Monday, April 26, 2010

The Green City

After the debacle that was COP-OUT 16 in Copenhagen, there is the realization that national governments seem unable, or unwilling to bring about rules, regulations, agreements and treaties that could bring about changes that will lower carbon emissions and lower the amount of greenhouse gases we are producing and tossing into the atmosphere. We need to bring the levels down to 350 ppm and go even lower if that's possible.

The irony of the recent debacle is that Copenhagen is considered one of the greenest cities on the planet. It might even seem comical, if the results weren't so tragic. After all, we have to remember Denmark led the way in screwing it to the third and fourth world nations with the already established final communique on day two of the conference.

So if national governments can do it, who can? The answer is found on the Internet and it is municipalities. There has been a move through many cities to get serious on climate control and enhancing the environment of the cities. For the most part environmentalists have seen cities as dead zone and as sources of all that is wrong and destructive to the environment. Yet, it is the city, or municipality where the services which are most sensitive to the environment are the most pronounced. Consider it is the municipal government that controls such things are garbage collection and recycling regulations, water treatment and mass transit. These are the services offered by cities.

Right now, the Planet is urban. Over half the population live in cities. This is the new reality:
The world has experienced unprecedented urban growth in recent decades. In 2008, for the first time, the world's population was evenly split between urban and rural areas. There were more than 400 cities over 1 million and 19 over 10 million. More developed nations were about 74 percent urban, while 44 percent of residents of less developed countries lived in urban areas. However, urbanization is occurring rapidly in many less developed countries. It is expected that 70 percent of the world population will be urban by 2050, and that most urban growth will occur in less developed countries.

So if the planet and the people of the planet are going to get its collective act together it must take place at the municipal level. The good news is cities are already sensitive and attempting to do something about it.

In the United States, the US Conference of Mayors is pushing forward a green plan. Over a thousand cities in the States have ratified Kyoto, at a time when the Federal Government refused to do the same. Cities are sensitive and are putting resources into improving the environment, by enacting new recycling laws, attempting to improve infrastructure, of supporting efforts to strengthen and grow the urban forest.

To further give evidence, Vancouver has released a Green Plan, and there is no reason to believe they will not reach their goals. The commitment at the local level is strong and the local government is sensitive and is commited as well to bring it about.

On the topic of going green in the city:
Going green" can mean literally just that -- turning your community green with foliage. And green space is exactly what it sounds like: It's the amount of open space reserved for plants and trees, gardens, parks and nature preserves. Green space improves air quality, cuts pollution levels and energy costs, and adds to the aesthetic of the city.

Some cities are finding innovative ways to include green space in their urban landscape. In 2000, the city of Chicago planted a garden in place of the black tar roofing on a city government building. Green roofing offers similar benefits to gardens and parks at ground level by helping to reduce urban heat islands. Green rooftops also add a layer of insulation to the building, keeping it warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, reducing the building's energy costs.

Municipal governments are sensitive to the needs of their constituents, we need to encourage all our local governments to go green and put pressure on national governments to do the same. If we wait for the national leadership to move, it will be too late, but with cities leading the way, a green and more sensitive environmental view can be developed and passed in the world.

So what cities should push for, and what the citizens of the world's cities should demand:
1) clean water and air
2) enhanced and improved mass transit
3) infrastructure that works
4) develop more green spaces in cities
5) new green technologies and green industry.

With this the world might just get better.

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