From Architecture DiY

One of the great problems in the US — and most of the Western world — is that we have been unable to accomplish anything important for over 50 years. The last significant US project was the moon landing. Failure or muddled success is the norm, now. The US even loses or muddles all its wars, and when it “wins,” as with Libya, well, they “made a desert and called it peace.”

Because nothing really works, and because every effort is half-assed (some tax cuts and an underfunded program run by corrupt incompetents) we don’t think anything big CAN be done.

But plenty of big things were done in the past, and recently by other countries like China (who just industrialized in record time and build unbelievable amounts of infrastructure.) We have, in the past, been able to put up buildings almost overnight, send a man to the moon, mobilize most of the population, etc, etc, etc.

None of this is impossible today, it is especially possible for the US (other countries it can be hard for, because the international order is set up to cripple small and medium countries’ ability to act independently, but the US set up the order and is still a superpower, even if it is in marked decline.)

So, if you’re the US and you finally get serious, you can have a boom start in six months with a real Green Deal (no caviling, no trimming).

You make a mandate to get every single building energy neutral at least. The Federal government effectively guarantees all mortgages; it sets the norms. You state that no mortgage is considered conforming starting in a year to three years if it doesn’t meet the new standards.

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You then offer the funds for the refit. This isn’t a gift, it is paid out of savings on utilities: half to the building owner so they win, half to the government. If you insist on doing this through financial markets, then half goes to the entity who puts up the fund.

You MUST create a proper auditing group to inspect a significant number of the buildings, so that there isn’t widespread fraud.

These refits are about passive and active solar, proper insulation and so on. Back in the 90s, it was possible to build an energy neutral building at -40 degrees Celcius, we can certainly refit buildings now.

Another conforming mortgage change is that lawns are no longer legal except on golf courses. Specify ecologically sane alternatives.

You take over/break up/heavily regulate all utilities, and have them do proper maintainance and set up grids which allow people to feed energy back in. Utilities are going to take huge income hits with this plan, so you’re going to have to support them, but that means taking them public or regulating their profits, dividends, and so on. You move grids and generation to as local as possible, because there is vast loss in energy by long distance transmission and because solar (passive and active) works best locally, because you need to store heat during sunny periods (both daily and annually). Of course, solar is not the only energy you use, and the emphasis is on reducing energy draw, and even more than changing the energy mix.

High-speed rail is a dead obvious thing to do, and proper high-speed rail is faster from city center to center when you take into account things like traveling to and from airports and security theater. A huge high-speed rail build-out, similar to the 50s expansion of highways, is an easy win (and traveling by plane sucks).

Note that most of these jobs cannot be off-shored or out-sourced. Refitting buildings is manual labor; building high-speed rail is done locally, and there are domestic companies who can build the trains. China dominates solar power, but there are ways to build up US industry, simply by equalizing prices through industrial policy. This can be done so both China and the US win; it doesn’t have to be zero sum.

Farming is a huge source of carbon emissions, but it doesn’t have to be. This isn’t about everyone going vegan, there are ways to make animals expel a lot less methane by changing their feed. Regenerative agriculture produces higher outputs per acre than standard industrial agriculture and requires more workers. If you want to break up the big farms, there is some evidence that small farms also produce more (ideal roughly what one person can work, which doesn’t mean no machinery.)

Vast planting of trees in cities in another no-brainer, as is an expansion of mass transit. Standard asphalt roads are expensive and have to be constantly re-paved. Moving them to alternatives like cobbled streets will lead to fewer emissions and reduce city budgets massively over time, again the alternatives take a lot of labor (if you’ve ever laid cobbles you’re wincing at the thought, but cobbles aren’t the only alternative).

There are a bunch of other things to do (for example, rebuild wetlands around cities and on the coast; build sea walls around cities which are too low, blah, blah), but the point should be obvious by now: You can help the environment, produce a massive number of jobs, and create an economic boom. It isn’t hard, though it is complicated. You simply have to have the will to do it.

Further, if you can get it going, it will soon have massive support because it will create a truly good economy for the first time in 50 odd years. People will have better things to do than squeal about red state/blue state bullshit, the era will be like the post-war period: People are making money, and having kids and politics would be, in fact, largely consensus-driven because everyone sees that what is being done works.

I first outlined this back at The Blogging of the President 16 years ago. Others have also suggested similar plans.

The most fundamental, irritating thing about the world today is that we know what to do to fix most of our problems, we just refuse to even consider doing any of it because we have corrupt, psychotic, decrepit, and incompetent leadership and populations who support them. We roar towards the abyss, staring in horror, refusing to simply turn the wheel. It’s amazing to see, a true lesson in how pathological human societies can be.

Boom, essentially tomorrow, any time we want it. Well, if we don’t leave it until our civilization is actually collapsing and we no longer have the resources. Which is the current glide-path.