Localizing A General Idea

Kate Wagner‘s piece on the Green New Deal – “A Green New Home” – describes the nationwide effects of potential legislation to reduce pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. I like it, as I do nearly all of her work. But as I read it, I realized that the situation here is a bit different, and so the ideas have to be adapted for our local conditions. I’m sure that’s true elsewhere as well, but I don’t know the local conditions elsewhere well enough to say what adaptations would be needed.

Weatherization and increasing the energy efficiency of existing buildings is a great idea. It’s why New York is benchmarking the energy performance of buildings and has created a set of increasingly strict goals to be met. Reducing car travel is a great idea, and the temporary closure of 14th Street to cars, to speed up bus service during the L train repairs, is giving us a taste of what a car-free Manhattan might be like. More affordable housing would be a great idea here, as it would be in most of the country.

The most interesting difference between our local conditions and those in the country as a whole involves solar power and lawns. We have less of both than other areas, but we have a lot of rooftops. Those roofs, coupled with the new law that requires them to be useful in some way, are arguably our best resource in making the city more environmentally friendly. We’re already in pretty good shape – a low rate of car ownership, a lot of mass transit, a lot of multiple dwellings (which are more energy efficient than private houses) – but could do better.

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