In the midst of the global environmental crisis, only sustainable families, households, communities, and cities will have a chance to survive. New strategies are developed to improve energy efficiency, resource utilization, resource efficiency, and transportation in cities. They promise to make the lives of people in cities easier and healthier. In July 1995, Chicago witnessed one of the most dramatic ecological catastrophes in its history. The unprecedented caused more than 700 deaths. The tragic experiences became a starting point in the development of a new, “cooler city” vision that currently guides all sustainability efforts in Chicago.
The program to be implemented in my hometown will be aimed at reducing the devastating effects of heat and global warming on residents and systems/resources. The proposed project is designed to rebuild the community infrastructure in ways that will minimize and optimize the negative effects of high temperature on residents, buildings, the system of transportation, and other community resources. The project will empower the community to improve the quality of life and raise the level of wellbeing. It will contribute to the development of other sustainable initiatives and facilitate further optimization of resource allocation and utilization, making the hometown more attractive to residents and newcomers. The money and resources saved with the program will be used to support other ecological and community programs, including child development and public health.
The cooler city program implemented in Chicago is a role model, which can be followed by any community that seeks to protect itself from the damaging consequences of global warming. First, the community must become greener. It is with the help of plants and vegetation that the effects of heat on residents and buildings can be effectively moderated. Chicago officials promote the use of green spaces and vegetation in every place possible (Melker, 2012). In the proposed project, ecologists, environmentalists, infrastructure development professionals, and community officials will work collectively to define the scope and limits of planting according to the goals of the project and the financial resources available for it. The task is to define those community areas and places that need additional vegetation most urgently. Another task is to avoid planting trees and flowers in the areas that will hardly benefit from them.
Second, community authorities will develop an infrastructure redesign to enhance energy efficiency of the town buildings. It is not a secret that many ‘green’ technologies allow saving considerable costs on cooling homes and office premises in summer. The Chicago project proposes creating rooftop gardens, which have proved to be energy-efficient and have a remarkable cooling effect (Melker, 2012). However, not everyone community member can afford creating and maintaining a rooftop garden. Owners of office buildings may not be willing to spend their limited resources on arranging rooftop gardens. Thus, community authorities will develop a list of recommendations to be followed during summer heat. For instance, the use of interior fans is a good alternative to costly air conditioning. The local government may finance the provision of special window blinds to reduce temperature in houses and offices buildings. The process of constructing new community buildings will be constantly monitored to ensure that they match the newly established standards of energy efficiency and sustainability for cooling.
Third, in the proposed project, the amounts of CO2 coming from vehicles will be strictly monitored and regulated. The third step of the proposed program will emphasize the role of optimal vehicle use during the hottest times of the year. The community will design a new bicycle infrastructure to encourage more active use of bicycles instead of vehicles. City transportation networks will be adjusted to suit the emerging needs of the local population, so that residents do not need to use their cars too often. Local authorities may organize vehicle-free days and initiate the development of bicycle-sharing programs similar to those in France and Belgium. However, a great amount of resources will be needed to make the program real and workable.
Chiras (2013) is right: to be sustainable, cities and communities need to ensure smooth and continuous supply of resources. Such resources are not limited to finances. Professionalism and experience of environmental and infrastructure specialists will become the most valuable resource in the proposed program. The community will need to find the best professionals to implement the project. Equally important will be securing continuous legislative and policy support from higher authorities, mostly at the state level. The town will have to develop and maintain collaborative ties with other cities, towns and communities that have successfully implemented their sustainability programs.
Community support will play a bigger role in the success of the project than the support provided from the top. Community residents must have enough motivation to meet the goals of the project. Community meetings will be held to advocate the development of a sustainable community and persuade residents that it is vital for their health, wellbeing, and future survival. Incentive programs will become a strong factor of motivation, particularly in relation to home owners. The community will develop a system of sustainability standards, coupled with bonuses for active participation in the program. All community residents will realize the value of their efforts, once the effects of cooling on their homes and offices become visible.
To conclude, global warming creates considerable environmental complexities, but sustainable development leaves much room for optimism. The proposed project promises to make the town cooler, with the help of vegetation, new infrastructure designs, and reduced vehicle use. The town will need sufficient material resources to make the proposed program work. However, even more important will be community support. All town residents should realize that sustainability is a key to their future survival.
- Chiras, D.D. (2013). Environmental science, 9e. Sudbury, MA: Jones & Bartlett.
- Melker, S. (2012). How to build a cooler city. PBS. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/climate-change-july-dec12-chicago_10-09/.