Nothing gets my goat more than a waste of money than a waste of life, but more on that later. For the moment I’ll address a couple of examples of wasted ratepayers money easily observable in our community.
First, according to my conservative calculations, the daytime running of lights under a glass skylight at the main entrance to Central Library has cost ratepayers $600 since I first raised the issue with library staff two and a half years ago. Some may argue that this is a small pittance when compared to other issues facing our city, but I suggest it is a troubling indicator of an apparent disconnect between the people who set and spend our rates and the service that ratepayers get in return.
From a holistic perspective, these are the economic and environmental realities facing our city: increasing unemployment; increasing power bills; increasing rates hikes; increasing insurance costs; and, increasing extreme weather events. I’d like to add a bit of humour to this list to break the grim mood – maybe a clever Neil Diamond reference – but I can’t think of anything.
The bottom line for all of us – especially those on low or fixed incomes – is that we will have fewer dollars in our pockets at the end of each week to spend on anything other than power, rates, insurance, and dealing with the added expenses incurred by extreme weather events. Add to this the massive debt already held by our city, and I ask the simple question: Can we afford to spend another $600 running outdoor lights during the daytime over the next two and a half years?
Now, add to the above the largely unspoken yet likely reality that we will all soon get dinged for the huge additional expense of ‘fixing’ the sewage treatment plant that was never properly designed in the first place. After wasting money and wasting life (still to come), my next goat-getting peeve is bad design. This characteristic I share with Kevin McCloud, the outspoken host of Grand Designs.
Bad design almost always costs more in the long run than good design. This relates to an important tenant of eco-thrifty renovation: sometimes being cheap is expensive. From all available evidence, this appears to be the case with our dysfunctional treatment plant. The evidence also suggests that a number of councilors and council staff are at the heart of the poor decision-making process that has saddled us all with a bad design.
On the other hand, eco-thrifty decision-making takes a long view by considering the upfront and running costs of everything from light bulbs to solar hot water to roofing iron to wind protection in the garden. Which brings me to poor design and the loss of life.
It was with a heavy heart that I visited a community garden last week to find a large proportion of the fruit trees either dead or dying from wind damage. I was especially saddened because I told a number of people involved in the garden six months ago that the garden needed wind protection. Nothing was done. Wind protection is an essential part of good horticulture design, and without it the careless planting of trees can result in an unfortunate waste of money and life.
Along with Kevin McCloud, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of good design. Given the economic and environmental trends I mentioned above, I suggest the most appropriate design strategy for everything from outdoor lighting to treatment plants to community gardens is eco-thrifty design. What’s wrong with saving money while saving the planet?