Indicator city

If cutting edge San Francisco can't meet the challenge of climate change and related environmental issues, are we all doomed?


When biologists talk about the health of a fragile ecosystem, they often speak of an "indicator species." That's a critter — a fish, say, or a frog — whose health, or lack thereof, is a signal of the overall health of the system. These days, when environmentalists who think about politics as well as science look at San Francisco, they see an indicator city.

This progressive-minded place of great wealth, knowledge, and technological innovation — surrounded on three sides by steadily rising tides — could signal whether cities in the post-industrial world will meet the challenge of climate change and related problems, from loss of biodiversity to the need for sustainable energy sources.

A decade ago, San Francisco pioneered innovative waste reduction programs and set aggressive goals for reducing its planet-cooking carbon emissions. At that point, the city seemed prepared to make sacrifices and provide leadership in pursuit of sustainability.

Things changed dramatically when the recession hit and Mayor Ed Lee took office with the promise to focus almost exclusively on economic development and job creation. Today, even with the technology and office development sectors booming and employment rates among the lowest in California, the city hasn't returned its focus to the environment.

In fact, with ambitious new efforts to intensify development along the waterfront and only lackluster support for the city's plan to build renewable energy projects through the CleanPowerSF program, the Lee administration seems to be exacerbating the environmental challenge rather than addressing it.

According to conservative projections by the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, the Bay is expected to rise at least 16 inches by 2050 and 55 inches by the end of the century. BCDC maps show San Francisco International Airport and Mission Bay inundated, Treasure Island mostly underwater, and serious flooding the Financial District, the Marina, and Hunters Point.

Lee's administration has commissioned a report showing a path to carbon reduction that involves promoting city-owned renewable energy facilities and radically reducing car trips — while the mayor seems content do the opposite.

It's not an encouraging sign for Earth Day 2013.



Last year, the Department of the Environment hired McKinsey and Company to prepare a report titled "San Francisco's Path to a Low-Carbon Economy." It's mostly finished — but you haven't heard much about it. The department has been sitting on it for months.

Why? Some say it's because most of the recommendations clash with the Lee administration's priorities, although city officials say they're just waiting while they get other reports out first. But the report notes the city is falling far short of its carbon reduction goals and "will therefore need to complement existing carbon abatement measures with a range of new and innovative approaches."

Data presented in the report, a copy of which we've obtained from a confidential source, shows that building renewable energy projects through CleanPowerSF, making buildings more energy-efficient, and discouraging private automobile use through congestion pricing, variable-price parking, and building more bike lanes are the most effective tools for reducing carbon output.

But those are things that the mayor either opposes and has a poor record of supporting or putting into action. The easy, corporate-friendly things that Lee endorses, such as supporting more electric, biofuel, and hybrid vehicles, are among the least effective ways to reach the city's goals, the report says.


@Guest: It is what? An opinion that the [economic] synthesis of competition and self-interest yields “the greater good” without government or business interventions? We can read, in brief, about this reification in Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein in which government and business interventions destroyed fledgling social democracies in many countries only to rapaciously expropriate resources for profit—without competition, development or social stability; neither an invisible hand (quite a few state officials including those of the victimized countries provided a wink and a nod to make it so). Perhaps this is why this economic philosophy is often called neoliberal instead of neo-classical—it requires no invisible hand! Oops! I don't want to give away the answer to my original query, that is, “waiting for Adam Smith's “invisible hand” is like waiting for the second-coming of Jesus Christ. Guess which will happen first and consider what the very natural consequences will be?”

