Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Another Local Government for Sustainability

When it comes to taking action on climate protection, Charlottesville is on the verge of some big and (hopefully) bold changes. We're not exactly in the forefront (yet!) on this issue, but with the City having signed on to the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement last fall and with Council having created a Citizens Committee on Environmental Sustainability this winter to develop innovative proposals for reducing our impact on the atmosphere and the environment, we're definitely moving in the right direction.

At our Council meeting last Monday, March 19, we took one more step forward by agreeing to join ICLEI -- the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (tagline: "Local Governments for Sustainability"). We're only the third Virginia community (after Arlington and Blacksburg) to join this global body, which provides hands-on assistance to local governments in helping folks like us to achieve our goals for sustainable development. (One specific tool that comes with ICLEI membership, for example, is a Clean Air and Climate Protection software program that helps localities to establish and pursue measurable reduction targets for greenhouse gases [carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide] and criteria air pollutants [NOx, SOx, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds, PM10] associated with electricity and fuel use and waste disposal in our own communities.)

We have a lot of work to do and a series of difficult choices to make if we are to succeed in becoming a true "Green City," but given the fact that some of the nation's (if not the world's) most visionary thinkers & planners on matters of environmental sustainability live and work right here in Charlottesville, I believe that we have what it takes to set a new standard for local action in this vitally important arena.

1 comment:

Lonnie said...


So what does a really green city look like to you? What would it take to get there? What part of this is the responsibility of private landowners, and what needs to be initiated by local government?

To me, I'd like to see a greater awareness places on urban ecosystems. I think we need a wider view about how we do developent and manage greenspace. For example, culverting streams still seems to be considered an acceptable practice even though much better ways of doing design have been around for years. Likewise, we need do do more than preserve existing greenspace. We need to also increase the quality of existing green space through active management, and create new greenspace through restoration. Cooperation of landowners could be used to establish green corridors through the city, as it done already in other Cities like Tallahassee Forida. We also need to address the situation of invasive exotic species like Kudzu, English Ivy, and Ailanthus.

In terms of wise use of resources, we need to find ways not to just increase alternative transportation, but to make it more convenient. For example, what if we made riding a bus more comfortable and quicker than driving?

I also sometimes feel as if we approach local environmental issues from such a grand scale that we don't see the easy solutions right in front of us. How can we identify some of those easy fixes right now and prioritize them?