Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is.    The Honorable Governor of Texas, George W. Bush

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Ouisconsin, From One Extreme to the Other

Those pesky sustainablists were at it again on WPR, mucking up my morning commute with their tales from the northwoods. I gave it a chance, listened on for ten minutes or so before opting out for the smooth-as-silk, homogenized Morning Edition on Chicago Public Radio. In those ten minutes however, I learned of Ashland, Wisconsin's bold move to become an eco-community or municipality or whatever. Pronouncing this radical departure had come these headlines in their local, The Daily Press:

Ashland on way to becoming eco-municipality

Officials say it won't threaten city

Phew! And in case this might not assuage the fears of those locals who like their pollution just the way it is, thank you, the story goes on to add:

Councilor Mary Rehwald said the new distinction would not obligate the city to anything. "There's absolutely nothing in this that says the city has to do something another way," she said.

Ah, but there's foulness afoot! Unbeknownst to these lovely lambs of the Lake Superior shore those wicked "socialists" of the sustainability movement are going around making making all kinds of changes, like installing bio-degradable soap in bed and breakfasts and scouting out windmill sites. They've discovered, and I'm aghast, eco-terrorism at a local birding installation and have switched the coffee to that which is grown "bird friendly".

They're so cute.

Some facts are in order, and for these I've taken the extraordinary step of actually finding some from the US Census Bureau. The population estimate of Ashland County for 2004 is 16,719, down from 16,866 in 2000. The average commute, about 15 minutes. It doesn't say if that includes the time it takes to put the snow chains on.

I don't think Ashland is the problem. Let's move southeast, all the way southeast to Kenosha County.

The 2004 population estimate of Kenosha County is 158,435; up 5.9% from 2000, which was up 16.7% from 1990. These aren't Las Vegas numbers, but there is some real growth here. Just south of Kenosha county and toward Chicago is Lake County, IL, which is up a whopping 30% for the same 15 years. The average commute for these counties for 2000 is 27 and 30 minutes and that is going up fast. The median home in Lake County was $200,000 in 2000, compared to $120,000 in Kenosha County, and as the fortunate zone out the less so the direction of this sprawl is increasingly away from work. So much for facts, now for some observations.

Ten times as many people are spending twice as much time going to work at one end of the state as on the other. For every new produce stand selling sustainable farmed produce on one extreme are 25 new Subways on the other loading up thousands of cookie cutter sandwiches with South American veggies. For every windmill established on the lovely Superior shore are a hundred new four bedroom pine and gypsum barns heating their volume ceiling great rooms with coal and natural gas produced energy.

I don't want to hear about Ashland, where the principal industry is catering to rich yuppie kayakers plying the Apostle Islands shoreline. I want to hear some people with ideas that are "sustainable" for the suburban landscape, where many, many more people actually live and go to work. I want someone to tell me how we are going to create a lifestyle for the masses that reduces transportation needs. I want to know how we are going to rebuild our infrastructure to reduce the environmental and human cost that the astoundingly inefficient suburban non-plan is exacting, increasingly every day while environmental minds desert this nightmare and go hide in Spring Green and Ashland.

I checked in later, and a "eco-friendly" development engineer was calling in his kudos for Ashland's gesture, he in fact has relocated his operation to Ashland from Green Bay.

Where apparantly his efforts weren't so sustainable.


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