Friday, April 6, 2012

The 9% Solution

Ever ride a bicycle in low gear? You pump your legs like mad, but make practically no headway. That's similar to the way buffers work, according to the Mayer paper, because there is a weak relationship between the inputs and outputs. Buffers can use up land like mad but make practically no headway on pollutant removal.

The Mayer paper calculates that only 9% of pollutant removal can be explained by buffer width.  John Wanamaker, an early pioneer in marketing, used to say that half the money he spent on advertising was wasted, he just didn't know which half. For a buffer-based world, we might say that 91% of buffer space is wasted, we just don't know which 91%.

Buffers can eat up lots of land for practically no pollutant removal effect, especially after they exceed a certain effective size.

Yesterday, our Planning Commission passed the draft wetlands ordinance of the proposed CAO. Giving credit where credit is due, they took a terrible proposal and made quite a few improvements. Overall, however, we still don't know what the problem is, if any, and the proposed CAO will force us to live in an inefficient, costly, buffer-based world.

Buffers are the 9% solution, and they're still looking for a problem.

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