It’s a key goal for urban planners, and Chicago rightly claims that it is a reasonably sustainable city. With its denser neighborhoods, effective public transportation and policies that support renewable energy, our city claims itself to be a sustainable leader in the United States.
So, as our federal government withdraws from the world’s effort to use cleaner energy and to initiate more climate-friendly practices, hundreds of cities, states and corporations are announcing that they will continue to adhere to the spirit of the Paris accords despite the Trump administration’s position.
Chicago is one of the key signatories to such an agreement. But what does it mean?
We talk this week with Karen Weigert, who until recently was Mayor Emanuel’s Chief Sustainability Officer. Water use per capitalization in Chicago is down over the last couple of decades. Transit reliability and usage is improving. Open space, such as parkland, has increased somewhat.
And, as Weigert tells us, “Most recently the City has come out and committed that all municipal buildings, including schools, etc., will be powered by renewable energy by 2025. That aligns exactly with the goals of the U.S. and the Paris Agreement in terms of that time horizon, so that is a big leap. Chicago will be the biggest city to have that kind of a commitment, so I think that’s extraordinary.”
But the road to sustainability can be bumpy. Many of the dazzling technologies that empower sustainable policies also rely on automation and autonomous operation, which means fewer jobs. And for a city like Chicago, there’s a rampant need for more, not fewer jobs.
Is the horrific violence we’re experiencing in Chicago a “sustainable cities” issue? It is if you factor in employment, education and training.
It’s a wide-ranging conversation about the big picture of Chicago’s environmental, and in a larger sense, social, future.
You can read a full transcript of the show HERE. CN transcript July 13 2017