From the Archives: Smart Growth Then, Climate Now?

Rummaging through an old box yesterday I stumbled across an old videotape of a speech I gave way back around 1999 or 2000 at a conference of the Hubert Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota, and I decided, what the heck, I’ll digitize it and throw it up here for several purposes.

First, the jokes killed.  Even with a liberal audience.  (I was about the sole conservative on the two-day program, though I recall Vin Weber was in the audience and was a friendly face to repair to when things got crazy.)

Second, the topic, “Smart Growth,” will seem somewhat archaic about now.  Remember “Smart Growth” and the deep concern, amounting to mania, about “suburban sprawl”?  It was all the rage in the late 1990s.  One year, I recall (perhaps 1998 or 1999), the Sierra Club declared sprawl to be the single most important environmental problem facing America.  That’s back when enviros supposed that the recently-signed Kyoto Protocol had solved climate change, because we had signed a piece of paper!

So in viewing this talk, in which I point out how the smart growthers were ignoring political reality, you can easily swap out “climate change” for “sprawl,” and give the same speech today.  And just as easy to imagine that at some point a decade or two from now, much of the climate change discourse of our time will look equally absurd, and the long-suffering critics vindicated.

I only posted the first half of the talk—about 8 minutes worth—here, because this contains most of the best jokes and main points.  The sound track is slightly off at the beginning but slowly seems to catch up.  (I guess this is what happens when you convert from old analog VHS tapes to digital?)  The second half, omitted here, gets mostly into some technical aspects of the issue that are of little interest today.  And oh yeah, to point out the obvious, I still had some hair then, though it was fading fast.

P.S. I found a whole bunch of old videotapes, some from TV as far back as the mid-1980s—one of them featuring me interviewing the chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a fellow named Clarence Thomas.  If I have enough to drink, I might be persuaded to post a few more just for grins.


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