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Why Plan? Articles by Jurgen Pape – January – June, 2017

Why Plan? Articles by Jurgen Pape – January – June, 2017

Why Plan?

February 2017

This is a continuation of my previous editorials from several years ago, then called “Why Plan?” My emphasis now is on the environment.
Mahatma Gandhi made many profound statements. One can be applied to the environment:
“The future depends on what we do today!”
Since water is crucial to everyone (more so than oil), the use or mis-use of it is becoming more
of a major factor. Already wars have been fought over water rights and access.
Much drinking water comes from fresh water sources such as lakes and rivers. As long as these
are kept unpolluted and resupplied, they are quite reliable and nearly permanent. Much potable
water, however, comes from aquifers, underground water which is replenished by rain water
often from far away. New York City, for instance, has one of the best urban public water supplies
because its water infiltration areas are large and protected.
If aquifers are not sufficiently replenished, they diminish over time. The Ogalla Aquifer in central
US has shrunk enough to cause subsidence of the land above. Mexico City, one of the largest
cities in the world, sinks substantially by the withdrawal of its aquifers below. In areas such as
Long Island, water being removed from its aquifers below causes seawater to seep in, making
the water non-potable. And whoever came up with the idea of building Las Vegas in a desert
must have been a poor planner. (In defense, these long-term impacts were not understood at
the time). Anyone who has a private well can expect to drill to lower water levels as the upper
ones either get polluted or depleted.
Back in the 18. century, someone proposed to fell trees to dry up American marshes. Little was
known about water cycles while creating farmland seemed important. Subduing the wilderness
was the foundation for future profit. Yet already in the early 19. century, the German explorer
Alexander von Humboldt, often considered the first environmentalist, warned President Madison
about deforestation and highlighted the catastrophic effects of large-scale tobacco cultivation on
Virginia’s fertile soils.
In some future article, I will emphasize the importance of forests in more detail. Let me here
mention the substantial removal of trees along the Dalmation coast (former Yugoslavia) for ship
building during the Roman Empire which caused the topsoil to erode creating devastating
permanent consequences for agriculture.
Let’s return to aquifers. They can be located at various geological levels depending on adjacent
impervious layers. Most are replenished by rainwater. Some have been around for centuries
and could potentially last for many more.
You can guess where I am going with this, right? Fracking (hydraulic fracturing) uses water and
can easily pollute aquifers, certainly in the long run. Vertical drilling has been around for
decades but horizontal fracking is relatively new and much more risky. By penetrating levels of
gas deposits, often miles below the surface, aquifers are drilled through. Whereas fracking is
“technically” not a problem, it is nearly impossible to show or monitor what actually happens way
below: Leaks can easily occur and how permanently stable is the earth mantle? Earthquakes
have already occurred due to fracking and their injection wells, causing pipes to crack and
releasing toxic materials, whether man-made or natural ones which tend to be harmless unless
disturbed. Several states and countries have banned fracking.
In common with all extractive mining, there may be a future safe way to extract these materials
but until these questions are answered, they are best left untouched. These resources can
safely remain there. In the meantime, we should concentrate on solar, wind and other
renewable energy sources which are essentially being wasted if not used.
Here is one of my “classic” environmental books: “The Invention of Nature, Alexander von
Humboldt’s New World” by Andrea Wulf (2015)
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“Why Plan?”

