Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carbon Dating

Yesterday while listening to National Public Radio two stories caught my attention. One made my head hurt. Actually lots of current news makes my head hurt, but this particularly story sent me into a tizzy. It seems that the MGM Mirage CityCenter opened this week in Las Vegas. This is a gargantuan 19 million square foot complex occupying 68 acres -- three times the size of the Pentagon. And we know that the Pentagon is way too big, so who could cook up such a crazy complex. Apparently the CEO of MGM mirage (I wish he were a mirage). He wanted to build "a chunk of midtown Manhattan in the desert."

This project cost $8.5 billion, half leveraged by the collapsing Dubai World. But here is the part that makes your head explode. This is the world's largest project built to LEED green building standards. This project was recognized for being "sustainable." How is that possible? LEED certification allows access to state and local incentives. This is absurd. The NPR reporter partly redeemed the story by interviewing an L.A. Times critic, who said "One of the most basic rules of sustainability is that you build only as much as you need." I think we learned that in Kindergarten.

Which leads me to the next story: greenness in Britain. Children there are leading the way -- as they do everywhere -- encouraging more energy efficiency, recycling, reuse, and the rest. It seems though that even the greenest kids, start to lose their way as they reach adolescence and into adulthood. And politicians? Copenhagen says it all. So, a non-profit group in Britain is promoting carbon dating. Maybe to see if some of these politicians are really fossils. No, no, not that kind of carbon dating. They are encouraging people to go on carbon dates: spend a day together cycling instead of driving, eat vegetarian food together, or enjoy a candlelight dinner instead of turning on lots of lights. And a mechanical engineer wants to grow algae on buildings and construct forests of artificial trees to absorb CO2. Maybe the Vegas CityCenter can be covered in algae, creating a different kind of "green certification."

Meanwhile, I am staying home for a carbon date.

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