Blue Marble (Planet Earth)
Earth Day will join the “Over the Hill” gang tomorrow when it turns 40. Since I’m in that age cohort, I prefer to believe that it’s not all downhill from here; rather, I think Earth Day’s 40th presents an unprecedented opportunity to build a healthy, prosperous, clean energy economy. We’re at an unprecedented moment when individuals, corporations and governments are joining together to advance climate policy, energy efficiency, renewable energy, and green jobs – and that’s truly something to celebrate.
In Chicagoland, we’re electrified to see this coordination already happening. Tomorrow, the chairs, board members, and executives of seven Chicago-region transportation agencies will attend a first-of-its-kind transportation summit, Earth Day XL. Participants will share their specific ideas on working toward a common green transportation and development vision for the region. My MPC colleague Emily Tapia Lopez will be there and I wish I could, too, but I’ll be participating in a similar discussion with allies in Michigan.
The local transportation summit is an example that supports Kaid Benfield’s theory. Benfield, who writes a great blog called Switchboard for the National Resources Defense Council, recently weighed in on the evolution of the environmentalist since the birth of Earth Day in 1970. He notes, “One would have been hard pressed to find a self-identified environmentalist at the time of the first Earth Day, in 1970, who supported land development of any kind, orderly or not.” Benfield looks at the “Not in My Back Yard” approach to development of the 1970s and compares it to the “Yes in My Back Yard” smart, green urbanism movement now growing in cities. This change of attitude, he says, “[encourages] green… great, walkable neighborhood[s]”… and we need more of them!”
Today, MPC is echoing Benfield’s call for “great walkable neighborhoods” at our Talking the Walk:The Importance of Pedestrian Friendly Public Spaces roundtable. We’re hosting Sam Schwarz, president & CEO, Sam Schwarz Engineering, a leading transportation engineer who is perhaps the one individual responsible for popularizing the phrase “gridlock.” The sold-out roundtable showcases why cities around the world are promoting safe streets for all types of users; what Chicago is doing to plan for and design quality streetscapes; and how pedestrians are leading the way to a more walkable future.
Then, next Tuesday, 4/27, we’re hosting the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development’s Shelley Poticha, who will discuss the multiple ways her agency and the federal government are supporting more sustainable communities. If you’d like to attend, register soon, as seats are filling up fast!
Finally, more great news for pedestrians: the Illinois legislature is expected to cast a vote soon on the Pedestrian Safety Bill, (HB 43), a measure endorsed by MPC and our friends at the Active Transportation Alliance, which would protect pedestrians and make it safer for all of us to cross the street. Contact your lawmakers to make your voice heard in support of this bill!
Happy Birthday, Earth Day!