Daily Journal of Commerce, Nov. 28, 2012

Design Perspectives: Seattle stars in four books about our past and future

By CLAIR ENLOW; Special to the Journal

For forward-looking books you can use, get "The Carbon Efficient City" by A-P Hurd and Al Hurd (UW Press), a guide for the next half-century. This book is a reminder that two years ago the Seattle City Council adopted carbon neutrality as a goal for the city. The council's resolution was greeted by Mayor Mike McGinn as unrealistic, but this book might change his mind.

Modestly named, it's nothing less than a "best practices" manual for achieving carbon neutrality. Unlike most manuals, it's not so much about tested methods as it is about framing the challenge culturally and legally, and using available technologies and political strategies to meet it.

Authors Al Hurd, a business strategy consultant in Canada, and A-P Hurd, a developer in Seattle, are father and daughter. They advocate for better public involvement in setting and reaching environmental goals, and for leveling the playing field for businesses. At the federal level, they are in favor of a carbon tax, not piecemeal subsidies.

At the local level, much of the book is devoted to regulatory reform that encourages sustainable redevelopment. For city officials and staff, the chapter called "regulatory roadblocks" should be worth the price of the book. The authors pretty much sum up the obstacles, including the fact that we have not ascribed an economic value to climate stability.

That may change in the coming year, as the insurance industry grapples with weather-related disasters. Leadership, as usual, is coming from cities. After the storm of a lifetime - coming at the end of a presidential campaign season in which climate and environment were scarcely mentioned - New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg endorsed Barack Obama, citing his potential willingness to address climate change. With a modicum of support from the federal government, it may be possible for Seattle and other cities to take real steps toward carbon neutrality.

Here's a line from "The Carbon Efficient City": "It is critically important that we find a path of action that minimizes economic cost and maximizes innovation, delight and resiliency."

Words to live by as we look forward to 2013.