March 1, 2017

Back in May 2015, ‘The Economist’ reported that then Texas governor Rick Perry “devised a
policy to help tackle severe drought.” He proclaimed 3 days in April 2011 “as days of Prayer for
Rain in the State of Texas.” Was this successful? He probably forgot to establish a time frame
for this wish. A few years later, parts of Texas were deluged with as much as 11” of rain. “The
flooding was the worst in Central Texas in over a decade.”
As in my last article, you probably know where I am going with this: Poor long-term planning
along with little understanding of global environmental connectivity and reality. Again, in defense
of the past, this connectivity was not known then; the Corps of Engineers concentrated much of
the activity and costs on straightening out rivers to get water to flow downstream faster. More
recently, the Corps spends huge amounts of money on rectifying their earlier, now misunderstood,
efforts. We now know that slowing down water as much as possible at the upper
reaches of rivers prevents massive flooding downstream. Think of the river floodplains as
gigantic sponges, holding and then slowly and safely releasing water while replenishing aquifers
below. It is the amount and velocity at a particular time which can be so damaging.
About ninety percent of Ohio’s swamps and wetlands have been destroyed. This was often
followed by development built on these new “safe” areas. This development then adds
impervious surfaces which increases and speeds up runoff. The so-called 100-year floods
(statistically having occurred only about once in a hundred years) happen much more frequently
while increasing flood damage substantially.
I already alluded to the amount of water (mis)used during the fracking process. The oil
extraction from tar sands in Canada use enormous amounts of water in areas with already quite
low precipitation; this affects residential and agricultural water use while destroying large tracts
of land.
Precipitation often comes in forty-year cycles. The water allocation in the Rio Grande River
basin in the US and Mexico is based on the higher annual rainfall decades ago. Once the cycle
reverts back to lower levels, the present allocation is already not sufficient.
So how can we plan water use better? The obvious best and cheapest answer is conservation,
better use practices in homes, agriculture and industry and improving old pipes which lose large
large percentages of water below ground, mostly undetectable.
A fairly new way to use water efficiently in agriculture (besides monitoring via satellites) is called
aqua-culture. Here soil is completely dispensed with (which later simplifies crop cleaning) while
necessary nutrients are supplied through the precise amount of water at the root levels. (This is
similar to intra-venous feeding except it is not injected directly.) Especially in greenhouses can
the water, heat, light, pests and humidity be controlled in such a way that the crop outcome is
predictable and the amount of crops are increased with positive economic impacts. This process
can be done in otherwise difficult climates. This reduces transportation cost and duration,
ensuring fresher produce.
Another clear environmental and economic benefit can be achieved if these greenhouses are
adjacent to power plants which discharge large quantities of warm water into the atmosphere
(through cooling towers) or into existing water bodies which is harmful to the environment. Many
years ago, I proposed such an arrangement at a power plant when I worked for American
Electric Power as their landscape architect. Even though potentially a great idea to use the
waste water positively, the project was rejected because a backup heating system might have
been required in case of rare outages. This would not be a problem when there are several
power plant units which would very likely shut down simultaneously.
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Granville Sentinel article

March 21, 2017

In one of my earlier Sentinel articles, I mentioned global climate change. Before this was well
accepted by scientists around the globe, this was often referred to as global warming. This term
was often mis-interpreted and mis-used. Even before man arrived on earth, global warming and
climate change existed – and it still does. The question now is whether man has added to this
natural phenomenon. Already in 1986 but recently surfaced internal memo by Shell Oil
“suggested that changes triggered by global warming could be the greatest in recorded history,
warning of an impact on the human environment, future living standards, and food supplies…”
Rather than discussing what or who is responsible, we should accept the implications and
counter that trend. We now have the tools to prevent or at least slow down losing coastal
regions around the world among other disasters. Instead of applying a reactionary process
building very costly walls to prevent flooding cities like Miami, we should use pro-active methods
to slow down the warming trend. As I stated in my earlier articles, even more than air pollution,
global warming can only be addressed at a global scale.
In 1985, scientists discovered a severe reduction of the ozone layer in the antarctic. “The ozone
layer is crucial to life on Earth, blocking out harmful radiation from the sun. The 1987 Montreal
Protocol phased out the production of chemicals that disrupted Earth’s protective
blanket.” (Christian Science Monitor, 3/20/17) This hole is now shrinking and shows that with
industry’s help, global problems can be solved.
Carbon dioxide is one of the largest contributor to global warming. As renewable energy sources
increase around the world, the International Energy Agency stated that “carbon emissions from
the energy sector stayed flat for the past two years even as the global economy grew by more
than 3 percent.” (Christian Science Monitor, 4/4/16) This trend should accelerate as extractive
energy sources become less available and with it more expensive as compared to renewables.
This saves money, especially in health care but also creates good jobs. Ohio added over 1000
jobs in solar fields in 2016. The solar industry outpaced US economy by 17 times.
Even China is under severe pressure to reduce pollution, especially by the sophisticated urban
populations. Its major cities required some industries to temporarily shut down due to critical
pollution levels – this is surely not a long-term economic and realistic viable solution.
It is interesting how our new administration is trying to handle climate change especially
considering that it is supposed to be pro-business. Secretary of Defense James Mattis called
climate change a security threat to the US. Chief of Staff Reince Priebus called climate change
“a bunch of bunk.” Secretary of State Tillerson said that global warming is real. Renewables
tend to be more diversified which makes them safer from internal and external threats.
You can see where I am going with this, right? Instead of debating facts, we should accept and
move to solve these problems.
Some elder republicans declared that a carbon tax would be fair and encourage conservation
(most are conservative, right?) and could ultimately eliminate most regulations which are more
difficult to enforce and monitor; it is also market-friendly.
Here is more food for thought: If power companies and extractive industries invest in
renewables, this in the long term would be good for the country and the environment.
Here is another one of my environmental book forerunners: : ”The Little Prince” by Antoine de
Saint-Exupery.
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Granville Sentinel article
Too many regulations?

