I have just become aware of Mayor Villaraigosa's Million Trees LA plan, announced in May, 2006. Maybe that is also a good thing, because it is a bone headed idea, one of those things that sounds good when someone proposes it, gets a lot of attention due to the big numbers of the grand vision, and makes very little sense when one looks at what it really means.
In the official announcement of the project, Mayor Villaraigosa is quoted as saying:
The trees will provide shade and save on energy costs, clean the air and help reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming, capture polluted urban runoff, improve water quality, and add beauty to our neighborhoodsNow, some of that is true. But the total positive consequences are so trivial and the long term negative consequences are potentially devastating to the state.
Let me give a good example: Home Depot announced that it was going to plant 300,000 trees in various cities across the US to absorb CO2 and reduce the impact of global warming. According to the non-profit Architecture 2030, "The CO2 emissions from only one medium-sized (500 MW) coal-fired power plant, in just 10 days of operation, will negate this entire effort." By extrapolation if LA were to plant One Million trees, it would take 34 days of operation to negate the effect of those Million Trees. So far, that aspect of the plan seem to be woefully small.
Mayor Villaraigosa warns us about the need to provide "provide long-term stewardship of one million trees, planted all over the city with a focus on areas that need it most."
LA is nearly a desert. At best, you could consider it's climate as Mediterranean. It is now in the middle of a drought with voluntary water cut backs and, given that this year appears to be equally dry, there is not short term supply of water for those trees. In fact, the best scientific information about our future in a warmer world indicates that the rainfall averages for these two years may be considered normal in the next century. So, again, the question is one of where the water for those trees is going to come from. Oh, yeah, maybe the dwindling show pack in the Sierras where they turn millions of gallons of water a day into man made snow for the ski slopes.
I just wish, for once, that politicians would provide some thoughtful leadership rather than splashy big project backed with a lot of publicity and which provide little or no benefit.
In 1902, the Los Angeles Board of Water Commissioners reported that "we must not expect this City can hop to reach a low per capita consumption, as measured by that of Eastern cities(and it is not desirable that she should, a bountiful supply of water being necessary to the maintenance of the beauty for which she is famous."
In his 1990 book, Miracle Dreams, Kevin Starr referred to Los Angeles as "the most exquisite invented garden in history."
It looks like the good Mayor is playing a part in the same miracle play, the miracle of abundant water just there for that taking. If this is his thinking, then he truly lives in La La Land.
In contrast to Mayor Villaraigosa's cloudy vision, the LA County Green Party has just endorse the Sustainability Principle defined by the California Water Impact Network. I have written about this before. Yo can read them here. Now, maybe the LA Greens are the ones living in the real world.