This conversation about politics, mitigation, habitat protection and development did not start at the Voice or by Developers.

Truth is, it started a long time ago and has been here all along.

It was first recorded by Plato in the “Republic” in the debate between Socrates and Thrasymachus who claimed he was the pragmatist and Socrates but a dreamer.  

Thrasymachus, the realist, moved with the power people and got things done while Socrates, babbling like a child about truth and justice, could never hold the levers of real power which alone enables one to be effective. It is called Realpolitik today.

And truth is, this conversation will be with us as long as man inhabits earth. Question is will we bring it out in open or let it stay hidden behind Developer facades?

We are indebted to the Voice for bringing  out in the open what we in San Diego refuse to talk about.

What we refuse to see and talk about  is the contest between power and justice over property rights, city building, farm and wilderness preservation, resource use, transit, and climate change. This unspoken conversation lurks behind every city project that doesn’t have transit; behind every rural project that is served by  freeways; behind every freeway enhancement project; behind every fake bike and walk project; behind all managed lane projects; behind a parking garage instead of transit to airport; behind the fact we can’t double track the coaster in 50 years.

In San Diego the current semblance of debate goes something like this:

The so called realists (SD planners) claim that you cannot challenge or change POWER; ALL you can do is mitigate its harmful effects by dealing with symptoms. Thus, in the current great debate over habitat destruction we, in San Diego, never deal with the cause - the disease of bad city building called sprawl; rather we mitigate symptoms of this land use disease by buying habitat. Problem is, the cause remains untouched and  the question then remains: does buying replacement habitat actually equal land lost? And if you don’t deal with the  cause won’t things keep getting worse?  And do you really save land by buying it? The assumption behind answering yes to all these questions is acceptance of the fact that POWER dominates politics, unchecked development is unstoppable and all land is already lost in San Diego.

While there is some truth in the above assumption, the fact is these are NOT ENVIRONMENTAL questions; nor is arguing over the value of habitat acquisition  an ENVIRONMENTAL  debate. These are development questions and development debates; we refuse to deal with the real question of urban growth boundaries and good city building.  Instead we quibble over degree of MITIGATION.  I submit again that arguing over mitigation means you’ve already joined Thrasymachus in the power vs. justice  debate.

The environmental threat to the San Diego’s forest was settled by a DEVELOPMENT plan that limited development to country towns. It worked; no mitigation; no habitat acquisition; no problems. It worked.

It works in Portland, too. They do not have this fake-environmental-saving-the-land debate in Oregon because they have a DEVELOPMENT SOLUTION CALLED URBAN GROWTH BOUNDARIES (see page 32) and they’re on track to meet the 2050 80% GHG reduction goal!

How about we use the Portland model and return to the development debate?

By Duncan McFetridge