April 1, 2017

Capitalism is likely the best economic model to ensure innovation, entrepreneurship,
competition and educational incentives as compared to a centralized government setting quotas
and long-term plans. Yet, complete laissez-faire can be unsafe and counter-productive, if not
uncivilized.
You know where I am going with this, right?
Nobody, NOBODY, is totally self-sustaining. We are not the stone-age hunters having to provide
food and protection for ourselves. We all rely, we have to, on established rules and regulations.
Instead of negotiating prices at the gas station or investigating the ingredients of cookies and
medicine or apprehending criminals, we can concentrate on things befitting our expertise and
interest. So we have to strike a balance between a total free market and protecting citizens/
consumers. “Follow the money” is often quoted to make an economic point but the time frame of
following the money is easily distorted and manipulated.
If we didn’t have regulations for infant car seats, how could a consumer make valid
comparisons? Law suits after an accident may put pressure to improve a product but may come
too late for some folks. We expect someone to consider safety before products come on the
market. This expectancy is also important to create a level playing field for competing
manufacturers to increase quality and still make a profit.
I wrote previously on reversing the dangerous deterioration of the ozone hole in the antarctic.
Industries around the world first said that a replacement for the damaging CFC’s is not possible
but concerted global pressure made it possible, even affordable. Individuals, even individual
countries, could not solve these problems alone. And killing potential customers is not a viable
economic model. This ties back into long-term planning and considering the time frame
discussed above.
This brings us back to the recurring statements that regulations and environmental standards
are too costly: What time frame are we applying? Good economic planning cannot ignore future
related repercussions!
We need to study, accept and react to health and safety issues. It is not questionable anymore
that pollution is a health hazard and can kill. It behooves governments to concentrate on the
best solutions.
One of the simplest and cheapest method to reduce air pollution is the fuel efficiency standards
for cars since they are, as part of transportation, one of the largest sources of pollution. Not only
does this reduce the cost of gas and health care for the consumer and global oil prices while
reducing our nation’s oil imports and deficits which cuts into IS and Russia’s profits. This is an
all-around win for us. So how can the present administration justify reversing those mpg
standards?
Another low-hanging fruit to combat air pollution was stated in the 3/17/17 “Economist”: “By
burning heavy fuel oil, just 15 of the biggest ships emit more oxides of nitrogen and sulphur
gases… gases much worse for global warming than carbon dioxide”.
As we learn more about pollution, it has been concluded that particulates in diesel fuel may be a
bigger health problem than those produced by gas. Even the World Bank is now funding small
consumer-oriented projects which can have vast cumulative positive effects. Instead of funding
large dams, for instance, which can have dubious long-term impacts, providing simple and
cheap solar ovens for poor rural areas can result in eliminating hour-long treks into the bush to
collect firewood. This reduces damage to forests and allows people to be more productive. This
is good economics.
Here is another of my book recommendations: “Small is Beautiful” by E. F. Schumacher (1973)
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Granville Sentinel article

