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In 2005, just a week after Katrina hit New Orleans, Meteor Blades outlined a plan for rebuilding New Orleans in a smart, sensible, leading-edge way:  Eco New Orleans: 'A Shining Example for the Whole World'.  MB began this must read (especially now, again) discussion:

The tragedy wrought by Katrina provides a chance to do what Mayor Ray Nagin said George Bush told him ... : New Orleans can be remade into "a shining example for the whole world."  
Even as we are just in the opening days of recovering from Frankenstorm Sandy, with fellow Americans killed by this climate change-influenced severe weather event and millions of fellow Americans without power, we should look not to "rebuild" (as we have already heard from multiple politicians) what was (damaged or destroyed by Sandy) but to recreate a built infrastructure more resilient to mounting climate chaos and a built infrastructure that lessens humanity's stress on the planetary climate system to reduce the likelihood and extent of future impacts.

Meteor Blades merits credit for the seriousness and quality of his :  Eco New Orleans post, as it provided a very serious outline of measures to take with explicit examples of benefits to derive from them. In this post, I will not even hint at targeting the same level of detail but, instead, will simply put down some markers for consideration while opening the door for continued discussion (whether in comments or otherwise).

Basic principles that should guide reconstruction efforts and resources

  • Resources should not go to rebuilding with duplication of same vulnerabilities.  Sadly, too many of our (limited) resources post disaster situations have gone to 'rebuild' to then find the same disaster occurring over again.  For example, houses in flood plains that have, in essence, been flooded out multiple times.  Sandy was an extreme, "unprecedented" event -- however, climate change is making such events more likely and potentially more severe.  Does it make sense to rebuild homes, essentially, at sea level or should such buildings be 'recreated' with lower vulnerability to rising seas and storm surges?
  • Rebuild "green", with better public transit access, more energy efficient buildings, onsite clean energy generation (combined heat power, solar, wind, geothermal, etc ...)
  • Target 100% low-carbon electrical system. This should include a major commitment to the offshore wind system but shouldn't stop there as there should be a significant portion distributed power. Start, for example, by requiring rebuilt structures to generate 20 percent of power onsite (with clean energy systems) and have that figure, for new buildings, go up 2.5 percent per year. (E.g, after four years, 30 percent onsite power.)  (Imagine if those blacked-out areas had enough self-generation capacity to support basic needs...) And, for every kilowatt of capacity that a building falls short of this target, have a set fee (perhaps, to start, $3.50 per watt or $3500 per kilowatt) that will be provided to the local community for building community clean energy systems.
  • Green Public Buildings, especially schools.
  • Invest in infrastructure, energy, transportation, otherwise. For example, investing in 'smart grid' will reduce the likelihood of large-scale blackouts as the grid will isolate problems rather than enabling cascading failures
  • Target 'passive'/natural flood management, with parks, green spaces, otherwise more able to handle flooding inundations. (Note: not much help against nine foot storm surges on top of a high high tide ...)

This diary started, somewhat unfairly, invoking MB's excellent 2005 work.  While the above doesn't pretend to provide "the" answers, we should immediately reject those who shallowly call for "rebuilding".  We don't wish to and we can't afford to "recreate" as things were, because they were built in and for a 20th century climate system.  Instead, we need to recreate for 21st century realities and do so in a way that lessens our impact on the climate system and lowers the risks from future extreme weather events.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Rooftop Solar Would Minimize Grid Dependence (7+ / 0-)

    However the all-important caveat has to be stormproof rooftop solar.

    I don't think wind power is as reliably concentrated on small footprint properties as solar.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 08:54:20 PM PDT

  •  Building green is step one (6+ / 0-)

    New buildings should be designed and built (air sealing, insulation, high efficiency HVAC & appliances) to need less energy.

    While the source of that energy is important, needing less to begin with is the best place to start.

    NC-4 (soon to be NC-6) Obama/Biden 2012

    by bear83 on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 09:22:23 PM PDT

  •  London, Venice, but most of all (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Lujane, bronte17, John Crapper, Turbonerd

    The Netherlands have technologically advanced systems of flood control and continue to develop new ones. The Netherlands' goal is to be "weatherproof" by 2025 or there about, I think.

    After Katrina I expected the news to be full of such 21st century developments and research in Europe and how to advance and adapt their systems for conditions here.

    These are the kinds of infrastructure challenges that can spur cultural revitalization just like canals, airports and highway systems have in the past, but we need real public relations campaigns to overcome the anti-government mindset that has increasingly dominated  the political debate for nearly half a century.

