Bob La Trémouille reports:

I have commented on the exchange between me and Cambridge political insider Sam Seidel in May 2007 issue of The Alewife. I have not been able to find the exchange on line and a request to the publisher has not been successful.

The following is my retyping of the exchange. It starts on page 6 and is continued on page 15, although the paper says the continuation is on page 21.

1. Your Editor:

I read with interest the article of Sam Seidel in April’s issue, especially the environmental comments at the end. Seidel’s praise of city-partnered initiatives which could give a damn less about the city’s ongoing destruction of the Green in the City of Cambridge goes a long way to explain why youths are not voting.

I would suggest that people who understand Cambridge and who are not in the middle of Cambridge’s really destructive situation have good reason to abstain from voting. When Mr. Seidel was on the Cambridge Conservation Commission key votes were taken in support of environmental destruction on the Charles River.

Most visible now is the blockading of Magazine Beach from the Charles by silly designer bushes which have no business on the Charles. We had a swim in before this blockage to swimming was installed. That swim in claimed that the work at Magazine Beach was pro-swimming.

The next phase will dig up all the dirt in the playing fields and replace it with dirt and poisons. The last time the DCR installed their beloved poisons, at Ebersol Fields near MGH, the next day the Charles River was dead.

Reality says everything about why many intelligent people would lack trust in “environmentalists” who could give a damn less about Cambridge and their buddies ongoing destruction of the Green.

Destruction of thousands of trees (starting with Fresh Pond) combines with destruction of as much wetlands as is possible, destruction of as much wildlife as possible, and a lot of other outrageous things.

You combine this with pious nonsense that fighting for fancy light bulbs has some sort of meaning in this environmentally reprehensible city.

I would think that young voters should be commended for the bad turnout.

2. Seidel’s Response.

Let me start by saying that I admire Robert La Trémouille. His relentless pursuit of goals that he holds dear is, well, relentless. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who’s as willing as him not to change his tune in spite of the prevailing wind of opposing opinion. This is not said in jest. He is the antithesis of group-think.

Unfortunately, Bob La Trémouille happens to be dead wrong in his understanding of the complex interactions between human and natural resources, especially those that happen in dense urban environments. Urban

[Page break, marked “please turn to page 21". Continued on page 15.]

ecology is a field of environmental science just now coming into its own. Biologist, planners, water resources specialists and many others are developing a deeper understanding of the natural systems enmeshed in the traditional built form we associate with cities.

The challenge in today’s age is to question long-entrenched assumptions about what it means to live in an urban environment, and what rights and responsibilities we have toward natural processes that occur here. One of the basic principles underlying our desicisons must be “sustainability”. Simply put, a sustainable decision is one that actively balances today’s consumption desires with tomorrow’s needs. In other words, we can’t mortgage future generations to satisfy our current wishes.

I take it as part of my understanding of this principle that urban natural areas can improve through human intervention. By definition, these areas have already felt the impact of human choices at some point in their history. Further intervention, with an eye toward restoration or improvement, finds part of its justification in this fact.

Water quality is only one such example, but it serves to make the point well. Hydrologists and landscape architects, among many others, have come to a much fuller understanding of how natural systems such as wetlands can improve water quality through processes such as filtering and sediment removal and at the same time create habits that encourage (and support) biodiversity in relatively unforgiving settings (such as cities). Many creative strategies replacing traditional engineering methods of water management with “bioengineering” approaches — where nature by itself does the important work— address both ecological and societal concerns simultaneously.

Contrary to Mr. La Trémouille’s assertion, you people should be inspired by the work of their elders, for two reasons: these efforts are intended to rebalance the equation between humans and their environment making our livability on this planet a longer-term proposition, and; they are a down-payment on the world that young people will inherit. If today’s society must respect the future’s rightful claim on earth’s resources, future generations much acknowledge good choices and hard work accomplished today to protect the assets of that claim.

3. So that is why the Cambridge pols are adopting environmental practices of the 19th Century!!!!!