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The Solano Rail slide presentation dates to 2003. I never quite know how to characterize it because I was a student at the time but it's not really a student project in that the presentation itself was not done for school.

I was a full-time wife and mom and part-time college student living in Solano County, California and I chose to use the county rail plan as my case study any time a class assignment asked us to use a real world thing. I eventually put all that together in a single document, linked above.

When we were learning to put dollar values on environmental resources, I examined the potential impact of the plan to put a rail station in Suisun Marsh, a protected wetlands. I likely vastly undercounted its value given the potential global impact of damaging critical habitat in the Pacific Flyway.

In addition to using it in classes for my (incomplete) online BS in Environmental Resource Management with a concentration in Housing, I created a map for the project while in GIS School.

I also attended meetings open to the public for local/regional planning efforts. While I was a low-level moderator on Cyburbia, I got feedback on my presentation and my efforts to try to figure out how to promote it from at least two different professional planners.

I tried to figure out how to get it seen locally and/or online. It went nowhere and then I consigned it to a back burner in part because my findings suggested that commuter rail in Solano County wouldn't really be viable until gas prices were above $4/gallon.

July 18, 2020, I created r/SolanoRail to support this project and updated the website for the project. The reddit creation date is the same day I published a post on the website and posted it to both Hacker News and r/UrbanPlanning

August 23, 2023, I updated the sidebar of r/SolanoRail thusly:
In 2011, the French national railroad gave up on helping California with their high speed rail plan. The French then went to AFRICA. That high speed rail line was finished in 2018 and the French called the Africans they worked with "more politically functional" than California. The current Solano County rail plan may well ruin the Pacific Flyway by doing egregious harm to Suisun Marsh. The world may have words with us at that point as the flyway has GLOBAL implications.
Because of my ongoing efforts to do research related to the Solano Rail project, I later tripped across information that I found shocking as someone who was an environmental studies major more than twenty years ago:
  • Since the 1700s, the continental US has lost more than half of its total acreage of wetlands. The world has lost more than 85 percent.
  • Peatlands cover just 3 percent of the planet’s surface but they store about 30 percent of all land-based carbon, or twice as much as all of the world’s forests combined while taking up far less space. Coastal wetlands remove atmospheric CO2 up to fifty-five times faster than rain forests.
The world is promoting tree planting to "save the planet" from global warming and it gets argued about because we know it's not enough. Quick and dirty calculations suggest that -- over time -- unlike schemes to plant more trees, restoring our lost wetlands has the potential to start walking back those figures and really calm things down (IF supported with appropriate interim measures).

So I am wondering why this isn't getting more press and I'm currently developing some information resources related to wetlands restoration, basic water infrastructure and related topics.

I run a bunch of different Reddits and websites on a wide variety of topics, but to my mind it's all interrelated. As part of my concentration in Housing, I took a college class through SFSU called Homelessness and Public Policy, which was listed under TWO different class codes, one for some kind of Health major and one for an Urban Planning major.

I fought to have that class included because I wanted to understand how housing policy and my potential future career as an Urban Planner could impact the most marginalized members of society: Those without housing at all.

I was later homeless for some years, which is like doing advanced field work for that class which asked you to try to go "be" homeless for a few hours one day to try to understand the logistical barriers people on the street face every day. A lot of the experiences I had on the street inform the writing I am doing currently to try to address issues like basic water infrastructure in underdeveloped areas.

Similarly, some of my work addresses LGBTQ issues specifically because the LGBTQ community is at extremely high risk of homelessness.

The meme that "homeless people are all junkies and crazies and, thus, it's a PERSONAL problem" is flat out wrong. The single strongest indicator for predicting an increase in rates of local homelessness is rising costs of local housing relative to local average income.

So we need to figure out how to address the nationwide shortage of affordable housing but given the high risk of homelessness faced by the LGBTQ community, we cannot meaningfully "solve homelessness" without first making headway against the challenges this community faces.

Years ago, probably while still homeless, I began a website called Project: SRO to try to develop housing ideas to solve the excessively high rates of homelessness in the US. But trying to create "homes for the homeless" never results in good ideas for creating a more functional society and built environment, which go hand-in-hand and is thus a poor framing even for good ideas.

You need to address BOTH people problems AND infrastructure problems to fix either of them. I have come to believe that the people of planet earth are experiencing a Peter Principle moment: We have promoted certain societal structures to the level of their incompetence and we need something else.

In addition to continuing to develop various information sources on topics like health, nutrition, clothes and other essential elements of a functional society, my latest space for writing about the built environment is Doreen Traylor Designs.

7 December 2023

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