April 26, 2017

Driving west on the old Rt. 161, you can see a large sign on the Hankinson barn: “Every day is
earth day to a farmer”. This is an improvement over the old barn sign advocating chewing
tobacco. We have come a long way. – or have we?
Certainly the new logo is a good reminder that farming relates to food for which there are no
substitutes. The percentage of farm workers has dropped to around 2%, vastly lower than a
century ago but very crucial. This reduction is mostly due to efficiencies in agricultural practices.
Compared to horse and carriage, however, we cannot eliminate food production completely.
Agriculture has made some minor inroads into soil-less food production but land is still the
common denominator when it comes to farming. In fact, farming is the only use of land rather
than just having something placed on it. This means that we cannot “consume” all land for other
purposes.
Acknowledging this fact, several years ago the State of Ohio allocated funding for each county
to develop a local farmland preservation plan. This included inventories of crops and land uses,
farming practices and efficiencies, milling and food processing places as well as transportation
and storage restrictions. Our committee “Agriculture for Tomorrow” made a final report which
was given to and physically presented to all Licking County townships. We maintained a
website.
We emphasized that growth, especially from the West, placed a lot of pressure on prime
agricultural land. Agriculture is still a large business and it behooves us not to limit growth but to
control it. This is where innovative zoning and planning comes is. This provides pro-active
solutions. (The Newark Advocate printed my 3 articles entitled “Agriculture for Tomorrow” in
October 2007).
Our final report strongly recommended for local municipalities to develop their own
comprehensive plan and zoning laws to control their own destiny. An enormous increase of
housing is possible under the existing zoning laws: This is called total build-out.
As a landscape architect and planner, you know where I’m going with this, right?
The 2017 tourist magazine “Explore Licking County” emphasizes farming not only as an
important business but also as a tourist attraction. Supporting the local farmers markets is good
for local business. It is also a social event where one can meet local farmers and kids can learn
that lots of fruits and vegetables are grown here. This ensures freshness. Much is picked the
morning of the sale. Fewer preservatives are used in local food. In the larger context, buying
local food contributes to the local economy and it helps protect farmland as mentioned above. It
also reduces transportation costs and even wear and tear on our highways. These incremental
influences can have positive impacts on oil imports and road repair. “The American meal travels
around 1500 miles from farm to table. In the US, processing, packaging, transporting, storing
and preparing fruit and vegetables requires about four times as much energy as growing them
in the first place.” (The Economist). The Granville High School growing food and sale project is
quite successful as well as educational. The term “urban farming” is fairly new but not the
concept. Some empty urban lots have been converted to growing food. This is an excellent way
to use the land productively and often pulls the neighborhood together.
Better farming techniques have raised yields and more people learned more about new grains.
It may take some time to wean folks off their customary food supplies; this can help diversity
and allows new food products better suited to local soils and climates.
In the spirit of positive thinking, there are several promising ideas which may help future food
production and reduce pressure to cultivate more land.
Some really futuristic idea was developed by an English electronics engineer who suggested
that in the future sensor-filled “beans” could be mixed into the contents of a granary “to report
continuously on the temperature and humidity…and on carbon-dioxide levels, which reflect the
amount of insect breath exhaled, and thus the level of infestation.” This could “provide an
answer to many a farmer’s prayers.” (“The Economist’, 3/12/2016).
Here is another of my book recommendations: “Plants, People and Environmental Quality” by
Gary Robinette, (US Dept. of Interior, 1972)
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Why Plan?

May 11, 2017

Pollution covers a vast range of topics. It has unquestionably a negative connotation. So the
question is not whether pollution is good or bad but how to recognize, acknowledge and try to
solve it.
I previously mentioned the ozone hole reduction over the Antarctic. This loss of ozone increased
ultraviolet radiation with huge health risks. The culprit was identified as CFC’s
(chlorofluocarbons) primarily used in accelerants in spray cans. This was clearly an international
problem which could only be solved at that scale. Despite early grumblings that CFC’s could not
easily be replaced, it was accomplished. This was probably the first positive global response to
pollution.
Another global pollution problem is the use of plastic bags. There are about 300 million tons of
global plastic trash. There are five large floating plastic islands in oceans, an area the size of
Texas. Plastic takes decades to decompose, threatens aquatic life and uses a lot of oil. New
figures revealed that microplastic particles, a product of the breaking up of larger plastic items
and once assumed to be harmless, are especially devastating as they are absorbed by aquatic
life and ultimately us as well.
Some regions and countries are restricting the use of plastic bags (or in some instances, charge
for their use). Scientists are working on replacements which could be biodegradable using
natural components. Very recently, an Italian biologist discovered by accident plastic-eating
caterpillars which ate themselves out of bags used for holding them. Other recent plasticconsuming
organisms are bacteria and Amazonian fungi (CSM, 5/15/17).
All this could provide answers to solving pollution problems but it takes time to make them
viable and commercially available. Quite often, governments have to support research and then
possibly subsidize prototypes until these products are financially self-supporting.
I discussed energy sources before. Renewable sources are becoming more available and
competitive compared to extractable sources. I glossed over nuclear energy before: Talk about
long-term considerations!
You can see where I am going with this, right?
Nuclear power was perceived as the ultimate energy answer. But after Three-Mile Island,
Chernobyl and more recently, Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, there are serious doubts. The best
technical solutions and designs can still fall prey to Murphy’s Law: Something will ultimately go
wrong. Not only can the radiation become an immediate problem, but the longevity of
radioactive waste is of concern (and so far poorly addressed). Different from all other liabilities,
the nuclear industry is absolved in some cases from major disaster costs. Germany will close all
its nuclear plants. South Africa just cancelled a $76 billion contract to build nuclear plants.
How can anyone guarantee the safety of nuclear waste for 100,000 years? The US spent
billions of dollars to develop the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository site in Nevada; its future is
nowhere near settled. Meanwhile, radioactive waste is “temporarily” stored at over one hundred
nuclear power plants with dubious environmental controls and subject to terrorist acts. The only
country which so far is addressing this problem is Finland which is digging bore holes at its
Olkiluoto site: Spent fuel is to be buried in up to 70 km tunnels in 1.9 billion year old bedrock,
sealed and made safe for posterity. Finland claims that this is safe for 100,000 years. This
covers about 4,000 generations. Who is going to be around to guard this considering that
“100,000 years ago, Finland was under an ice sheet and Homo sapiens had not yet reached
Europe”. (The Economist’, 4/15/17)
Even for a planner, this is a long time!
Here is another early environmental book: “Walden; or, Life in the Woods” by Henry David
Thoreau. (The Granville library just highlighted this.)
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Treasure Island

