On The Money,
Economic Advice for the 99%;
The Sick Ideas Behind Healthy Humboldt
Listening to Dennis Huber’s Monday Morning Magazine show on KMUD last week, I heard the voice of a representative of Healthy Humboldt talking about the thrilling conclusion of the Humboldt County General Plan Update. While the endless acrimonious bickering on this issue highlights the complete failure of county government and private enterprise to address the county’s housing needs, or provide good stewardship for the resources and lands of Humboldt County, Healthy Humboldt’s cheerful proclamation that they advocate for “sustainability” particularly irked me.
I know they mean well, and I understand their reasoning: If we encourage people to live closer together, and closer to jobs, services, and public transportation, we can lower Humboldt County’s carbon footprint. However, a lower carbon footprint does not equal sustainability, not even close. The county goes to great lengths to prohibit sustainable housing, and even greater lengths to encourage resource exploitation and consumption. Healthy Humboldt wouldn’t dare suggest the county operate in any other way.
So, whether you’re an egghead ecofascist, a greedy fuck-all real-estate developer or a blood-sucking dope yuppie, you’ve got your head up your ass when it comes to sustainability in Humboldt County. The same goes for the bureaucracies in Eureka who issue permits and enforce the reams of pointless and arcane regulations the county has already adopted. These people have already made an unholy mess of Humboldt County, and this GPU won’t change that one bit.
Face it, as a culture, we have no idea how to live on this planet sustainably. Most of our building codes and housing standards were established in the post WWII boom years, the period of the greatest increase in American consumption, and before the concept of a finite planet ever crept into the American psyche. Today, building codes still largely reflect the values and attitudes of that bygone era.
The whole point of building codes was not to make homes “safer” or whatever, but to make them cost more, use more stuff, keep more people busy, and waste more water, energy, space and resources. In other words, building codes were established to spur growth in the economy. The entire regulatory system was designed to make housing less sustainable, and it has been fantastically successful. They gave us suburban sprawl, gridlock, and homelessness. They’ve made homes so expensive that most people can no longer afford one.
As a result, people have become slaves to their homes, if they haven’t already lost everything to their home, through foreclosure. They’ve successfully turned “home”, which should be a place of comfort, security, and sanctuary, into a source of stress, anxiety and endless toil. This is a remarkable achievement, even if it is not exactly something to be proud of.
We should acknowledge the county government, land developers, the construction industry, real-estate agents, appraisers, bankers and mortgage brokers for their role in generating an enormous amount of unnecessary economic activity by making life suck for so many people. They really deserve more than a token of our appreciation.
If you are homeless, facing foreclosure, struggling to make payments on an underwater mortgage or throwing your money away on rent in an overpriced housing market, you should know that it’s not by accident. Some people believe that it is more important for them to make more money, that it is for you to have a place to live, and those are the people bickering over the Humboldt GPU.
No, no one at the table at the GPU wants to see hillsides dotted with cabins, shacks, yurts and teepees. No one involved with the GPU wants to return to the days of out-houses and pit latrines, but that’s what sustainability looks like. That’s what home should look like, simple, tidy, and homemade. That is what the Humboldt County General Plan exists to prohibit; sensible homes built by hand, from local materials by the people who intend to live in them. Instead, the county employs a small army of personnel to insure that everyone in Humboldt County, lives up to their unrealistic expectations born in an era of unrestrained, bewilderingly wasteful consumption.
They all want housing costs to continue to rise because they all want more money for themselves, more money for their land, more money for their existing homes, more expensive new homes, more grants for Healthy Humboldt and more revenue for Humboldt County bureaucrats. They don’t care whether or not you have a home, or what kind of torture you endure to keep it.
Everyone involved in this seemingly endless saga with the GPU deserves your contempt, as does the GPU itself. You deserve a home, and not one that you have to spend half of your waking hours at work to afford. There’s a view of the Humboldt GPU that’s on the money.