Why the Disconnect on Climate Change and Urban Density?

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio is also a committed climate change activist. His documentary on the topic airs Oct. 30 on the National Geographic channel. At the U.N., he asked leaders to take bold action. Yet, as an Angeleno, he opposes increased density.

October 17, 2016, 6:00 AM PDT

By Irvin Dawid

Leonardo DiCaprio

Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock

In September 2014, Leonardo DiCaprio was designated a UN Messenger of Peace with a special focus on climate change,  Earlier this month at the White House, "he premiered his new documentary, Before the Flood, where DiCaprio travels the world, witnessing the devastating effects of climate change: dramatic sea-level risedeadlier storms, and longer and more devastating droughts," writes Alissa Walker for Curbed Los Angeles

"This is the most important issue of our time," he says in the film, as he stands before the United Nations, calling on leaders to take "bold, unprecedented action." The documentary explores the connection between political will and personal decisions. 

A few weeks earlier, DiCaprio’s name had made headlines for another reason. He was listed as one of several "concerned Angelenos" endorsing the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, a ballot measure that would cripple LA’s efforts to grow denser and more vertical. The initiative grew out of opposition to taller buildings and transit-oriented development in Hollywood.

The initiative, which was to appear on the City of Los Angeles' ballot next month, was pulled back and will be placed on the March 2017 ballot.

Walker details the connection between increased density and reduction of carbon emissions, describing how both the Los Angeles initiative and Santa Monica's anti-density measure, would exacerbate emissions by restricting density.

She makes an impassioned case as to why climate activists should support increasing density, particularly in a city like Los Angeles, which "as one of the largest cities on Earth area-wise, with a statistically heavy reliance on single-passenger vehicles, could absolutely have an outsize impact on keeping the world’s temperatures below that 2 degree point of no return..."

However, Walker doesn't explain why climate activists oppose increasing urban density. In looking at Preserve LA's argument in support of the measure in which DiCaprio and other celebrities are cited, nothing is mentioned about climate change. Rather, neighborhood character is more of an issue, hardly the "defining crisis of our time," the term DiCaprio uses to describe climate change.

Related on Planetizen:

Hat tip to LA Metro Headlines.

Thursday, October 13, 2016 in Curbed LA

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