National & State Park Decision Process

 

blog 4.jpg

The national and state parks systems function in fundamentally different ways although to serve a very similar purpose.  They both maintain and manage large areas of land for conserving the wonders of the natural environment and to promote a positive visitor experience. The National Park Service (NPS) focuses on nationally significant features with a focus on an educational visitor experience. State parks on the other hand extend this visitor experience to encompass all recreational demands such as camping, biking, fishing, using off road vehicles and more. One interesting note, on the NPS’s mission, is that they are striving, in the 21st century, to bring national parks closer to people and dense urban centers to captivate a wider audience. This contrasts greatly from their original mission to bring the people to the parks.

The decision-making process with in the National Park Service is very political and has many checks and process’s. In summary, the process of land decisions starts with a general management plan. This is where the park is zoned, like a city, in a fashion that indicates environmentally sensitive areas, event prone areas, and suitable stable areas for visitor use. This plan is sent through review by several parties, including local tribes, the NPS office, public forums, state agencies and any other interested parties. A visitor use plan is created by the park managers and is part of the general management plan, this is where changes to camping areas and visitor access is planned and maintained. Visitors can influence these plans when they are released to the public for comment. Given the extensive process these documents go through they are infrequently updated and on average are reviewed every 10-15 years by the NPS unless more urgent attention is brought forward.

The Washington State Parks (WSP) could not be more different than the National Park Service. In 2013 general funding for the state parks was eliminated and the WSP was looked at to generate their own revenue. WSP generates most of its revenue through the sale of Discovery Passes and camping/ parking permits. Because of the need to be self-sustaining WSP functions in many ways like a private company. If changes to the existing parks are to be considered, they are accompanied by analysis and reports since the WSP must consider the profitability of all decisions. This could be good news for some campers as it should promote more capital investments to provide more recreation opportunities within the parks to increase revenues.

Advertisements

Costing Carbon & Measuring Success

A Feb 5th editorial in the Seattle Times, Lawmakers should push forward on carbon-tax plan, described a mindful effort by legislators to establish responsible accounting methods for carbon impacts through SB 6203’s proposed tax. The article also addresses concerns of some who say that a carbon tax “won’t work.” On Feb 22, a substitute version of this bill was passed and sent back to committee, which is where it sits today.

After years of speculation on similar proposals that failed to pass, I wonder: How can we project the potential ‘success’ of any carbon tax?

From my perspective, if the 2018 session can pass an equitable carbon tax supported by our Legislature and Gov. Inslee, who supports the current initiative, that alone will be a major success. In the long-term, however, the efficacy of a carbon tax can’t be assessed solely in its ability to reduce emissions. The tax is not a magic bullet, but an effort to measure and ameliorate the impacts of industry, inefficient operational energy use, and new construction.

In Jay Talton’s article The cost of carbon: Pay now or pay later, he writes: “doing nothing will cost more than doing something.” We continue to build at an unprecedented rate, and emissions levels are a complex symptom of many factors. Whether gross emissions rise, level-out, or decrease, a carbon tax will be successful if it assigns value to natural resources and creates a funding stream to reduce the burden of emissions on the ecology that we share.

SB 6203 may or may not help our state meet emissions reduction goals, incentivize efficiency, or drive market innovation on its own. However, the proposed tax has plenty of potential to do these things alongside a body of new and existing initiatives. Carbon tax: Taking the lead and other recent news pieces recognize this potential, calling for complementary policies and a holistic approach alongside a carbon tax.

In the past decade, our state has taken incredible strides in setting best-practice ecology accounting precedents: Washington industry has increased recycling capacity. Products with Environmental Product Declarations are increasing exponentially (EPD’s are a way of accounting for emissions of their product’s life cycles and supply chains). Our region has been globally recognized for initiatives like Seattle’s Sustainable Buildings and Sites policy and Living Building Pilot project.  A network of public and private ecological restoration efforts continually steward our magnificent waterways, forests, and wildlife corridors.

