City Wherein I Tell You Exactly When You Can Stop Reading Knute Berger’s Latest Post
posted by May 8 at 17:48 PMon
A few early French restaurants in Pioneer Square in the 1970s…
Dude. It’s 2008. It’s time to let go.
Of course, if you do read on, you’ll be treated to some real gems of twisted logic and insincere credulity. Such as:
our most ardent urban advocates have become uptight and nativist, from new liquor crackdowns to calls for secession.
Nickels’s “call for secession,” as Berger surely realizes, was a joke. And Berger’s one to talk about “nativism.”
Once, you may have looked for an authentic bistro that served Evian with your meal. Now, sipping foreign water out of a plastic bottle is tantamount to firing a slug into Gaia’s gut. And don’t tell anyone you like foie gras.
“Firing a slug into Gaia’s gut”? Way to make with the dated references, dude. What are you, Maureen Dowd?
What has Berger’s tie-dyed boxers in a twist is a press conference Mayor Greg Nickels held encouraging Seattle residents to drink tap water. This, Berger is convinced, is a sign of Seattle’s the final descent toward the dreaded Nanny State™, and he’s not having any of it.
It’s a Berger special: Toss out some received wisdom, throw in a few unsupported assertions, add a dash of irrelevant data, and stir.
So importing and drinking bottled water is bad, but exporting Boeing aircraft and war machines is OK? Which do you think has a bigger impact on greenhouse gases? Which uses more oil? Which contributes more to destroying the planet?
And what about Starbucks, for god’s sake? How much carbon is burned and how much greenhouse gas emitted getting those beans here? Unless I missed it, there are no coffee plantations in Wallingford.
Oh, snap! I also think people starving to death in developing countries because of Americans’ meat consumption is bad, therefore I will drink infinity bottles of water with impunity!
And indeed—for god’s sake—what about Starbucks? Well, according to a 2007 article in Forbes (the first thing that pops up when you Google “Starbucks carbon footprint,” btw—but maybe Berger’s still using Lycos) in 2003, the company emitted 295,000 tons of emissions, not including the 81,000 tons it emits shipping beans around the world. So yes, Starbucks has a climate impact. But the difference between coffee and bottled water is that there’s a (more or less) carbon-free alternative to bottled water. Unless you’re going to give up coffee, your beans are probably going to be shipped from somewhere. Or is Berger advocating a ban on coffee? Man, what a scold that guy is.
Then he really starts to stretch:
Third, the taste and quality of local water is often impacted by the pipes it travels through. Maybe it’s just me, living in older homes and apartments, but even when filtered, my tap water doesn’t taste as good as most bottled waters. Few can afford to replace their plumbing.
See? Nickels wants to TAX POOR OLD-BUILDING-DWELLERS by forcing them to REPLACE THEIR PLUMBING. It’s a plot, I tell you! Also, it’s impossible for Berger to use ANY of the alternatives:
I tried special ordering mineral water in glass bottles for awhile but could only get it by the case. Have you ever tried lugging a case of glass-bottled water home from the market? I suspect plastic may be better than hauling the bottles home by car.I suspect that too! Fortunately, I have at my desk this thing called the Internet, which is full of handy facts and figures to confirm or disprove unsupported assertions! Here’s what it told me:
The total amount of water used to produce and deliver one bottle of imported water is 6.74kg.. And the amount of GHGs released amount to 250g, or 0.25kg, or 0.00025 tons.
That’s a lot of carbon per bottle! Except that, whoops, driving is actually MUCH worse. Burning just one gallon of gas in a midsized car (let’s assume Berger drives a Subaru, shall we?) puts 20 pounds of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Even if Berger’s only driving a couple of miles, his carbon impact is going to be greater than the impact of the bottle, especially given that cars emit the most CO2 when they’re started up. (His hypothetical drive to the grocery store would mean he has to start his Subaru up twice.)
