Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Concrete ideas

Assorted thoughts collected while pondering the number of weeds growing in the cracks on the street in front of my house:

Big environmental problems often have Silly, arcane, boring or ambiguous names. Noxious weeds - sure, I guess. Impervious surfaces - what? Aquifer recharge - zzzzz. Light pollution - you mean light bulbs or not heavy?

But they're all connected. Check this out:

Take your run-of-the-mill parking lot. What have you got? Room for 200 cars, a lot of asphalt, five or six islands with shrimpy trees, a bunch of light poles and a couple of drains.

Take your typical street. What have you got? Miles of asphalt (or sometimes concrete), trees along the edges if you're lucky and occasional drains.

Take your typical sidewalk. What have you got? I think you can see where I'm going with this.

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Now, I'm not saying let's just tear everything down and live in yurts, but any one of these three surfaces - parking lots, streets and sidewalks - can be built to allow the water that falls on them to go somewhere that isn't a storm drain. Retrofitting is another matter, but I have seen parking lots that have filtration systems under the asphalt to get all the phosphates and oil to land somewhere besides the nearest stream.

I know it could mean fewer places to park, but my feelings wouldn't be hurt if parking lots had more trees in them, by which I mean more trees tall enough to provide shade. And lights that are shielded so they don't spread the wealth to the sky.

With enough places reinvented to cut down on the amount of asphalt exposed to the sun, maybe we could also stop using the ground as a big passive solar heating system. I know my Newfoundlands are a lot happier when the night cool sets in, but that's always slower when you live in a place with lots of pavement.

So that's the lite version of my manifesto on pavement. I could, of course, go on and on, in much greater detail. Just buy me a glass of bourbon sometime if you'd like to hear the whole spiel.

2 comments:

Greg said...

Pervious concrete is a technology being widely investigate in the US for sidewalks, parking lots and curb & gutter.

But pervious concrete has also shown promise in improving water quality by killing/filter out pathogens, oxidizing organic chemicals and precipitating metals (which is also useful in recovering metals from acid mine drainage).

Greg said...

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