Editor’s note: This a sequel to our last edition of Savvy Stacks. Check out related recommendations by Ruth Jackson Hall in Get Involved in Your Community’s Future: Books That Will Spark Your Thinking in our December edition.
Truckee may be rural, but it is a smart, progressive, and globally conscious community taking action on climate change with a target of reducing greenhouse gases 80 percent by 2040. An excellent way to support this effort is through participation in the general plan update with an eye toward increasing walkability. Cars and trucks account for nearly one-fifth of all U.S. emissions, and the best way to lower vehicle trips is to provide alternatives, such as walking, biking, and mass transit. This decreases emissions, while addressing other issues in our increasingly busy community, such as traffic congestion, parking, and preserving community character. Downtown Truckee is the epicenter for these issues and a great place for solutions. The three books reviewed here are excellent idea generators on these topics as well as great reads.
Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change
Elizabeth Kolbert, Bloomsbury, 2006
Scientific research on climate change began in the 1850s when Irish physicist John Tyndall discovered “the natural greenhouse effect.” Interest caught on in the U.S. in the 1970s with growing concerns about air pollution, and riveted national attention in 1992 with the publication of Sen. Al Gore’s book, Earth in the Balance, whereupon climate change became politicized. Increased politicization in the last two years makes it necessary today to continue making the case for global warming. A way to beef up on facts and compelling examples can be found in this Pulitzer Prize-winning book that describes climate incidents that have occurred throughout history on multiple continents. An example of how ancient carbon is stored and released into the atmosphere is particularly fascinating. For thousands of years when trees and plants died in the Arctic, they didn’t fully decompose in the cold temperatures. These old plants were pushed down into the permafrost and new plants grew on top of them in repeated cycles. In Fairbanks, Alaska, green grass is being found in permafrost dating back to the middle of the last ice age. The rapid melting of permafrost is causing the release of greenhouse gases frozen for millennia. Kolbert also differentiates climate change due to natural causes, such as extended droughts that triggered the collapse of ancient civilizations, from human-caused climate change that is resulting in a rapid extinction of species. She points to the U.S. — the largest emitter of greenhouse gases — turning its back on climate action, including the Kyoto Protocol in 2005 and now, with the recent U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, and notes that local action is critical.
Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places
Jeff Speck, Island Books, 2018
Jeff Speck’s book Walkable Cities, which we reviewed in December, presented theory and research behind walkability. His new book turns theory into action. Laid out in 101 concise chapters, it is a blueprint for achieving walkability by tackling its number one impediment — the automobile. Just glancing through the chapter titles, this book seems to have been written for Truckee: Invest in attainable housing downtown, eliminate on-site parking requirements, do a walkability study, price parking based on its value, redesign your bus network, and more. Rule 78 — put street trees almost everywhere — lays out the multiple roles trees play. They protect sidewalks, reduce crashes, shape space, absorb storm water, absorb UV and pollutants, improve property values, and improve retail viability and public health.
Preserving and Enhancing Communities: A guide for Citizens, Planners, and Policymakers
Edited by Hamin, Geigis and Silka 2007
This compilation of writings addresses an issue all evolving communities grapple with: how to balance growth and development, while preserving what is best about a community. For instance, it is hard to think about Truckee without its iconic vistas: Martis Valley, the Truckee River, Donner Lake, and Mount Rose, to name a few. And there are also more subtle land features that add value. In the chapter, “Historic landscape preservation: saving community character,” I was brought back to a moment years ago, driving my son to Truckee Elementary, heading down Highway 89 south to Donner Pass Road, and his shock at seeing a huge empty dirt lot where, the day before, there had been a large grove of trees. The Safeway parking lot was under construction. An arbor of trees is not only lovely, it converts carbon dioxide into oxygen, especially along busy roads and highways. One way to preserve what is special about Truckee is to identify and save landmark and historic landscapes, as the town has done with McIver Meadow. Some communities have on-staff arborists, inventories, and regulations to preserve individual trees and greenspaces. Many species of older trees and greenery are slow-growing and for decades have resisted natural challenges such as “freeze-drying,” breakage from heavy snow, wind, and bears climbing into tree branches. The beautiful lilac stands so prevalent in the hills above downtown, the wild yellow roses at the Veterans Hall, and iconic trees along Commercial Row and in old neighborhoods are important to Truckee’s character. Preserving landscapes keeps our air and waterways clean and maintains what is unique about our town.