There are always examples to avoid

–In March 1999, a colleague and I interviewed a well-known ecologist who insisted the Delta smelt would not “go extinct even if we try to wipe them out”. Then came the articles with titles like “the collapse of pelagic fishes in the upper San Francisco Bay-Delta”.

–I was involved in an urban environmental project, where what college students were taught and what they found on the ground were orthogonal:

  • Vacant lots were said to be ideal for community gardens but could not be used for gardening because prior use had rendered the soils toxic (that is why they were vacant);
  • Daylighting city creeks was recommended to improve public access to a restored natural area. Local residents preferred instead leaving creeks inaccessible rather than opening them to more out-of-sight criminal behavior;
  • A clean-up campaign to reduce street litter became something more when the gloves distributed for the effort were pierced by discarded injection needles; and
  • Planting more trees along the street was touted as an ideal urban improvement, but in practice doing so raised liability issues, ranging from tree roots buckling the sidewalk to cutting away those roots rendering the trees more prone to falling.

Had I taken time to notice what had already been noticed, I’d have seen that macro-design taking the lead is a kind of not-noticing.

–Which is more bloviating? The economist’s “the opportunities are attractive, if technological and regulatory challenges are overcome” or the engineer’s “the opportunities are attractive, if economic and regulatory challenges are overcome”?

It’s scapegoating regulation that keeps these guys going. There is no little irony in a purely self-interested market approach to deregulated electricity coordination and a purely technology-based approach to decentralized electricity coordination that promises to automate out selfishness.

–What to do when saving the European Project reduces to saving the euro? When what were economic stabilization policies are now a financial stabilization mechanism? When it makes sense to use credit default swaps to determine that entire countries are riskier than some corporations?

–Unsustainability is tagged so as to render us oblivious to history’s complexities. The rationale for irrigated agriculture was to sustain crop production throughout the year; the rationale of burning coal was that it generated a many-fold increase on the energy needed to dig it out.

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