Posted by Awayneramsey on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 11:38 am

You Trolls are funny. That's funny "peculiar," not funny "ha-ha."
"World-changing though (sic), technology and culture coming out of
L.A.?" Now, that IS funny "ha-ha!"
"Silicon Valley" is simply another bedroom community of San Francisco;
none of the burgs around here would even exist if not for The City.
And whether you recognize or not, San Francisco is indeed the most
beautiful, trend-setting, and progressive major city in the world. And while it's true there has been a hostile takeover of many progressive forums and institutions,
I am confident the Trolls will start to go back to their God-forsaken home towns when the next bubble pops.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 5:56 am

TrollKiller, there is no free lunch, not on our side. What happens is only what we make happen. Relying on our opponent to collapse into a steaming heap is no strategy, it is quasi religious Marxist historical imperative crap.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 6:52 am


Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 6:55 am

He can't stand to see anybody but himself scoring rhetorical points against the crypto-reactionary "moderate" trolls on this site. It's about the only thing that can bring him to reclaim the left as "his side"; so he can bash it all the more effectively from within.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 7:17 am

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 7:34 am

"I am confident the Trolls will start to go back to their God-forsaken home towns when the next bubble pops. "

I am confident that the trolls will go back to their god-forsaken home towns once progressives, liberals and neighbors organize to win elections like we'd done in the past so that their neoliberal troll bullshit never sees the public policy light of day.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 7:35 am

Would be that participatory democracy actually worked.
So-called liberals and progressives can't even organize to
get basic human rights like universal healthcare and education,
let alone roll back the tide of carpetbagging troglodytes flocking
to The City. The only thing that's going to stop the influx of Flatlanders
is the end of the bubble that's bringing them here in the first place.
They obviously aren't here to enjoy the culture.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

Those who came before us were able to organize and they faced more challenging barriers to communicating. Those labor unions that are conceding us to serfdom did not organize themselves, organizers busted shoe leather to organize them. Could you imagine anyone employed by a union in SF actually organizing people to create a union today? Could you imagine anyone in a nonprofit organizing the community to win elections and contest power? It is not like nobody on the progressive, neighborhood, liberal side ever won an election in the past few decades. No, people are being made to stand down and not contest power when the means, motive and opportunity are all within our grasp. Those people sitting atop of organizations that others busted ass to create are the ones who are coopting grassroots efforts.

Hoping that your opponent will exhaust himself before he beats you to a complete pulp is not an acceptable option.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 6:51 pm

The young people you would have "organizing" have no interest in anything outside their own very narrow self interests, like money and staring at hand-held devices. No one has to "co-op" grassroots efforts; most people simply are not interested, or are too busy trying to survive to "save the whales" or whatever. The "opponent" is the materialistic mindset of State Capitalism. Tilting at windmills will only result in a broken collarbone, or in being arrested or killed for being some sort of "terrorist." This is not to say you shouldn't agitate for your cause or vote in local elections. But fundamental change in the whole OS of the USA will require a major economic calamity, like the one fast approaching. Empire ALWAYS exhausts itself.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 6:42 am

I remember Matt Gonzalez winning the Board of Supervisors Election as a Green for D5 back in 2000. I remember busting my ass campaigning for him, knocking on doors and handing out fliers. I remember emptying my piggy bank to max out donations for his campaign even though I couldn't afford a car or even the money to keep my motorcycle running.

I remember later he became the Chair of the Board and put a real scare in the powers that be when he ran for Mayor 2004. I remember hundreds of people lining up to campaign for him and me again maxing out donations to his campaign (along with my roommate, the only two people in the whole fucking city to give $750 bucks that year to Matt).

Was that just a really bad acid trip and it didn't really happen? Where you on a really bad acid trip for four years and missed all that?

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:32 pm

When Earth day started way back in 1970 the general consensus among environmentalists was that over-population, the Population 'Explosion' or Population 'Bomb' as it was then known, was the single biggest threat to the environment. Fast forward 43 years and mainstream enviro groups like the Sierra Club and otherwise environmentally conscious papers like SFBG can't bring themselves to address what remains the single biggest threat to life on the planet- an over abundance of humans. Maybe they decided it was a political loser or that it was more fun to talk about hybrid cars and composting worms.

The biggest single driver (in fact the only driver) of US population growth is immigration, both legal and illegal. This is not a racial issue, it applies equally to immigrants from all corners of the Earth. At the current rate of 1.5 million immigrants per year (documented and undocumented) the US population is projected to reach 850,000,000 by the end of the century.

