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Greenroofing, Mr. Chu! Don't listen to that fool Hoss.

chicago dyke's picture

Atrios is applauding Sec. Chu's initiative for painting roofs white to save the government money on energy costs. Of course I am in agreement and approve. But I'm the silly DFH dreamer who only will be satisfied with rainbows and ponies, so I'm just going to remind them both: white paint is fine, but green roofs are much, much better.

Sec Chu says:

“Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change,”

And he's not wrong! But...

We can kill several oil soaked birds with one stone, yo? $735M is chump change, Mr. Secretary. Let's go for the real savings! Cause I know that's all you people care about, or are allowed to use to justify programs that Dems propose.

Green roofing isn't for everyone. Including me! When I redo my roof (of my home which is also my office) I will be doing a solar roof. I live in the Midwest and also have plenty of space for native and pollinator-attracting plants, of which you know I grow many. But I'm a big fan of large building green roofing. Here's why, and why I'm also in favor of green roofing residential properties whenever possible:

White paint on roofs:

is that a petroleum based material we're using? I'd bet petrochemicals are part of the process of at least making paint. Right now, it's hard to be any less in favor of giving the oil companies our taxdollars than I already am. Again, not dissing the idea of white roofs when it's the best choice.

Native Species cultivation:

if many American homes and buildings had green roofs with native and endangered species, think of the benefits! Xeriscaping is a well established science these days, and no matter where you live, you can grow plants on your roof that will feed and shelter those species who are losing their native habitats to development- with practically no effort on your part. Speaking from personal experience, I've increased the number of fauna on my property in under five years time by growing things, by a factor of ten. I'm serious. I have toads, chipmunks, birds that weren't here before, butterflies, and probably plenty of underground and insect life I just haven't perceived yet. None of these were here before I started greening this space. Plant diversity is better too, obviously.

Water/Moisture retention:

I'm mostly talking out of my ass here, but I am fairly sure that more green life means better control of our water resources. I can tell the difference it's made on my own property, to grow more than water sucking grass and plenty of water succulent plants that in turn keep the soil alive with moisture for wildlife. Sure, roofs would be minor in this respect, but if a climate or soil/water scientist wants to help me out here, I'd appreciate it.

Job Creation/retention:

If green roofing became a widespread industry, people would get jobs to maintain them. Painting a roof once every 10 years =/= the number of jobs created by having lots of green roofs. And those jobs would be there for the life of the home or building, not just a one-off job now and again. Sec. Chu should realize that he's not in his job to compete with or fund the painting industry; his initiatives could help farmers, nursery owners, native species specialists, landscapers, ground crews... and again, all these people would have work for a long time, instead of just once in a while. And eventually, government stimulus wouldn't be paying those folks; the building owners would.

Food Production/Local and Slow Food:

Just one roof farm in Brooklyn. I don't have to explain the many benefits of this to anyone here, I'm sure. But the savings in energy costs would be tremendous, not to mention people enjoying and being more healthy from having locally produced food right "up there." Also: more employment and lower health care costs.

Psychic Harmony:

without being spiritual (but you can if you'd like) I can honestly say that green space in urban areas makes all the difference in urban living. Or suburban living even, if we're talking about those "corporate landscaped" developments. People are soothed and relaxed by the smell of flowers and the songs of birds, and in times like these, that's no insignificant benefit. I'm sure there is no study about it yet, but I'd love to see an analysis of crime rates in highly greened urban spaces. My bet is they are lower, where they exist. And just think of how nice it would be for the urban worker to just take the elevator up to the roof of her workplace for a lunch break, picking a fresh salad and tomato and enjoying that on a sunny park bench. So much better psychologically than standing in line for 30min after running six blocks and back to the fast food place she can afford.

Air Quality/Temperature Control:

Again, I am not an environmental scientist. But green plants help control temperatures, keep oxygen and moisture in the air, and otherwise contribute to a stable atmosphere. White paint is great in urban spaces which easily overheat due to too much blacktop. But mixing in green roofs makes sense too, and can help in similar ways with greater additional benefits beyond reducing summer temperature and maintaining heat inside buildings in winter. I'd guess a layer of dirt and plants and moisture is a pretty decent, if not perfect, type of insulation.

The frustrating part about today's Dems is that they are such timid cowards. If the Republican model of government is "why buy one, when you can contract for three that aren't ever complete at six times the price, all paid to your incompetent, crony friends?" the Democratic model seems to be "how can we take a good idea and water it down so that it's less effectual, will probably fail to achieve our stated goals, and the Republicans will be able to kill when they're back in power, easily, by pointing to the fact that we made a claim and failed to back it up in practice."

