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Sprawl has led to encroachment upon wildlife habitats and destruction of wetland resources critical to controlling floods and protecting drinking water supplies and increased public service and infrastructure costs.

Urban sprawl has been linked to increased public health risks arising from poor nutrition, increased obesity and hypertension, and heightened incidences of traffic fatalities. That urban infrastructure is under pressure is clear. The generally growing economy of the s and first half decade of the twenty-first century bolstered city finances. However, the recession that settled upon the United States in December of has struck city finances hard. Overall city revenues dropped in for the first time since , providing for the worst fiscal outlook for U. With the Wall Street Journal reporting that American cities have the worst ahead of them, they are unlikely to be able to fund the investments needed to construct new infrastructure and repair deficiencies on their own in the foreseeable future.

Highly public spectacles have brought home the risks of neglecting environmental carrying capacity and the limits of reliance on traditional infrastructure solutions to problems urban America faces.


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On August 1, , an interstate bridge spanning the Mississippi River collapsed during rush hour in Minneapolis, killing 13 and injuring Above all, the destruction of much of New Orleans in after flood barriers constructed by the U. Army Corps of Engineers failed during Hurricane Katrina provided evidence of the risk of relying upon technological solutions alone in the face of the vicissitudes of Mother Nature. With more than 4. Herbert Girardet points to this as the moment when the urban sustainability revolution started. While the federal government has enacted important laws that address threats to our water and air, these efforts have often been piecemeal, approved only after pressing problems reached such potentially catastrophic levels that the need to act was unavoidable.

This left pressing problems such as the recycling of household waste unaddressed. The economic development needs of urban areas provide another impetus to the sustainable cities movement. The Pew report showed that green economy jobs grew at almost two and a half times the rate of overall U. Approximately 85 percent of these jobs were located in metropolitan areas with more than half in the high-paying science and engineering, legal, research, and consulting sectors.

The USCM report projected that up to 4. Green collar jobs in manufacturing offer the potential to revitalize the economies of hard-hit industrial areas. The doors to a number of shuttered manufacturing plants have already been reopened for the production of wind turbines and solar energy panels. In , the state of Michigan and General Electric announced plans to reopen a former General Motors manufacturing plant in the economically devastated Detroit area for research and development of electric vehicle batteries; that facility is expected to employ up to 1, The growth potential of the green economy offers tremendous opportunities to re-employ displaced low- and semi-skilled workers in vocations such as installing rooftop solar energy cells, weatherization, and other retrofits that increase the energy efficiency of commercial buildings and homes.

The green economy offers the greatest opportunity for creating jobs and wealth since the commercialization of the microprocessor and personal computer. The third main factor in the rise of sustainability to the top of urban agendas in the United States is global warming. The point at which sustainability began to assume an institutional character can be traced to and issuance of a report by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

Commonly known as the Brundtland Commission in acknowledgment of its chair, former Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland, the United Nations convened the group to develop policies to promote economic and social development in the face of accelerating global depletion of natural resources. The Congress was a prelude to the U. So many of the problems and solutions being addressed by Agenda 21 have their roots in local activities, the participation of local authorities will be a determining factor in fulfilling its objectives.

Local authorities construct, operate, and maintain economic, social, and environmental infrastructure, oversee planning processes, establish environmental infrastructure, and assist in implementing national and sub national environmental policies.

Sustainable city

In , the same year that environmentalists, architects, planners, and property developers began discussions on what would emerge as the LEED green building rating system, Portland, Oregon, adopted the first comprehensive local government plan in the nation aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. These goals were to be pursued through six strategies: land-use planning, transportation, energy efficiency, renewable energy, solid waste recycling, and urban forestry.

Other cities followed, including San Francisco, where a citizen-led movement that began in resulted in the city adolpting a comprehensive citywide sustainability plan in Another important step in the institutionalization of sustainability occurred in when British management consultant John Elkington coined the phrase the triple bottom line. This relationship is often depicted in terms of a Venn diagram of three interlocking circles, each circle representing respectively planet, people, and prosperity. In , the triple bottom line was adopted by the United Nations and ICLEI as a standard for public sector full-cost accounting of the societal, economic, and ecological costs and benefits of sustainable development.

Between and , the number of cities participating in ICLEI rose from 47 to , a number that would grow to in Cities were developing sustainability policies, plans, and initiatives aimed at addressing climate change and ozone depletion, agriculture, biodiversity, air and water quality, energy, food, education, procurement contracting, local economic performance, equity and equality, and environmental justice.

Conference of Mayors created the National Council for Resource Conservation to craft a strategy for conserving energy and natural resources because resource conservation today means sustainable growth tomorrow. In President Bush withdrew U. Administration officials charged the treaty was too costly and "an unrealistic and ever tightening straightjacket.