No initiative stands alone, and these examples demonstrate that our state is capable of collaborative action. A carbon tax, alongside improvements to existing programs and emerging bipartisan efforts like HB 2412 and HB 2407 (which address embodied carbon in public and infrastructure projects), will increase Washington’s capacity to reduce operational and embodied emissions while developing a robust and flexible set of tools to address climate change. This multifaceted capacity is a true measure of success.

*I submitted a 240-word version of the above opinion to the Seattle Times last week. Since they didn’t publish it, I’ve updated and shared it here. While it is hard to get opinions published, it has been valuable to practice writing letters, and to research upcoming bills in conjunction with our class’s readings!

Influencing Behaviors through the Wallet

CarbonWA’s Intiative 732, which proposed a revenue-neutral carbon tax scheme in Washington State, was touted as a major first step towards drastically decreasing carbon levels and fossil fuel usage. Though it was ultimately defeated, it got me thinking about how people often require economic incentives or punishment to be compelled to change their behavior. In the case of the initiative, businesses and individuals would be financially punished for using fossil fuels. The hope behind this policy is that since it is financially disadvantageous, they would strive to use less and less of it.

This concept of reward and punishment could be applied to other behaviors we try to promote and lessen. One behavior that cities try to promote is using public transportation. Perhaps everyone who chooses to ride public transportation will get a rebate at the end of the end of the month. It could be 5% back every month on whatever is spent on public transportation. This would require people to use the Orca Card as a method of tracking it but there shouldn’t be too much extra cost to implement since the card infrastructure would be in place. On the other hand, since driving is seen as a less desirable behavior, there could be a punishment levied on those that choose to drive. This could be implemented as a 5% tax on gas at gas stations since most cars require gas. This 5% tax would help to offset the public transportation rebate. Though it will not deter people who absolutely need to drive, if a person could choose between gaining a 5% rebate by ride public transportation versus paying 5% in tax by using a car, people would be more likely to choose the public transportation option.

Rideshare: the Cheaper Alternative to Using Public Transit

Uber and other rideshare companies have tapped into a market of door-to-door service that makes life easier, more efficient, and arguably more environmentally friendly. As we expand further into the world of a sharing economy, ideas on the subject are being expanded further to support new, cheaper, and more efficient ways of traveling. Uber rolled out UberPool a few years ago, which essentially offers a cheaper alternative to UberX and simulates a traditional carpool, yet with people you may not know. This in itself is much more economical than UberX, however, this past week, Uber announced Uber Express Pool, which will be 50% cheaper than UberPool and 75% cheaper than UberX. The only catch is that you will meet fellow carpoolers at a centralized pickup spot where you meet your car. The price-to-effort trade-off surely seems worth it for the new version of Uber.

For many, Uber’s upgrades may seem to be compelling and convenient, however for local transit, like the bus, Link and train networks in Seattle, these rideshare options may be infringing upon revenue. UberPool is already comparable in price to taking the bus in Seattle, and Express Pool will surely be an even cheaper option. This creates problems for city-run transit, who cannot easily lower prices for riders without cutting back on many other aspects of service. Further, local transit options are necessary to mitigate traffic, lower emissions, sustain a transit infrastructure around which city development is already being built, and provide services to those who cannot pay to ride.

In looking at carbon taxing, a possible solution that presents itself is tax based on possible ridership. If all vehicles are taxed, and the increment of amount of possible riders varies greatly, vehicles that allow for more riders should be able to have a lower rate than those of a traditional car. This system would allow rideshares to continue with lowered prices, yet allow public transit to maintain its role in the city’s infrastructure and economy, creating an environment where everyone benefits from changes to our transportation options.

Carbon Tax will not be the only way to reduce carbon emission

From a climate change point of view, levying a carbon tax, an environmental tax or an energy tax are all designed to slow down the global warming. They also help consumers to value the use of energy and promote green industries by means of the price.