    Don't ask me nothin' about nothin'. I just might tell ya the truth -- B. Dylan

    by ponderer on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 09:25:16 PM PDT

  •  Zero Net Energy Cities (4+ / 0-)

    We have the technology to build zero net energy buildings.  We've done it, even for low and moderate income households.  We know how to do it, in fact, it can be resolved into a formula of R-values for ceilings, walls, windows, and foundations plus solar and/or geothermal and heat-recovery ventilation systems.

    By 2019, all EU government buildings will be zero net energy.  By 2024, all buildings built in the EU will be zero net energy.

    We should be extending the concept to whole cities and building them as resilient systems that can be broken down into independent powered neighborhoods and joined together to distribute power where it's needed.

    Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

    by gmoke on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 09:53:29 PM PDT

    •  \"all EU government buildings will be zero net... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      is that all new buildings, or do they plan to retrofit the existing ones?

      Either way, that's an impressive goal.

      Reforms come from below. No man with four aces howls for a new deal.
      Keystone XL will raise gas prices!

      by Turbonerd on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 05:16:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  New Construction (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        A Siegel

        From what I understand.

        Architecture 2030 is working on retrofit here in the US and deep energy retrofit is an increasingly popular topic among energy conscious builders.  Difficult but definitely possible.

        Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

        by gmoke on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 01:58:43 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  New York has led the way in so many areas in the (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rmx2630, A Siegel, Turbonerd

    past.  Let's hope in their recovery they seize this moment in time to do the same again. The mayor is sounding like he's on the same page as this diary.  Let's hope for a "sea change" in thinking regarding "rebuilding".  That could be the silver lining of Sandy.  

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we need to really think about shit!

    by John Crapper on Wed Oct 31, 2012 at 10:20:38 PM PDT

    •  rebuild and improve, yes, but there's a risk (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Meteor Blades

      Let's make those buildings better, absolutely - more energy-efficient, even somewhat self-sustaining. But that's only going to go so far. It is dangerous to assume we can "weatherproof" coastal cities, similar to what has been achieved with earthquake-resistant structures in fault zones, without also addressing climate change. What's "floodproof" now will not be in another 25 years, and the longer we wait, the more drastic the corrections will need to be.

      Reforms come from below. No man with four aces howls for a new deal.
      Keystone XL will raise gas prices!

      by Turbonerd on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 05:22:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Live and Learn should be the guide (0+ / 0-)

    Instead, too often it seems as though people refuse to admit they have anything to learn, or that they can do better. There's a whole community that has shown the way forward, and they should be front and center as an example of what can and should be done.

    Greensburg, Kansas was almost completely destroyed by a massive tornado. Instead of walking away , or trying to go back to the way things were, they chose to embrace a sustainable future instead.

    And no that doesn't mean giving up quality of life. It means improving it for now and the future. It means rebuilding in a way that will create jobs and give people a reason to continue living in Greensburg.

    These people have been drawing a road map to the future. Now is the time to spread the word. It would be nice if the President would find time to mention them, or the national news media. We have a lot of rebuilding to do - let's get it right.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 06:15:39 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for remembering... (0+ / 0-)

    ...A Siegel.

    Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

    by Meteor Blades on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 10:01:28 AM PDT

  •  I am here at ground zero, in New Jersey. (0+ / 0-)

    This is the first time since the storm hit that I have been actively able to communicate with the outside world by any means, since the power is out at my home.    I managed to get to the one open library at Princeton, Firestone, whence I am writing this message.

    Houses around here have been totally destroyed - some with, believe it or not solar panels installed - and smashed.

    PSEG installed about one year ago, thousands of solar panels on telephone polls around here, part of some grandiose "green" initiative.

    Many of these were ripped apart.   The one that was on the telephone poll that broke in two.   The panel is laying in the road, on the section that was chainsawed off to reopen the road.

    Since I know the chemistry of solar cells, I'm fairly well convinced that no one will take any steps to consider the toxicology of these flying, falling and smashed solar cells.

    This is because the solar industry is not required to maintain eternal stewardship for its toxicology, and because all the cheering has made the public consider magic and without environmental risks.    That's bull, of course, just so much bread and circuses going on while the planet is coming apart at the seams.

    Now:    I needed to get to a hospital emergency room during this event, it took me two days.   While I was in the hospital tales of devastation hit me large.    I just had a nail through my foot, but there were many, many, many cases more serious than mine.

    People were killed near here.


     I have a lot of respect for you Adam, because I believe you to be driven by a moral sense, but I'm not happy about this post of yours.    We are suffering here, and the last thing we need is someone running their agenda at our expense.

