In the late winter of 2003, I watched out my window as a fuel truck idled below, belching black smoke. A hose, snaking through the frozen grass, stretched from the back of the truck to the side of our house. I’d just been marching in Washington, D.C., under a banner that read “No War for Oil.” And now here I was, guzzling petroleum at home in Somerville, Massachusetts. At that moment, I vowed to find some way to kick my addiction—and not only because of the war. The black goo in my basement was a nonrenewable, climate-killing nightmare.
Years ago, the Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas won a design competition for an addition to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) by suggesting the entire museum be torn down and replaced. There was such an outcry over the idea of demolishing this collection of unremarkable but well-loved buildings that Ruth Seymour, the general manager of KCRW, the leading NPR station in Los Angeles, California, suggested we debate the pros and cons on a half-hour show called Politics of Culture. She asked me—a producer at KCRW and a freelance design writer—to moderate.