Of course, rampant OVERPOPULATION here and across the globe (and the related issue of global warming) must be considered the paramount and most compelling environmental problem of all. We must face and begin to deal with this REALLY inconvenient truth if we want to save this Planet's environment. It is a thorny & complex international problem, but I hope President Obama will make it an urgent, very high priority focus of his Administration. Without beginning to control and eventually reducing the world's exploding numbers of human denizens, eventually, all else will be lost.
Meanwhile, on the home front,an area of reform which is more tractable, but which one does not hear nearly as much about as it deserves considering its vast impact on energy and other resource use, is that of the national and local building codes.
By and large, local codes are based on, and conform to, the national UNIFORM BUILDING CODE (UBC). This fact means that aggressive, carefully crafter "green" revisions to the UBC can, and will, have tremendous impact. The needed changes will be viewed as radical by some, but these are ecologically speaking, desperate times, and we must apply seriously smart and progressive solutions.
For example, there is absolutely no excuse for not changing the UBC to require that ALL new construction units and wherever possible, all remodel/addition projects must be appropriately sited on their parcels, and be built to provide sufficient south-facing roof surface (or provide a separate array structure), to accomodate enough solar generation equipment to make the building at least electricity use neutral. The only exceptions which should be allowed would be those in which the building site is such that compliance with the above requirement would be literally physically impossible. For these cases, a waiver could be allowed, or, the Government should purchase the parcel at fair market value and take it out of development or see that it is combined with an adjacent parcel so the power generation requirement can be met.
Further, the UBC should require that the solar power feature must be installed and operational before a final certificate of occupancy is granted by the local authority. During a suitable period of transition, the Federal Government should act to provide subsidies to assist builders and property owners with compliance in order to include the necessary solar power (or equivalent wind power) to make each home and business structure, at a minimum, electricity neutral. Property owners who can afford the extra cost should also be encouraged to maximize their power generation capability by allowing them to sell their excess power to sell back to the grid.
These subsidies should be continued until such time as the market adjusts to the new reality, and the inclusion of renewable power generation units on all buildings is seen to be as basic as providing plumbing and insulation.
There are a hundred other ways to improve and simplify the UBC and local codes, in order to powerfully discourage environmentally harmful materials and practices, and to make much better use of energy and our other vanishing resources. We simply have no choice now but to think out of the box, and change the whole economic and social paradigm from its current disastrously unsustainable basis, to one that will allow us, our descendents, and the millions of other species with whom we share this fragile Earth a future! Reforming this country's antiquated building codes would be a giant step forward!!!!
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