I respect Sec. Chu for taking a sensible stand. But like I said: ~$700M is chump change, a difference no one will notice. How about a multi-billion dollar initiative? Failing that, how about a concentrated effort in one urban area, at reduced cost you could sneak in some omnibus bill? If people could see that just one American city could be greened, to all the affect I've listed above, it would be much easier to get a national sized program passed.

I'm a total dummy about the science of green roofing, and as I said I have no personal experience with it other than those roofs I've visited or seen. But I can perceive why they are a better use of our money than just white roofing. We can try both, can't we, Mr. Chu? I bet Hoss would not even mind if you let me use the Awesome Power of Blogging to change your mind to my idea over his/yours. :-)

The DOE has a blog, but of course, no comments. What cowards. Anyway, I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure green roofing is superior to white roofing in long terms of savings, job creation, benefit to the environment, etc. Feel free to add anything I've forgotten in the comments.

Edit: of course I forgot to say, there's also a political benefit. I just spent a recent weekend at a gathering of organic DFH home farming types, and I have to say: if Obama just threw them a bone, wow, would that help the Dem party out this fall, and in '12. Not that they think they need that, but still. What I'm talking about is not that much more politically or financially significant, in terms of getting stuff passed. Eco Folk are so very ready to get behind anyone who seems on their side. Michelle Obama has made up for a lot of her boneheaded hubby's mistakes with her little organic garden project on the WH lawn. Sec. Chu could also earn his keep, by helping develop a green space bill that the Administration could push, using all the bullet points I've outlined. Yes, I'm a fool for giving them all this campaign research for free that they won't ever use, but what can I say? Hope Springs Eternal, or something. :-)

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Comments

Submitted by lambert on

(see here), this is one very obvious way to put people to work. I just added a comment at Eschaton to that effect.* This is great stuff.

* * *

The rest is OT for this thread, but just to lay down the marker -- In this post, you're a good deal more optimistic than I am about the Ds:

The frustrating part about today's Dems is that they are such timid cowards.

I don't agree with narratives of Democratic weakness.

If the Republican model of government is "why buy one, when you can contract for three that aren't ever complete at six times the price, all paid to your incompetent, crony friends?"

In my own state, the D administration has absolutely made cronyism worse than Rs, who at least didn't have their hands out, and has directed stimulus money to rent seeking corporate boondoggles that create 100s of jobs, instead of weatherization, that would create thousands of jobs, and really help people.

the Democratic model seems to be "how can we take a good idea and water it down so that it's less effectual, will probably fail to achieve our stated goals, and the Republicans will be able to kill when they're back in power, easily, by pointing to the fact that we made a claim and failed to back it up in practice."

Well, that's the ratchet effect.

However, this is really OT, and not the topic for this thread. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished that some brighter young thing in Chu's office reads this, and a light bulb goes on in their minds. You never know...

NOTE * People aren't smearing me as a racist there any more. Maybe Echo doesn't suck because it can filter by handle, though. Dunno, don't care.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

(I've been sick for the past couple of days, but I signed in just to give you a big cheer.)

I currently work for an architectural/design company that focuses very strongly on sustainability. Green roofs (rooves?) are a wonderful and cost-effective way to neutralize and utilize escaped heat and pollutants from the building, as well as making the roof attractive and fun to maintain.

Your recommendations are great, whether they end up being implemented or not. It's always good to get these ideas out into the public consciousness any way we can.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

cowards, the ones i've worked with. i'm thinking very specifically of my time at the state house here, but also with some national-oriented groups and their leadership (the HRC, for one). anything to avoid ruffling Village feathers, yo! or possibly maybe sort of saying something too liberal that could be used in a campaign commercial three years from now. why that scares dems but not thugs, i'm never sure. well, yes i am. but as you say, that's a different post. but i am 100% convinced that cowardice plays a role. dems have told me so, dem leadership even, to my face. i press them, you know. :-)

not that your other observations about dem motivation to sell out the base aren't wrong. money, gravy train, closets... there are lots of reasons why dems sell out. it's one of the reasons i'm respectful to my libtard friends. they often comment, "well, at least republicans actually mean what they say (closet cases excluded)" and that's often true. dems like a good speech, but action? no, that's too hard.

speaking of which: i'm pretty sure a "green roof" project in Detroit would cost barely more than white painting all the fed offices in the nation. possibly less. think of the political and media impact of a project like that. it would only take a year or two, properly planned. govt agency could take a "feral" area like detroit, a couple hundred million (in other words, nothing, in the fed budget) and totally transform a whole city. the zeitgeist is right for it, even the SCLM couldn't ignore the buzz that would go with a story like "Obama turns a rust belt slum into an urban park and garden paradise of self sufficiency." hell, the admin could do Detroit, and some all white semi-urban space in the south, to please the racists. the latter still wouldn't vote for him, but the "moderates" would be able to say, "gosh, that looks like a nice place to live. maybe i should support that." meh. yes, i'm a dreamer.