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October would see the administration of President Obama release an EPA endangerment finding that greenhouse gas emissions posed a significant threat to the country. It recommended that the federal government begin emissions regulation. EPA had actually issued the finding in , but the Bush administration had suppressed its release for two years. In , the same year that the Kyoto accords went into effect committing major industrialized countries—but not the United States—to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, the Conference of Mayors founded its Climate Protection Agreement.

Other cities were equally concerned. A heat wave in Chicago that killed as many as had impressed upon the people of that city what a future dominated by atmospheric warming might look like.

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Maps were developed showing that a not-improbable-warming-induced 1-meter rise in sea level would inundate much of the coastal metropolitan belt of 5. Arid areas of the Southwest would become drier, further imperiling the water supply; pestilence would threaten agricultural production that cities rely on for food. The signatories also committed to urging the federal government to adopt the Kyoto targets and enact a cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions trading system.

This allows 1.

Sustainability in America’s Cities - Creating the Green Metropolis | Matthew I. Slavin | Springer

At the same time, stages are set up in city park s. Some of the bicycle paths are located next to the main roads and secondary streets as well as passing through the parks. This has been done in order to integrate the use of the bicycle as an alternative system of transportation and at the same time to help the environment by lowering the pollution levels. According to Walter Hook, the head of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy in New York, the commuting trips by bicycle rose from less than 0. The existing bus system was a chaotic one. Buses racing each other to pick up passengers cutting each other off; dropping people off in the middle of the street risking them to get hit by a car and even going from the street to the sidewalk and killing people.

The public buses at the time were owned by the mafia because it was a very profitable business with little to no regulation. This caused a huge problem between the drivers who even went on strike to oppose the new system. Very powerful political groups put the projects on hold for a long time. The solution to this was making the former drivers part of the new system and give them shares. This is how the BRT bus rapid transport system Transmilenio was born.

The system infrastructure includes exclusive dual bus lanes on each direction to create main trunk lines connected to additional buses that run in the deeper parts of the city. Technological advances keep Transmilenio efficient. The green buses, with a smaller capacity of 90 passengers feed the main Transmilenio system. The innovative BRT also has the ability to reach citizens that are located in the outer skirts of the city by sending the smaller green buses that bring people straight to the main stations.

Transmilenio also uses satellite communication which means that during operation they can be located via satellite and keep control of each and every one of the vehicles in real time. This means that the system always runs to optimal capacity. There are rush hours in the morning and evening where buses are full.

However, in between those hours the system is also full because the percentage of operating buses is reduced on those times to avoid empty buses circulating around the city. That allows control over the development of the infrastructure, its maintenance and to have control over the emissions that are harmful to the environment and unnecessary when empty buses run. Currently, there is a proposal to turn all the Transmilenio buses into full electrical engines which will reduce emissions completely. Legitimized by a public vote, the car-free day has become an annual occasion.

Recently it has been done twice a year and talk about having a car-free week are in place.


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The environmental impacts were a good enough incentive, but the social impacts were also highly important. In , of these residents were killed due to automobile accidents. Also more people are engaging in physical exercise, and more time is being reclaimed due to not experiencing traffic.

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This strategy was a traffic policy that restricted the use of both private and public vehicles in certain days of the week depending on the number of the license tag. The purpose was to regulate traffic and help with pollution at the same time. The impact was so big that the policy was adopted by all cities in Colombia. Image credit Trodel A few years ago, TreeHugger used to cover every interesting new green single family home is the suburbs, every off-grid technical wonder in the desert or mountains.

But there was always an underlying concern: the driving needed to get to them. The energy efficiency of individual automobiles is a far less important environmental issue than the energy inefficiency of the asphalt-latticed way of life that we have built to oblige them- the sprawling American landscape of subdivisions, parking lots, strip malls and interstate bypasses.

The critical energy drain in a typical American suburb is not the Hummer in the driveway; it's everything the Hummer makes possible- the oversized houses and irrigated yards, the network of new feeder roads and residential streets, the costly and inefficient outward expansion of the power grid, the duplicated stores and schools, the two-hour solo commutes.

The private automobile is responsible for all of this, and we all are seeing in the Gulf of Mexico and the Alberta Tar Sands the lengths that we have to go to keep the private automobile running. The real solution to getting off oil is to get out of cars; the way to do that is to live like New Yorkers. New Yorkers use less energy and create less greenhouse gases than anyone else in America; that is because they tend to live in smaller spaces with shared walls, have less room to buy and keep stuff, often don't own cars or if they do, use them a lot less and walk a lot.

So do a lot of people who live in older, walkable communities designed before the automobile changed everything. Perhaps not as efficiently as New Yorkers, but a lot more efficiently than a suburbanite in Phoenix. Owen is right about so much in this book. The only way to get people out of cars is to make driving more difficult and make alternatives more comfortable; bring on the bike lanes and take out the car lanes. But its value is almost offset by the negatives. He thinks local food is silly, bringing up the standard examples of California raspberries and New Zealand lamb, but I have still never met a locavore who is in it for the energy savings; it is about community and quality as well as carbon.


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