A school–and a state–that’s too cool
November 10, 2012 1 Comment
Sierra Magazine, a product of the environmental advocacy group The Sierra Club, recently crowned U.C. Davis the “#1 Cool School” for its efforts to conserve energy, resources, and otherwise be sustainable and fight climate change.
A couple of years ago, the student-run ASUCD Coffee House underwent a major renovation. I’m not sure what the budget was, but hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars went into the project. The result? Sliding doors became manual, and a versatile space with moveable chairs and tables gave way to massive dining booths, each typically empty but for one student entranced by her laptop.
In the end, does making a sliding door manual really benefit the campus community? I’m confident that the electricity saved is more than offset by the germs and viruses spread via frequent grasping of handles by so many young adults. Also, I can imagine at least one inattentive, returning alumnus slamming into the door, betrayed by the changing ways of an old friend.
And then there are the disposable cornware utensils. With traditional plasticware, you could cut whatever was on your plate. Now, your corn fork is likely to get bent out of shape. And there’s no convenient place to grab your utensil in case you forgot it–it’s usually rationed out with your dish. How many acres of corn are destined to become crappy utensils, rather than say, by some more natural demand of the market (hint: not ethanol fuel) go to feed a starving mouth in the Global South?
Now, I must confess there is no “Recycle Nazi” at the Coffee House. This idea is borrowed from the Davis Farmers Market, where, after chomping down on your tandoori treat, you’re likely to confront a cheery dreadlocked twenty-year-old-of-unknowing-privilege, who will gently but firmly ensure you’ve cast your biodegradable cornware cup into the appropriate receptacle. Only then can you go back to enjoy watching toddlers prance around to a Bob Dylan cover band. The small tote dogs of even-greater-pampering-and-privilege are fun to watch too.
But back to campus. The exorbitant charge for paper cups is reflective of the the long-standing reuse movement. Yes, it’s nice to reuse your mug. And not all of these eco-friendly changes are derisible. Yet, the guiding hand of the Nanny State is all too palpable on campus.
Take cars for example. There have been new garages built on campus, but they are more to the periphery than the core. And existing parking lots get eroded by the liberal legacy of litigation. The clearest instance of this comes when spots disappear to make room for more ADA-compliant spaces.
As a part of recent maintenance, one parking area got a new coat of sealant. The spaces were repaved, and I suspect they’re just a little smaller than they were before. As if that weren’t enough of a hint against cars, one stretch of the lot was painted with “COMPACT” in every space. But they’re plenty wide to accommodate those oversize SUVs with multiple Obama stickers on them. So the commuter is left to scratch his own head: was this a simple painting error or a subliminal hint from Nanny to buy a smaller car?
Well, with tax-hiking Prop 30 passed, there is a little more assurance those lots will continue to fill with cars for the near future. And all the while, Our Great Bullet Train will move forward. This despite the Legislative Analyst’s Office finding there are more effective ways to reduce emissions with the carbon tax credits diverted to “backstop any shortfall” in funding for a project unlikely to finish before humans colonize Mars. An inevitable byproduct of this is, you’ve guessed it: more lawsuits!
Greetings from California.