Wednesday, June 26, 2024

#178 / An Addiction To Cement

The picture above shows new high-rise buildings in a city in China. An alternative headline for today's blog posting might be: "We're Thirsty!"

My commentary today is related to a story from the BBC, published on April 23, 2024: "The Environmental Cost Of China's Addiction to Cement." Here's the opening salvo from that story: 

The use of concrete exploded to fuel China's rise. Now the costs of this weighty material are being counted.
China's cities are sinking – apparent victims of their own success. Large swathes of the country's population now live in major cities that are subsiding at more than 3mm (0.1in) per year, according to a recent study. Some areas are sinking by more than 45mm (1.7in) each year, such as parts of Beijing. And by 2120, around a quarter of China's coastal land will be beneath sea-level, the researchers predict. 
While there are a number of reasons for the subsidence, the researchers have pointed to the rapid rate of urban development as among the culprits. The huge amounts of groundwater abstraction needed to support urban populations alongside the weight of the buildings and city infrastructure were singled out by the researchers as contributing to the sinking. 
It follows similar research in New York City that found the enormous weight of the concrete, glass and steel – an estimated 762 million tonnes – in the city's skyscrapers were contributing to subsidence of the land they sit upon (emphasis added).

The city in which I live, Santa Cruz, California, is not located in China, and it's a lot smaller scale than New York City, or Beijing. Santa Cruz, however, spurred on by relatively recent state legislation, has apparently committed itself to "build up," to increase building heights dramatically. There will be various water impacts associated with this new commitment to height, not the least of which is going to be the need for new freshwater supplies for all the new growth. Water? Traffic? Parking? City officials aren't talking about those impacts very much. Possible ground subsidence? That is another topic that is not much of a discussion point, either. 

Height, though? People are beginning to take notice of what recent land use decisions are doing to the city, and to its character. Below, for instance, I am providing a snapshot of the new buildings that have just gone up on Front Street. Bigger and taller buildings are in the works. Presuming that current plans are realized, a wall of high-rise buildings, maybe up to twelve-stories tall, will replace the one-story, two-story, and three-story buildings now found along Front Street and the river. Some people think that's a great idea. Please note that the new buildings pictured here are only six-stories tall. 

Six stories, I am saying, might just be the beginning. Taller buildings are in the works along Front Street, and we have recently learned about a new sixteen-story building proposed for the intersection of Water Street and Pacific Avenue, towering over the Town Clock. That's a real proposal, soon to be considered officially by planning officials and City Council Members. A new Facebook group has formed, to fight it off

Residents of the City of Santa Cruz who care about the future of their city, and who may be pondering what could well be some early signs of an "addiction to cement," right here in their own home town, had best remember one of those things I am constantly saying, in various ways, in my daily blog postings.

If we want "self-government," then we had better be prepared to get involved in government, ourselves! 

(2) - Gary A. Patton, personal photo

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