Bill O'Driscoll 
Member since Jan 23, 2008



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Re: “Pittsburgh's p4 Summit Touts Sustainability, Leaves Issues Unexplored

John -- Thanks for your comments and clarifications. I'm sorry if you feel I misrepresented some of your points or was unaware of pertinent information. I have to say that while I am often accused of excessive irony myself, I didn't pick up on some of your intended ironies. (For instance, while I didn't think you were truly slagging off Rachel Carson, it did seem to me you were genuinely saying we were past the need to focus on "calling 911." Obviously, we need solutions as well as alarms.) Additionally, while I was not previously familiar with your work, I did see your presentation, and did grasp your concern about resource limits. What escaped me, however, was a clearer sense of what you mean by "resource-based economics," or in what fundamental way they would differ from the economics we have now. I have to say, for example, that I did not gather that the concept was critique of "growth" as a standard for success, let alone that it made a case for "steady-state" economics or the like. Admittedly, this disconnect might have been partly due to the limitations of the summit's format. But while the idea of "unrestrained" growth might have been off the table at the summit, as you say, it's hard to imagine that too many attendees walked away thinking that sustainability as discussed there poses any threat to the regime of economic growth as we have known it -- not when the air is one of general boosterism, and you're hearing quotes like "we do understand the economic opportunities of making change" (Gabe Klein) and "efficiency is a huge, largely untapped resource ... and I hope you all make a lot of money at it" (Amory Lovins). In fact, the summit's unspoken motto might well have been "sustainability will help us grow," but without any real modification to our sense of what growth can or should be. (Side note: You cited Phipps' CSL as an example of an approach to the built environment that you favor, but that further muddied the issue for me: While that building is many things, many of them very good, it was not priced to move, as your talk implied; it was actually quite pricey.) At any rate, I appreciate your thoughtful response and hope to look into your work further.

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Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 04/20/2015 at 3:36 PM

Re: “Narrative Arks: We need help envisioning a sustainable future

thanks, Emily

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Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 11/19/2014 at 3:39 PM

Re: “Building Momentum

Don, I agree with you philosophically and much of what you say can be implemented practically too. My approach on this story, however, was guided by the knowledge that on any pertinent time frame, we have to assume that most of the buildings people will be living and working in will be buildings that exist now, not the better ones we can certainly build, including along plans you outline. That was why I focused on retrofitting -- that and the fact that the 90x50 plan is largely based on simply using less by insulating better, and doesn't require any engineering know-how we don't already have. But thanks for your comments.

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Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 04/19/2013 at 4:38 PM

Re: “Warning Lights: Rare synchronous fireflies are discovered in Allegheny National Forest — a hotbed of logging and gas-drilling.

To folks who want to know where the fireflies are -- well, first, you'll now need to wait till next year to see them, as their peak season is over. (It's basically in June.) And understandably, if just one location is identified for viewing, there's some concern about tons of people flocking there to see the flies and overburdening the woods; the insects, as I say in the story, seem to be prevalent throughout the forest area, even in some backyards. However, this one site seems especially good. While the location is likely to be common knowledge soon enough, I'm reluctant to post it here. But if you email me at, I'll give you directions.

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Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 07/13/2012 at 2:30 PM

Re: “Three Rivers Arts Festival Preview

Jackie Dempsey of Squonk Opera just got back to me with a brief description of GO Roadshow. Here it is:

"GO Roadshow will be a chamber-rock celebration that moves from park to school to festival to neighborhood, a free street spectacle aboard a monster truck. This show-making machine will be retrofitted with truck-horn calliope, a wall made of rotors and a spinning grand piano – played while it wheels around! We want to make a post-rock weinermobile- a rolling ruckus that opens up like a mechanical blossom to make street life vibrant, a place where people can build a community of the imagination. Video will be projected on a rotor screen made of movement itself, on the environment and on a blimp floating above- a giant inverted string puppet that will have a mouth that opens in a call to celebration. "

Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 04/30/2012 at 5:23 PM

Re: “Foam Alone

I’ve heard so far from a couple readers about this column, both suggesting that while polystyrene packing materials are not widely recyclable, various shipping establishments will accept them for reuse. (And as you recall, in the reduce-reuse-recycle hierarchy, reuse is preferable to recycling.)

Well, one of the suggestions checks out and the other doesn’t. One reader says he saves up his foam peanuts and takes them to “Kinko’s or some other … shipper.” But I called Fedex Kinko’s office and the guy there said that the company no longer use polystyrene peanuts. He added that used polystyrene peanuts are “not considered an approved packing material” because they can lose their protective ability (presumably from getting squished.) Fedex, he said, packs shipments in “recycled plastic.”

However, a reader’s call suggesting that UPS accepts used packing materials checks out — partially. The serviceperson at the office I called said that some UPS outlets accept foam peanuts and “any bubble-like plastic,” including bubble wrap. But she said that if you want to unload your packing materials, check with the store first because each is individually owned, and not every one has the same policy.

The same, of course, likely applies to other shippers.

Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 04/24/2012 at 3:41 PM

Re: “Harvest

Sorry for the errors noted above and thanks to readers for catching them. They have been fixed.

Posted by Bill O'Driscoll on 04/04/2012 at 3:45 PM

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