Thursday, April 24, 2014

Los Alamos and PEEC Mark Earth Day With Cognitive Dissonance*

Or, They Paved Pajarito And Put Up A Parking Lot

  * psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes, as a fondness for excessive resource consumption and a belief that such consumption is harmful to the environment

"...I wrote 'Big Yellow Taxi' on my first trip to Hawai'i. I took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart... this blight on paradise. That's when I sat down and wrote the song..."--Joni Mitchell

Interesting. Honolulu in 1970 vs. Los Alamos in 2014. Not much has really changed.

Earth Day was originally held to remind us that we need to be far more sensitive to the relationship between our exploitation of the earth's surface environment and the unintended consequences, lest we crap our nest beyond repair on a human time scale or at minimum, damage it to the point where our own existence as we know it is threatened. Earth Day, as we older farts vividly recall, came on the heels of the Cuyahoga River catching fire, soap suds in our streams, eutrophication of Lake Erie, the Torrey Canyon shipwreck and oil spill, and urban air thick with lead-laden pollution aerosols derived from the burning of leaded gas. Among other things. How soon we forget when the threats are not as vivid and visceral. Hydrofracturing is discreetly underground, CO2 is a natural component of the atmosphere, the Westerlies blow away the auto exhaust and aside from the occasional wildfire causing us to flee the Hill, life is good.

It still seems a little amusing, or perhaps not, that a county of scientists and engineeers celebrated Earth Day by clogging Canyon Road with cars so folks can celebrate the groundbreaking of the new PEEC "Nature Center", our own little Tree Museum**. Perhaps a proper groundbreaking would have everyone walking, biking, or taking the Atomic City Bus to the site and a No Parking sign on the site itself. But I guess its OK to drive today's "clean burning" cars excessively. Or perhaps not.

Go figure. While you are figuring, note the sign in front of the long line of cars parked on Canyon. Photo hijacked from the Daily Post article.

Please park at the Aquatic Center. Or perhaps not...
Photo from Carol Clark, Los Alamos Daily Post
Somewhat on point... is a sad and funny song, Big Yellow Taxi, from one of my favorite songwriters. I saw that paving of Paradise happening in Honolulu during my time there, 1987-2001, during a time of continued rapacious development of the islands. Perhaps Taxi should be BombTown's official song, given the county's (that's us) continued zeal to pave the Pajarito plateau, i.e., at the new Municipal Building, Smith's Marketplace, Airport Basin, etc. You would think we were born without feet. From the air, downtown BombTown looks a lot like a patchwork of parking lots with a few buildings interspersed, as Michael Ronkin once observed.  Zoom in and take a look. Downtown Bombtown is the lower right quadrant.


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** By the way, there really is a "tree museum" as referenced in Big Yellow Taxi: Foster Botanical Gardens.
Full disclosure. We are both PEEC members.


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