June 17, 2017

Denmark has many islands, the larger ones are populated and connected via bridges. In fact,
Denmark’s capital Copenhagen is on one of the large islands, with a relatively new bridge
connecting to Sweden across the Øresund.. Smaller islands are accessible only by ferry and
often calmly pursuing their age-old farming customs with few visitors.
The island of Samsø, about the size of Martha’s Vineyard, has been a quiet backwater with a
population of around 4,000, growing, by general acclaim, the best potatoes. Back in 1972,
along with the rest of the world, Denmark was also confronted with the Arab oil embargo and
the energy crisis. The Danish government launched a competition for one of its communities to
become energy independent within a decade. Samsø won that competition.
One of its local farmers, Søren Hermansen, decided to tackle the challenge. He said that he
couldn’t sell the idea of global warming or the plight of polar bears to his conservative
neighbors, but suggested that wind especially was a near constant. It along with solar panels
could be their island’s answer to renewable energy. He knew that small incremental global
climate changes could best be addressed and solved by taking small incremental local steps.
You know where I am going with this, right?
Samsø is still idyllic with its unspoiled little villages, a few old windmills and open spaces. The
farmers still grow potatoes, sheep still graze in the meadows, life appears to have changed
little, but look again: There are many modern windmills chugging along and the farmers are
definitely more prosperous. They are earning more money by making and selling electric power
generated by their collectively-owned windmills and solar panels.
Today, the Samsø Energy Academy (www.energiakademiet.dk) attracts people from around the
world wanting to learn more about sustainability. Søren is a globally sought-after speaker
showing that renewable energy can be harnessed and be economically successful. The newly
created jobs became a big local selling point. The energy academy hosts international
seminars which attracts more visitors that the Samsø population. (This has a the secondary
positive economic impact.) We got a bit of that taste (not just the food and drink) when we
visited the island this May as part of our European heritage and vacation.
When we stopped at the academy, a small international group was just on a brief conference
recess so we could see the building and the discussion panels. I was able to corner Søren who
immediately and enthusiastically promoted and discussed his projects and beliefs; his warm
smile and positive attitude clearly helps his sustainability pitch. I was able to tell Søren my
interests and background as landscape architect and planner for American Electric Power
where for 26 years I pushed for the environment and good planning despite the often uphill
battles. Then I told Søren that AEP’s CEO just came out in favor of the Paris Climate Treaty and
that AEP was committed to solar and wind energy sources if feasible. AEP and other
companies are finding out that they have the public backing for the environment and the
economic benefits of renewable energy are not questioned any more.
The small island of Samsø is indicative of what is occurring on a larger scale. The European
Union launched a program called “Sustainable Islands of Europe”. (www.sustainableislands.eu)
Clusters of these islands are formed to facilitate sustainability implementations, overcome
multilevel governance barriers and “share areas of expertise and experiences, and to develop
additional skills through capacity building workshops and an e-learning platform available to
project participants.”

Published by: The Granville Sentinel

Written By: Jurgen Pape

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