Housing – part 10: A reprise.
Written for a housing forum
Previous parts can be grouped into three sections:
Section 1. The biggest global issue – climate change
1: Embodied carbon and climate
The way we build and the materials used damage the climate.
2: Food and the remaining carbon budget
Modern agriculture and our consumption damage the environment.
3: Carbon budgets and transport
Our travel patterns and means of transport are unsustainable.
Section 2. Planning policies burden the poor
4: We are not short of land
A very small portion of the UK is built-up.
5: Construction costs
Modern methods are reducing construction costs.
Greenbelts protect privilege – at the expense of the majority.
Section 3. Public health & public safety
6: Pollution in the countryside
The countryside is being polluted.
7: Pollution in towns
Towns are being polluted.
8: Density and disease
Good public health allows denser settlements.
In these first three sections I describe ‘what is’ or ‘facts’. These sections contain conclusions: Conclusions which should be obvious to those that have eyes to see and ears to hear – and enough time to think.
The purpose of this series is to lay the foundations for a particular approach to ‘designing a framework for living’. ‘Designing a framework for living’ may appear an empty phrase, but the intention is to fill the phrase with some meaning.
[Note: I am also looking for a better phrase. Suggestions welcome.]
I anticipate three further sections:
Section 4, Design suggestions
This will explore some rules of thumb and novel mechanisms.
Section 5, Examples past and present
This will look at some interesting settlements.
Section 6, Summary
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to a ‘reasonable level’ is a prerequisite for lifestyles that won’t irreparably damage our world. What is a ‘reasonable level’? It can be made more specific by using the idea of an ‘individual remaining carbon budget’, as explained in Are you evil or very evil? :
The science isn’t exact but it is reasonable to say:
Humanity can emit about 100 tonnes CO2e per person before the Earth’s temperature rises 2°C above pre-industrial times. A rise of 2°C will cause changes in the natural environment but above 2°C there there will be much greater changes. These changes may see the deaths of billions of people and the extinction of many other species.
Some scientists are hoping that in 50 years time it will be possible to extract greenhouse gases from the atmosphere in sufficient quantities to stop global warming.
The exactness of this may be open to question but it’s sure that if everyone in the world emitted 100 tonnes of CO2e over the next 50 years, the climate response would be bad. Forget the 2°C limit – there is too much scope for lawyeristic argument about what that means – we can safely say that the results will be disastrous, probably for most life on Earth. In the human population it will be the poorest that suffers first.
A lifestyle that causes the emission of 100 tonnes CO2e over the next 50 years is a shameful one but 100 and 50 are easy number to remember. The next sections may use these as guidelines.
The aim is to design lifestyles:
…that will emit less than 100 tonnes CO2e in 50 years.
They must, of course, be lifestyles worth living.