The city of Los Angeles's financial crisis, with its painful staffing cuts, is deeply rooted in its environmental crisis.
This may sound surprising. It's a perspective that's certainly invisible to most policy makers.
We hemorrhage cash and jobs, in part, because we are hemorrhaging water and energy. The waste of natural and economic resources is intertwined, and it's time to realize that the solutions must be intertwined as well.
Kudos to Mayor Villaraigosa for consolidating the functions of Environment, Energy and Sustainability into his office. This shows that he and his staff recognize the urgent need for coordinating resource management. It's partly because of the uncoordinated way we've managed the environment that we are in today's mess. And it's critical to understand how we got here in order to create a path out.
When cities like Los Angeles were developed, people didn't understand they were building on an ecosystem. Thus government was organized into manageable departments that didn't reflect a living, interconnected system of air, water, soil, plants and animals. As the city grew, departments became bureaucracies, and these organized into what is known in management parlance as "silos," each with its own responsibilities, infrastructure systems, and budgets to grow and protect.
And so, water supply people didn't talk to the flood control people. Flood control people didn't talk to the water quality people. As new problems arose, cities created new bureaucracies and infrastructure systems to manage and solve them without addressing the problems in the underlying systems that caused them in the first place.
The result: today's massive, systemic, overwhelming waste: of vital natural resources, of taxpayers' money, of water, and of human lives.