Submitted by lambert on

Then LA. (Imagine the water that wouldn't drain out through the storm drains into the Los Angeles River!)

* * *

For the rest of it, that seems like another post. I like real stories, you know -- even if composite figures, say. I like simple, though. I just don't see a need for an extra layer of personality assessment when it's not needed to model their actions. Reality might not conform to the model, of course. It often doesn't.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

you and i will talk soon. i need more science based information from people like you, to convince the people i talk to who craft policy. apparently, this kind of post is still totally Alien to most of them.

the sad part is how many pro dem lobby types i know who love plants and wildlife. really, love it. have it in their own homes. but when it comes to proposing actual policy like this. oh, no. it's too icky and DFH. and unfashionable, in the Village, at least.

madamab's picture
Submitted by madamab on

This type of initiative is not only practical, but it's politically "in," expecially after the Gulf disaster! And, it has many long-term positive applications for the environment.

Please feel free to send me a private message about this. I will see what information I can get for you, if you tell me your wish list. :-)

Submitted by jawbone on

finding my PC's user password! (Do not ask why I have it on password....)

Wow -- can't get hightlighting to "stay" in place and use Delete. Anyone have any idea what's happened? It used to do that here only when I was using the posting part of the site. ???

Submitted by PA_Lady on

If so, where is it located? It is truly awesome looking either way, but even more impressive if it's an actual building.

I love the idea of green roofs and green-scaping in general. I'm one of those who firmly believe that the more nature that surrounds you, the better your physical and mental health.

This is why I live where I do -- I honestly couldn't survive for long in a city, surrounded by concrete and glass, with trees and plants restricted to planter boxes. There are a lot of downsides to living in rural PA, but being able to see forested hills and green fields wherever I look makes up for most of them. (Which is why all the gas drilling here is such a huge concern for me.)

Submitted by PA_Lady on

It's even more impressive in the photo from ground level.

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

management plan. My city, Portland, OR, and the surrounding Multnomah County, are very serious about promoting green roofs. The county building has a green roof, as does the main branch of the public library. The city offers incentives to homeowners who install green roofs.

This is all part of the local gov't stormwater management program. Green roofs, bio-swales and rain gardens are all part of this program. The idea is to cut down on runoff and keep rain water out of the storm water/sewer system, as well as reduce utility costs.

Portland also actively works to expand our tree canopy, which serves to cool the city in the summer as well as absorb all that winter rain.

chicago dyke's picture
Submitted by chicago dyke on

on so many issues. it's interesting that this ongoing, growing liberal/progressive trend in the state followed mail in voting, innit?

caseyOR's picture
Submitted by caseyOR on

vote-by-mail. Go back to the '60s and Wayne Morse's opposition to the Vietnam War. Go back to the early '70s and Governor Tom McCall's leadership on conservation and planning. Seriously, Oregon had the first, and maybe still the only, statewide long term development plan. We didn't institute vote-by-mail until the '90s.

When I got here in 1977 every county in the state was in the process of developing their plans for long term growth. Lots of citizen involvement, lots of public meetings, lots of anger and tears, but we got it done. And because of that we have protected farm and forest land in both major population areas and rural Oregon, and we have, for the most part, escaped the scourge of strip zoning and rampant and careless development. None of this happened, of course, without a great deal of angst. And this battle continues to play out both at the ballot box (frikken' initiative process) and in the courts.

And, while Portland and Multnomah County are liberal bastions, the state is not. We have conservatives and tea partiers and the christian right. Fortunately, from my perspective, the Oregon Republican Party is so inept I can't remember the last time they won a statewide race (I think it was former Sen. Gordon's Smith's 2002 win.) We haven't had a Republican governor since the mid-'80s, although, as we all know that does not necessarily make us liberals.

Sadly, we passed a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and we passed a crippling property tax limitation, and we invest more $$$ in prisons than we do in higher education. And, oy, don't get me started on our insane and woefully inadequate tax structure.

All that said, I would not want to live anywhere else in the country. Our population is small, especially compared to our geographic size (approx. 4 million in the whole state now.). In Oregon we don't have 6 degrees of separation; it's more like 2. If I don't know someone, the chances are good I know someone who knows them. Citizen involvement is still important. We love and cherish our natural wonders, and mostly try hard to protect them.