Can our wetlands and wild spaces survive such an increase in population? Can we preserve biodiversity or keep our air and water clean with such massive numbers? The answer to both questions is no.

Meanwhile, so as not to look like racists at an SF cocktail party, so-called liberals continue to spew the vague drivel of 'diversity' and things continue to get worse for the environment and for American workers.

There is a progressive solution. Limit the number of legal immigrants allowed into the country (again, not a racial issue, an across the board cut). Reduce it from 1,000,000 per year to 250,000. Under no circumstances increase it. And yes, deport those that come here illegally and break US immigration law. It costs less than watching our environment and economy continue to spiral ever downward. Let these immigrants work to improve their homelands, as we must work to improve our own. I wish them luck and encourage no cruelty toward them.

American immigration law should benefit American citizens. This is not a racial issue. It's a question of economic justice and environmental stewardship.

Cue- a barrage of comments below calling me a racist. Sigh...

Posted by The Ripper on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 6:02 pm

The answer to overpopulation is birth control.
The answer to immigration reform is to get over
the racist notion of "borders." All human beings should be free
to go wherever they want to. That's how genetic diversity
is created, which is the whole point of life on Earth anyways.
We need more diversity, and fewer babies.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 6:13 am

Just as long as they don't get benefits paid for by others. And they file and pay income tax. And they don't take jobs that would otherwise go to Americans. And only when immigrant rights are reciprocal (When Mexico, China and European countries no longer requires Passports, or allow Americans to take jobs and own property).

Posted by Richmondman on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 12:36 pm

Sounds good to me.

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 1:40 pm

There's a long way to go before you can even get near the idea of borderlessness.

For our part, we can start by ending the practice of making life in the global south hell for global southerners via perpetual military intervention, supporting corrupt extraction regimes so that we can bring all of that booty home.

That is the push and pull of immigration to the US, the original sin, the crime in the first instance, the one that we have the power to control.

After that, then there will be natural itinerance in various societies where people move because they want to rather than being forced to flee violence or to seek a better economic deal. By that measure, the average Guatemalan has more of a legitimate claim on Social Security and Medicare in the US than the average American. But working Americans have not historically been party to the subjugation of south Asians.

So long as borders are in place, certain immigration policies can be an act of aggression by corporate power against working people to drive wages and standards of living down. I've got a feeling that support amongst Latino Californians for raising the number of legal immigrants moving forward given the 25% poverty rate in CA is not as high as for a pathway to citizenship.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 2:02 pm

Actually, the crime in the first instance is the occupation of the Americas by Europeans. This occupation was prophesied by Native Americans to last 500 years. After that time, The People will begin to return. The uniformed call them "Mexicans."

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 3:30 pm

That's "uninformed."

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

"When Shell and others "green up" your energy with "Renewable Energy Credits," meanwhile, system power is all you're getting. Renewable Energy Credits are the energy world's equivalent to a papal indulgence. Essentially, purchasing one allows an energy provider to claim credit for power generated by an existing renewable facility — power that would have been generated regardless and is distributed to someone else — while providing its customers with system power. Locals paying a premium for "100-per cent renewable" energy may actually be receiving whatever's in the grid — while propping up existing wind-farms in Idaho or landfills in Washington. Unions say they hate this because it sends money and jobs out of state. Environmentalists hate it because it doesn't add to the development of new renewable power. "

Posted by Richmondman on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 10:21 am

Can you spell "boondoggle?"

Posted by TrollKiller on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

Θ The sad truth is that a lot of good ideas get started in San Francisco and the Bay Area, but then falter from lack of follow-through. We seem to only get so far, and then watch everyone else take the idea and run with it.

Posted by Jym Dyer on Apr. 24, 2013 @ 7:53 am

I am looking forward to more such posts in future. Thanks for sharing.

Posted by on Jun. 11, 2013 @ 10:39 am

I didn't know this info about San-Francisko. Thanks for informing me.

Posted by Guest Palermo on Nov. 24, 2013 @ 3:56 am

very good work and go on, they really liked me! good luck!

Posted by Fira on Nov. 25, 2013 @ 2:14 am

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