San Antonio house hunting — planet Earth, what's that?

© 2017 Peter Free


19 July 2017



Profligate environmental unconcern in south Texas?


I last lived in San Antonio 19 years ago. Return has me noticing changes that remind me how different the American view of environmental consciousness is, as compared to the northern European (especially German) one. Even without that comparison, I would be concerned that we Americans are taking a bit too much for granted with regard to the planet that supports humanity.


For example, if house hunting in the San Antonio metropolitan area is indicative, South Texas appears to flaunt lack of concern with preserving green space and maximizing efficient energy use. None of the many new San Antonio housing developments that I have seen incorporates green space. Two honest real estate agents that we talked to admitted (on pointed questioning) that one should buy a house recognizing that all the green in and around them will be leveled for yet more construction. In many areas, the vista is already wall-to-wall roofs.


Inefficiently high, vaulted ceilings mark most of these homes. These very substantial wasted spaces put an obviously unnecessary strain on air conditioning. Water waste shows up in irrigation systems (instead of xeriscaping) in the cheek-by-jowl (sometimes mandatory) wood-wasting fenced yards.


More broadly speaking, new housing developments pop up seemingly endlessly and are (apparently) essentially unregulated, at least from a land use perspective. The infrastructure necessary to support this booming development is not yet in place, which means that commuters wind up idling in fuel-wasting traffic jams.


Somewhat indicatively, the real estate agents I talked to mostly didn't know where the developments' water came from. And those who did, did not seem to realize that the water supply is under increasing pressure, with the City implementing efforts to desalinize a brackish aquifer to supplement the previously sole source Edwards Aquifer.



The moral? — Germany and Texas exhibit interestingly different environmental perspectives


Wind turbines and solar are everywhere in southern Germany, the latter so despite the region's penchant for cloudy weather. Building codes emphasize energy efficiency, and German cars (despite the roaring Autobahn) are, on average, more efficient than ours.


While there, I especially noticed how the Germans preserve their small towns and the omnipresent southern German forests that separate them. The government owns these woodlands, and the paths and logging roads within them are open to the public.


San Antonio Metro seems the reverse. I see little in the way solar development (despite the ideal location) and virtually no wind development. The environment, generally, seems not to generate much action-prompting concern. The emphasis, instead, appears to be on exploitation now. Which is the characteristically the American view of things.


I imagine that our future will be quite different from our past, as resource constraints begin to bite. When that will be, I don't know. But the pace of San Antonio's unrestricted and unconcerned booming growth is at least impressionistically concerning. I feel more comfortable with the northern European model, which appears to take a longer term view of preservation.