    This disaster would not have happened without climate change, to be sure, but the solar fantasy - as I pointed out to you in my last comment in your diary has done nothing to arrest it other than to drain money out of those people, places and things that could ill afford it.

    You praise Meteor Blades as the avatar of what should be done with my shattered state.

    This is a guy whose claim to fame involved tracking uranium miners over a twenty year period to find that a few score,  maybe, eventually developed radon related cancers.    Meanwhile, on planet earth, rocks containing uranium, and yes radon, are being shattered near here to get gas to back up solar cells and wind turbines.    Meteor Blades has written - correct me if I'm wrong - anything about the toxicology issues facing Chinese lanthanide miners who mine to serve the unustainable  wind turbine industry.

    I doubt he would dream of writing an article like this one:

    In China, the true cost of Britain's clean, green wind power experiment: Pollution on a disastrous scale

    Meteor blades is the last person I would want as carbetbagger to my destroyed State of New Jersey.   As far as I'm concerned, his rote anti-nukism, as well as the semi-official anti-nukism of the management of this website is partially responsible for the disaster that struck, since there is not a shred of fucking doubt that what happened here is a function of climate change.

    For three decades, nuclear power has been the single largest, by far, source of climate change gas free energy.   It was prevented from doing what it might have done by the exercise of fear, ignorance, selective attention, scientific and mathematical illiteracy, and lazy, rote superstition.

    If, by the way, you or Meteor Blades are willing to come up here to New Jersey to sweep the cadmium telluride wastes off our streets - and then find a landfill where you can dump it for eternity so that no one will ever, for the rest of planetary history suffer from either cadmium poisoning or tellurium poisoning - feel free bring a broom, chainsaws, gloves and facemasks.

    Oh, and the twenty or thirty solar cells hung off telephone polls on my block are not functioning.   I have no idea when I'll get power back, but the solar cells didn't do a damn fucking thing.

    But we don't need to be the objects of fetishism.    We need D batteries - none can be found anywhere - we need electrical power crews to restore the connections to our nuclear reactors, we need bandages, medical help:   I'm sure some people, not me, need food and water.

    We don't need a solar rebuild.     The last thing we need, with the damage caused here, is to triple our electricity bills - to those as high as say Denmark and Germany - because of some affectation.   People here are suffering, and some of that suffering will certainly be economic.

    Obviously, I'm pretty pissed at having to have my state suffer what I knew it would suffer, but my fierce anger aside, have a great week.

    •  I am truly sorry about the disaster... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      A Siegel

      ...that befell you and others in New Jersey.

      But your support for the use of nuclear power as not just one of the means of dealing with climate change but the only means is itself fetishistic and your defense of that position now requires you to distort the views of others and mischaracterize studies on the damage done by the nuclear industry, which backers consistently say has never killed anyone.

      Distortion #1: I am not unequivocally anti-nuke. I have made this point time again, including in your diaries on the subject and elsewhere for the past 35 years. What I have said all along is that the use of pressurized reactors, including new versions of these machines, is too dangerous to continue for both safety and terrorism reasons, too expensive to build and too slow to implement. You like the idea of 6,000-10,000 nuclear power plants worldwide; I think that is a bad idea. But I have NEVER said we should not build any more nukes. We may HAVE to. But they should not be the only egg in our energy basket.

      What I have also said is that conservation should come first, and second the installation of less dangerous renewable energy systems before moving toward more dependency on nuclear power plants. I know that your blind hatred of Amory Lovins has led you to believe that conservation is a fool's approach, but, what can I say, you're dead wrong, whatever Lovins's personal foibles.

      Distortion #2: Your claim that "a few score, maybe" uranium miners developed lethal cancers is belied by the studies showing not only cancer-related deaths of these miners at vastly higher levels but also deaths from other diseases vastly higher as well. A CDC study of 3238 white uranium miners found the risk of lung cancer was six times greater than normal: about 64 cases expected and 371 seen. Even higher rates for pneumoconiosis, tuberculosis, etc. You can downplay these consequences and, of course, you can put them up against horrendous coal deaths (in their annual thousands) from mining and just breathing—my grandfather died of black lung—but you can't ignore them. They're documented.

      Distortion #3: Average cost to a residence of 1 kWh in northern New Jersey: $0.203 in June 2012. Average cost in Denmark: $0.298 in 2011. So please spare me the claims of tripling your costs.

      Distortion #4: If you had solar cells on your rooftop right now, assuming your house was not damaged, you wouldn't be wondering when the electricity would be coming back on.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Thu Nov 01, 2012 at 06:24:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Really? I'm engaged in a "distortion?" (0+ / 0-)

        I'm distorting things?