Every carbon-product purchased by consumers, which means users have to pay an environmental tax in order to reduce the user’s willingness to buy this product. However, the current implementation of the carbon tax (which is not yet available in Taiwan which similar to the energy tax under discussion) focuses on fossil fuels (such as gasoline and coal), that is, products with high carbon emissions, but not all carbon emissions products are involved. Taiwan and the rest of the world are still more commonly used carbon footprints. That is, the producers label the products how much carbon they emit or how much energy they use t, so customers can choose relatively low-carbon products.

However, levying the taxes will not be the only way to reduce carbon emission. Other non-tax carbon measures will also work well when they combine with the tax system. I think for Taiwan; carbon prices must be priced as early as possible to achieve the goal of reducing carbon emissions. Also, there are many policies and measures that can also effetely reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, strict energy consumption standards for vehicles, the implementation of a carbon control system and a trading system allow the factories to reduce their carbon emissions or certain sections only letting public transport, Sharing Passenger system or bus to pass in the city and so on.

To sum up, the purpose of the carbon tax or the energy and environmental tax is to ” tax less or none” so that the entire society can gradually get rid of relying on fossil fuels. When the price of energy is gradually rationalized, everyone will naturally regard energy conservation as a matter in order to avoid costing more money, and will make the overall Taiwan society take a big step toward the future of a low-carbon economy.

Revenue neutrality: a strategy for climate change

Revenue neutrality could be a smart strategy to reduce the emission of greenhouse. It transforms the abstract issue of climate change into more tangible goals in daily life based on the nature flow of giving and receiving. Since climate change is a complex and long-term progress, it is hard for people to get obvious and direct feedback or rewards when taking actions like reducing the use of fossil-fuel. When the price of fossil-fuel raises, while the rebate of users also increase, it goes into a balance condition as tax shifting. However, under this circumstance, if people reduce the use of fossil-fuel, they would get the rebates which could be tangible economic benefit from the decline of greenhouse gases emission. In this sense, the tax policy transforms the global-scaled goal in to human-scaled one, which is achieved by taking advantage of human nature for interests. This could be one reason for the success of British Columbia’s carbon tax. In the same way, it also could be one of  reasons for the hard enacting of I-732. Just as Yoram Bauman mentioned the desire to tie everything to bigger government, I-732 is trying to kill two birds with one stone—using the revenue from carbon tax to solve the problem of low-incomes—which actually breaks the nature flow of giving and receiving. In fact, the group of paying increasing carbon tax is very different from the group of getting rewards. Even though considering moral and social issues, it is hard to enact due to the lack of interest-driven.

Problems Caused By The Takeout Industry

In the recent 4 to 5 years, the takeout industry raised at a very fast speed in China. A company called “ele.me” which founded in 2008 and its financing reached nearly 2 billion 340 million dollars until last year. More and more people in China are getting used to ordering food from APPs especially college students and office workers who do not have time to cook for themselves.

Behind the huge economic benefits, a series of environmental problems followed the development of this kind of company. The use of disposable containers and one-off chopsticks are increased remarkable which caused serious environmental problems.

Compared to lots of takeout containers in United State which made from paper, the containers in China mostly are plastic. One reason is that lots of takeout food in China have soup and paper are not the good container for it. Besides, millions of people order food through that APP every day, it is hard to recycle or reuse those containers.

As far as I know, for now, the Green Volunteer League of Chongqing sued “ele.me” and other two similar companies in Sep. 2017 because of its damage to the environment. They requested those company should charge the use of disposable containers in order to control the consuming of it. However, it is not enough.

Inspired by I-732, I think China should also tax those company in order to control the emission of CO2.

  • Firstly, if the government taxes usage of takeout containers, the company itself will try to reduce the cost that might stop plastic providing containers by free.
  • Secondly, the price of the food might raise which will decline the number of people who choose to use those APP.
  • Last but not least, restaurants could learn from Starbucks. Starbucks has a policy that “BRING YOUR OWN TUMBLER ($0.10 DISCOUNT)”. In China, if you bring your own tumbler, you could save 8% when you purchase a cup of coffee. The restaurants could also encourage people to bring their own container for takeout food.