Ellen Dunham-Jones: Retrofitting Suburbia

This is not just another advocate for change, but someone that can talk about the blueprint for what to do with the problems of suburbia.   Ms. Dunham-Jones brings up an interesting point.  Can municipal government finance the reconstruction of our soils?  It really depends on what what you define as reconstruction.  Austin is 270 square miles, excluding the ETJ.   Travis County is 1,047 square miles.  Depending on the scope of ‘reconstruction’ for environmental function, this could between $8,000 and $30,000 per acre.  $8,000 per acre would represent just mineral additions to the soil in accordance with Exchange Capacity Testing, which is very similar to what the soil biology needs for balanced growth.  At 640 acres/square mile, that can quickly get into the billions of dollars range.  This is a very simplistic calculation and lacks tremendous sophistication.  What is really hard however, is to get the more natural water flows over the surface right.  Roads are fairly permanent and are rarely disrupted.  The same with property lot lines.  How can we orchestrate swales and berms over a watershed area if not all property owners and decision makers are on board?  If we don’t take that step, the investment in minerals could easily be washed downstream.  Wicked problems.

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