OK, but even if he were to somehow manage without water in plastic bottles at home, what would he do when he’s out on the street? Drink from a public water fountain, perhaps? No way, Berger says. Not because of concerns about hygiene but because, apparently, public water fountains no longer exist:
You can buy Evian in gas stations and quickie marts now, but where have all the public drinking fountains gone? And how many are maintained in good enough condition that you’d actually want to use them? Downtown Seattle used to have Bubblers on many corners, but no longer.
Translation: Everything was better in Berger’s halcyon 1970s, when nobody lived here and the Nanny Staters™ hadn’t run amok all over Seattle, prying away shoppers’ plastic bags and yanking the 40s from their hands. (Also, I love that Evian is Berger’s idea of fancy).
Where HAVE all the public drinking fountains gone? And what’s the deal with riboflavin?!?
Now, then. See if you can spot the inaccuracies in this next paragraph:
The city has tried to control what types of alcohol can be sold where, it’s cracked down on loud music, smoking, it wants to start charging you for using the “wrong” type of grocery bags, it wants to eliminate fast food from the city, it has employees inspecting your garbage to see if you’re obeying recycling laws, and our elected leaders are just chomping at the bit to start tracking where you drive and when so they can charge you by the mile. Big Nanny is watching.
Give up? Here they are!
2) The “wrong” type of bags? I don’t think he’s quoting anything except his own imagination. What’s actually going on: The city may start charging 20 cents for disposable paper and plastic bags in an effort to get people to switch to reusable bags. Incidentally, the last I checked, the reusable bags at my PCC were going for 73 cents.
3) The city’s banning fast food? That’s news to me. I am aware that the county has banned trans fats in restaurants throughout the county, and that they’re requiring nutritional information on meals in chain restaurants. But a citywide ban on fast food? Scary sounding, but not bloody likely.
4) Employees inspecting your garbage? That’s a stretch. Trash collectors who already work for the city will look into garbage cans and won’t carry the trash away if they’re full of recyclable stuff. Which is, by the way, pretty much what they’ve always done—you won’t get your yard waste picked up if it’s full of candy wrappers, and you won’t get your recycling picked up if it’s full of computer monitors. Setting standards for what goes where isn’t being a “scold”; in fact, it’s exactly the system we’re used to.
5) Finally, drivers can calm down: Seattle leaders aren’t trying to charge you for every mile you drive. What’s actually happening is that King County is looking into pay-as-you-drive insurance—a fairer form of insurance coverage that charges you only for the amount you use your car (unlike conventional insurance plans, which charge infrequent drivers just as much as road hogs.) And they’re implementing a few HOT lanes, which give solo drivers the ability to pay to drive on high-occupancy lanes. All of these innovations work by using an EZ-Tag style transponder—the same kind of transponder long in use in cities across America. Believe me, Knute—Greg Nickels doesn’t care where you’re driving.
In conclusion, Berger writes:
As a mossback, I am not opposed to nativist sympathies — I often share and applaud them. But one of the local traditions I treasure is tolerance, and the idea that there’s more than one way of behaving and looking at the world. That used to be the essence of a vital city, until Singapore, I guess.
To me, one of the few mitigating factors in Seattle’s march toward Manhattanization is the hope that the resulting mess will at least be broadminded, perhaps even creatively fertile. But instead Seattle seems to be on the forefront of a new kind of urbanism that demands we adopt its least appealing qualities (crowding, high cost) and eschew its virtues (broadmindedness, variety). Instead, we’ve got a dense city full of scolds and micromanagers.
Do Berger and I live in the same city? It sure doesn’t seem that way. True, I’ve only lived here seven years (not enough time for that moss to grow on my back), but I’ve never felt “crowded.” (Perhaps Berger needs a bigger place?) And the only times I’ve ever felt “scolded” were when people gave me dirty looks for jaywalking (usually in the rain). And that kind of scolding is actually a vestige of the bygone Seattle mossbacks like Berger want to recapture.