        You say that a study showed that there were 3238 white uranium miners showed 371-64 = 307 deaths,.

        How does it compare to the cancer rates of say, um, gasoline attendants?

        Lanthanide miners exposed to the thorium that is now being dumped instead of being fissioned?

        Thanks for your "correction" though.   It is illustrative, if only to represent the mentality of rote anti-nukes.   Howerver 307 is roughly 15 score, so "scores" is not a distortion.    

        How many years were involved in this big deal tragedy?

        Let's see, the World Health Organization reports that 3.3 people will die this year, and every year from air pollution, half of whom will be under the age of five.    Let's see if we can set aside mathematical illiteracy for a few seconds and translate 307 deaths into some number that reflects the deaths from air pollution in time.

        There are 31,557,600 seconds in a sideral year.   By the simple application of the mathematical operation known as division, we can discern that that is one death every 9.6 seconds.    Thus the much fetishized deaths you're so proud of reporting amount to a little over 48 minutes of air pollution deaths.

        As for your irrational and telling fear of "pressurized nuclear reactors" and their supposed "dangers," you don't know a fucking thing about how pressurized reactors work, not a fucking thing.    They have been operating on this planet for more than 50 years.    They're dangerous compared to what exactly?  

        Inundating New York City with sea water, maybe?

        The next two hours of air pollution deaths?

        The frying of the midwestern grain fields this summer?

        The failure of Russia's grain crops in the last decade, Australia's, Argentina's?

        If you, or any of your fellow anti-nukes had identified one, just one death from the 50 years of operations of pressurized water reactors, you'd be burning tons upon tons of dangerous natural gas and coal to power your servers to report the "tragedy."  I note this was certainly the case in the Fukushima event, where the 20,000 or so observed deaths from non-nuclear causes were subsumed by concern about the hope that one person would eventually die from radiation so they could confidently declare nuclear energy "unsafe."

        Other people, by the way, have picked up on the bad mathematics and selective attention.   For instance, in the primary scientific literature.   Here's a link a paper written by Nobel Laureate Burton Richter responding to the insipid remarks of the rote anti-nuke "renewables will save us" freak Mark V. Jacobsen:   Opinion on “Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident”

        See if you can find a science library and open the paper.  I would be impressed, very impressed, if I could find one anti-nuke who has opened a science book and understood the contents of it.    This is not something I expect to happen of course, but it would be interesting to see.

        As it happens, the thorium already mined and dumped to provide lanthanides, for um, things like wind turbines and Prius batteries, and the uranium already mined for nuclear energy could in a less stupid world provide all the energy on this planet, all fucking 520 exajoujles per year, for, um, scores of centuries.    This would mean that no a single fucking energy mine would ever need to operate again.

        Our long series of chats over this issue are probably coming to an end, to be sure.  

        Climate change is a done deal and it is now physically impossible to reverse it.    There are no number of nuclear plants that could save the day, with or without the rote stupidity of the "nuclear is dangerous" squad.

        You seem to think, in your little provincial world that nuclear energy and only nuclear energy must be totally risk free to be vastly superior to all the stuff that you don't care about.    It doesn't need to be risk free.   It only has to be vastly superior to all the stuff that you don't care about, which it is.

        I'm done fighting the stupidity, and now like the rest of the people on the planet. my children, their children (should they exist, something I doubt under the circumstances).

        Thanks for your efforts to alert us to "dangers."   If I'm unimpressed, you have plenty of fans, and don't need me to offer you some kind of praise for the role you and your pals played in climate change.

        as far as I'm concerned, to steal a phrase from the racist, war criminal Bedford Forrest in the American Civil War in another context, "you have played the role of a damned scoundrel," in this climate affair, but who cares what I think?    Not you, obviously.    You think I'm engaged in "distortions."   If I interpret this in terms of pots and kettles, no matter.   Like I said, the damage has been done to the atmosphere and nothing can retrieve the situation..

        But do let me know when you publish an article on cadmium miners, or tellurium miners, or lanthanide miners.   I'm sure it will be wonderful.

        In the meantime, congratulations to your allies on shutting Germany's nuclear reactors and replacing them with gas and coal fired power.    This may lead to lots of additional cancers in Europe from, um, air pollution, but...

        ...Heckuva job, anti-nuke.

        You must be very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very proud.

    •  The good thing about CdTe solar... (0+ / 0-)

      ... is that it will never amount to much, even among solar, due to tellurium's extreme scarcity. It's only affordable due to relatively low demand, and low cost of extraction as a byproduct of copper and lead mining.

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