John Mott-Smith Credit: Davis Enterprise

This column, written by John Mott-Smith, a member of Cool Davis is cross-posted from the Davis Enterprise. Is this a great town, or what? Even after living here for 30-plus years I keep finding new reasons to be impressed. We may not live near the ocean, or enjoy the clear mountain air, but this is a special place.

A NON-TAXABLE BIKE RIDE: On May 5, Davis Waste Removal held a free shredding event at its facility on Second Street, which is, in and of itself, a great service. While waiting for my turn in a long line of cars, each with boxes filled with old tax returns and other documents, I couldn’t help but be impressed by the guy in front of me — on a bike, with his box of documents in his front basket. I wish I’d have thought of that.

MORE ABOUT WASTE: It’s very sad; neighbors of 25-plus years on either side of our house are moving. One couple is headed for Tahoe. The others are moving to another part of town and needed to dispose of a huge television set their son had obtained years ago before moving into his own home in the Bay Area.

It turns out thrift stores won’t take TVs over a certain size as a donation and this one was so big my neighbor asked my help to load it into a pickup truck and take it to the electronic recycling bins at the dump (another service that is, in and of itself, very special).

Maybe everyone else knows this, but I did not. In conjunction with the household hazardous waste drop-off events every Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., the landfill offers reusable products for free.

Bottles, jars, and cans that contain common household products and are at least half full are taken out of the waste stream and set aside on shelves in a separate building where they are available for free to anyone who wants them.

The shelves are organized according to the type of material in the container, so one shelf unit has paint (interior, exterior, primer) and paint products, another garden materials (fertilizer, snail bait, etc.), and a couple have stuff you might use in the house (lots of cleaners, floor polish, rug cleaner, water softeners, etc.).

The staff member said nothing stays on the shelf very long: “If you see something you want, you’d better grab it, because everything goes very quickly.”

HOW DENSE ARE WE? The Enterprise recently published census data (organized and analyzed by the estimable Jeff Hudson) that included some very interesting information about our community, some of which is pertinent to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions.

First, the Davis area (the city, UC Davis, El Macero, Willowbank and Binning tract) contains nearly 75,000 people. It wasn’t too long ago (1980s) that the city was talking about trying to cap its population at 50,000 to maintain the “small town” atmosphere and preserve agricultural land.

The “slow growth” movement did have an effect on population, and there is a target (low) for desired rate of growth, but some forces (e.g. university admissions) are beyond the policy control of city officials.

Davis, with 5,156 people per square mile, is No. 6 on the list of urbanized areas in the United States with the greatest population density

Second, and most startling to me, the city of Davis, with 5,156 people per square mile, is No. 6 on the list of urbanized areas in the United States with the greatest population density, behind major metropolitan areas such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Jose. And the city of Woodland, with 4,451, is No. 9.

The Yolo County policy of protecting agriculture and directing growth to urban areas has been very successful. One good thing about this level of density is that Davis doesn’t feel crowded. Another good thing is that density offers opportunities to improve the quality of life through mixed-use development and the potential for every housing unit to be located within easy walking or cycling distance of basic daily needs.

Over the years, planners and community leaders have built an infrastructure that favors energy efficiency and provides a foundational infrastructure for energy-efficient community development to reach the greenhouse gas reduction targets in our Climate Action Plan.

TOWN AND GOWN: In 1976, Amory Lovins coined the term “soft energy paths” to point us to a future where power is provided by solar and other renewable energy sources. He’s been advocating this ever since, and he recently gave a talk at UC Davis about his new book “Reinventing Fire.”

Suffice it to say his “think and do” tank, the Rocky Mountain Institute, has had an enormous effect on energy use; working with the military, large corporations and governments around the world to promote energy efficiency and renewables. He’s optimistic that market forces alone, without the need for government action, will bring about a rapid transformation to a non-fossil fuel-dependent world.

He points out that we live in a time of rapid change, and asks us to consider the examples of the typewriter (replaced by a computer) and the land line phone (replaced by mobile phones) when we get gloomy about resistance to change by the fossil fuel industry.