By Robert Gammon, East Bay Express, July 1, 2009

Global warming is changing far more than just the climate. It’s altering the way environmentalists view

Conceptual rendering of Berkeley's proposed downtown plan.

Conceptual rendering of Berkeley's proposed downtown plan.

development. For years, city dwellers who consider themselves to be eco-conscious have used environmental laws and arcane zoning rules to block new home construction, especially apartments and condominiums. In the inner East Bay, liberals have justified their actions by railing against gentrification and portraying developers as profiteers. But the lack of urban growth in Berkeley and in parts of Oakland during the past few decades also has contributed to suburban sprawl and long commutes. And all those freeways choked with cars are now the single biggest cause of greenhouse gas emissions in the region.

In case you’re wondering, ‘NIMBY’ stands for “not in my back yard”, a syndrome that effects many who consider themselves environmentalists but focus on preserving land instead of using it efficiently. While the ‘no growth’ stance may have made sense 30 years ago, before the threat of climate change had reached the awareness of the mainstream, we have to readjust our definition of ‘green’ to deal with the realities of global warming in a state that faces population growth and a real need to help people live in a more sustainable way. Whether we like it or not, this lifestyle will be an increasingly urban one. The good news is that we probably will like it. If we do encourage housing in downtowns, mixed use, walkable developments with access to transit, chances are, we will drive our cars a lot less and use the gas money we’ve saved on an extra Latte or two. Our friends at Livable Berkeley (oft quoted in this piece) are advocating exactly this kind of future for the city of Berkeley and beyond. Stay tuned for further news on what they’re doing to help Berkeley residents track and reduce their Vehicle Miles Traveled.