Sustainability and southern California

reduce reuse recycle
When you step back and look at the gigantic urban sprawl that is southern California it seems evident it can’t continue functioning as it is. Think about it. Traffic, as blogged here before, is utterly dysfunctional. It gets steadily worse with each passing month. Virtually all the water is piped in from long distances from the Sacramento Delta and Colorado River. 50% of the electric power for the City of Los Angeles comes from coal plants in other states. Does any of this seem sustainable in any sense of the word? Or even rational?

Well of course it doesn’t. The bizarre, convoluted infrastructure of Los Angeles just sort of happened without any real thought being given to long-term consequences. The current system is hugely inefficient. Large amounts of water are lost by evaporation during the long trip to LA. Ditto for power lost in transmission from other states.

“Sustainability” has a treehugger ring to it. But I mean something crucial about the sustainability of southern California. It can’t keep operating the way it is. Sooner or later, something will give, something will break. It’s not sustainable in the long term. When the freeways become terminally clogged or water and power shortages begin happening regularly, Los Angeles will spiral into serious chaos. Then it won’t be Greens talking sustainability, it’ll be pissed-off citizens marching on City Hall as political firestorms erupt everywhere.

Alarmist? No. Not when it’s obvious that such a crazed system can’t and won’t continue as is. I feel a bit like a prophet howling in the wilderness on this. Sure, people say, you’re right. But the enormity of the potential problems is so huge that many just don’t want to deal with it or hope it won’t happen while they’re here.

Then there’s that 800 pound gorilla out there called global warming. Toss that into the Los Angeles water and power mix, and things start to look a bit apocalyptic, don’t they? Higher temperatures mean increased power and water consumption at precisely the time the antiquated infrastructure is already starting to crumble.

Sustainability means using less water and power, recycling what you can, having smart, green homes and businesses that have all this built in, etc. With climate change upon us, it becomes nearly mandatory that big cities start doing this. Los Angeles is a perfect example of a city can not continue as it is, as climate change will force it to change. It still has time, but not much, to insure those changes are positive ones.
Reduce, resuse, recycle. It’s not just for Greens any more…


  1. A slogan (I believe a WWII slogan) that’s posted on the wall of my office:

    Use it up,
    Wear it out,
    Make do,
    Do without.

  2. I don’t know, Eli, we’re talking about generations here who don’t know how to do without once its used up. Water will be the most precious commodity of the twenty-first century, and I fear there will be war to procure it. I’ve seen and heard reports that the Colorado is at historic river channel levels behind the dams, so where is it going to come from? When it runs out, where are these people going to go?

    Cynic that I am, the first time I saw Waterworld with my sons I just HAD to ask “if the whole damned world is underwater, why is everyone chain-smoking cigaretts?” The more accurate question, had I set aside the snark, would have been “if the whole world is under seawater, what are these people drinking?”

  3. The Colorado no longer empties into the sea. Ditto for the Rio Grande.

    Indeed, where will the water come from?

    Yet another reason we’re moving to Connecticut. The area we’ll be in has several reservoirs and water is not scarce.

  4. After reading your comments about L.A. – and I assume the State of California is not much better off in terms of electrical energy supply, I felt compelled to respond.
    If 50% of your electricity supply is from across the State Line’s coal-fired generating stations, you are indeed in a bad way.
    It may interest you to hear that there is solution. As a resident of very heavy air-polluted area in Canada where the increase in lung cancer patients is on the rise (my wife having been diagnosed with this deadly disease) I have made it my goal to find a solution in combatting the cause of cancer and other lung diseases. Surprisingly, by focusing on the greatest source of air pullution – a coal-fired generating station known as the worst polluter in Canada – I have found a new generating electricity which does not pollute: does not add to global warming and does not use any non-renewable fuel source, including nuclear.
    In fact, the source used is free, in abundant supply and does not diminish in quantity nor quality through usage.
    One of my other criteria used and accomplished is that it must have world-wide applications. It does not create any waste, is safe and can be designed to meet present and future needs. I am in the process of having it developed and tested by a University specialising in developing new ways of generating power. This will take some time. If this is of interest to you, e-mail me and I will keep your response on file

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