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GUEST COLUMN: Density wont save Colorados environment | Opinion

GUEST COLUMN: Density wont save Colorados environment | Opinion

Smart. Growth is like purchasing a first-class Titanic tickets Al Bartlett

It’s been seen all over the state: people packing up their homes, ski lifts, restaurants, highways and packed housing. Although you would think that it would be easy for people to pack up and move on, the opposite is true. Colorado continues to expand and shows a lot of growing pains.

Colorado is pushing high-density homes as an alternative to single family homes. This is a way to get more people into cities at a lower cost and with lower environmental impacts.

In Colorado, the Governors Office promotes high density housing. Even President Joe Biden’s recent bill on infrastructure added incentives for high density housing. Some advocates of high-density residential development even claim that it is a form climate action.

If you are skeptical that Colorado could overcome climate change and grow and reduce environmental impacts, your doubts are justified. Let’s take a closer look at the issue.

The concepts of carbon footprint and geographic footprint are used to support the claim that high density housing has less environmental impacts. For example, if you live in a smaller, more compact area, and drive less to get to work or home, your carbon and geographic footprints seem smaller. What the geographic-footprint and carbon-footprint theories do not address is the actual footprint of each person and the environmental footprint of growth, development, and other factors. Ecological Footprint is a new model that attempts to correct these flaws. It was created in the last decade. It includes not only the geographical footprint of housing or the carbon footprint of driving but also the ecological and environmental effects caused by individuals as well as whole towns, cities and states, and even entire countries.

Global Footprint Network is an international organization that describes the ecological footprint. It is the only metric that measures the resource demand of individuals and governments against Earth’s ability to biologically regenerate.

Your ecological footprint encompasses more than just your geographical footprint, such as your housing choice and the carbon impact of your driving. It also includes the roads you drive, the malls where you shop, and the natural gas pipelines that bring natural gasoline to your home. Your carbon footprint also includes carbon emissions that you cause to be emitted wherever carbon is emitted.

Your ecological footprint includes the environmental impacts and greenhouse gases you cause through your traveling and consumer choices plane trips to Europe; electronic devices in your home that were shipped from China; granite countertops in your kitchen shipped from Brazil, and the wood/steel/concrete/glass logged/forged/mined to create your dense urban housing unit. Your ecological footprint also includes industrial activity that helps you live a normal life, such as automobile manufacturing facilities and fossil fuel industries.

Your eating habits are a key feature of your ecological footprint. These include the cropland that produces your meat and vegetables, your seafood sources, and the shipping companies that deliver all that food to you and your restaurants.

A recent international scientific study published in Nature Food has shown that cropland is a growing source of biodiversity. Satellite imagery was used to determine that the Earth’s cropland has increased in size by 9% between 2003 and 2019. It now covers 1,000,000 square kilometers of the Earth’s surface.

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Your ecological footprint can be large, even though it may seem small. A person can live in Boulder or Denver in densely populated condominiums, but still have significantly more impact on the environment than a suburban commuter.

It is not the size or type of car you drive that matters, but your overall wealth, and your consumption habits. According to a 2017 study published in Environment and Behavior, wealth is the most important factor in determining the extent of environmental damage that people do to the environment. This was because people who are more wealthy tend to be more consumers than those who are less fortunate. A second study in the Journal of Industrial Ecology found that household consumption is a major factor in climate change. It contributes to over 60% of global GHG emissions, and between 50% and 80 percent of total land, water, and material use.

Colorado is constantly attracting young, urban, better-paid tech workers. This is exactly the type people who live in condos, eat at nicer restaurants, visit the mountains on weekends, and travel abroad for vacation. Let’s face the facts: If every Coloradoan could move into a condo, stack them one on top of the other and take them all to the moon, the devastating environmental impact of that would only increase each year. Dense housing won’t save Colorado’s environment until Colorado stops growing.

Gary Wockner is a Colorado environmental activist and consultant to political, scientific and environmental organizations. Contact:

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