Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Green Machine --Obama's Stomping Grounds with a Mayor Who Does Top Down Leadership with a Green Eye

By Paul K. Haeder

So does it take a William Daly to move a city to become the greenest city in the US of A? City Hall with a green roof. Police stations that are energy efficient, have clean circulating air, have rooms for the public to use? Green Homes for Chicago is about applying Mayor Daly's work in the international camp, holding an international design contest, and then having these residents built and then put on the market, the moderate income market.

Somebody has to take the lead, and sometimes that means someone who says this or that has to be done. We've had centuries of the wrong folk leading from the top down, greed being the second only to power driving them. But when it's about sustainability, equity, energy independence, public places, clean technology, healthy environments, layering all those sustainability components into how people live, work, recreate in the city, can the ends justify the means or means justify the ends?

Green Machine looks at the third largest city in the USA, Chicago, where the skyscraper was invented. This is a laboratory for America, a place where the future will be tested. Now. It's the crossroads of America. It was once the dumping ground for toxins, junk, by-products. Hundreds of those brown fields have been cleaned up. And the drive is not at the neighborhood level. It's about Richard Daly, mayor of Chicago.

What do planning students and landscape designers and others think of this system of greening? Is it too dangerous to see a personality like Daly take the lead, take the city into the plunge toward green? Green roofs for city buildings as a symbolic gesture, to show the development community it can and will be done? Daly has changed the spirit of the city, and the spirit of politics.

On June 10, 2004, Daly and his staff created the Chicago Standards, sustainability design and construction for public buildings to reduce operating costs and to save energy. Daly believes that too often the wrong people see cities as steel, concrete, and dirty . . . that they work there, yes, but once the 9-to-5 commitment is over, they want to get out as soon as possible. His goal is to get green mainstream, for remodeling and construction in all sectors. To have a city a place to live, grow and stay.

The city of Chicago has 10,000 bike riders (most total of any city) and has accommodated for them in many amenities. The reality is that last year, at the turn of 2008, the world went urban -- that is, more than 50 percent of global population lives in urban places. By 2030 or 2050 that might be 65 percent.

Of course, we as spasming when it comes to values, framing, those few global warming deniers getting equal time with the millions working on global warming mitigation. We have those seeing cities as solutions, yet in America, there are slow-to-change perceptions of what the American dream is. See this document PacifiCAD blogspot will be discussing at length in the future:

The counterpoint to the E-Squared mainframe of optimism and business as the solution is those voices in sustainability and architecture, critics if you will, writers and practitioners. The bottom line is that we can't consume our way out of peak oil, peak living, peak food and climate change. We have to redesign our cities, redesign our societies. That means that we have to do this now, and it doesn't have mean we lose community, some luxuries, and well being. Green and design for post carbon means positive things for societies.

Daly, the mayor, wants the city to have a connection to people, to the environment, to the connectivity of public-private space, shared neighborhoods, transportation that isn't about smog and cars.

Having McDonald's put on a green roof of sorts is the ultimate contradiction, one of the architecture writers said in Green Machine. A band-aid. The ultimate in drive-through, car centric businesses, puts some grass and perennials into roof soil, and that gets the business some green points? Wrong. And forget about the ecological footprint (damage) of a fast-food, fast meat-egg-dairy business like McDonald's? And the health of people after consuming said products? How do those implications play out in community planning, sustainability? Questions.

We have to have a green way of living, and all the green buildings in the world won't amount to a hill of organic, fair trade coffee beans. It's about thinking, acting and engaging in green all the time. And lowering consumption. that's what these counterpoints in the E-Squared series illustrate.

Can we begin to finally admit to the huge lobbying influence of the US Chamber of Commerce and the others locally who buy into the big business paradigm for ruddering a community's future? We need mayors and senators and congresswomen and administrators to make bigger leaps, like Daly has. Some completely disagree, seeing consensus building as the ultimate goal. Countless meetings, and charrettees and plans that end up on the shelf, so to speak.

I wonder when the incrementalists will finally be taken to task? Copenhagen is the most important meeting of our times, so says activist Bill McKibben. We need city halls and county supervisors to have vision and to get off their diffs and look to the future 40, 60 , 100 years out. We need to work harder to criticize them at gatherings and in our emails.

Read Chris Hedges and Bill McKibben here, for the argument about doing it ourselves -- cutting down on electricity use, saving gray water, etc; or looking toward changing the culture of corporate domination:

What's the EWU Planning Program doing about this sort of reaction to the needs of our nation? Do the classes see that sustainability is not just some pie in the sky or impossible dream?

The debate is on, and the E-Squared series shows are good starting points. In one way, they are dated, and in another way they illustrate the shape that could be coming if we bite the bullet and make the sacrifices necessary to move into a post-carbon world.

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