Green City, Part II: Santa Monica sets the pace for the 21st century From the Ferris Wheel to the gray water and the big blue bus, as described in the Fall 2003 issue of Green Focus, Santa Monica's pioneering efforts have made the city an international role model for municipal sustainability. Even after meeting or exceeding many initial targets, Greens realize we have more challenges ahead. Part II looks to the future.
By Kevin McKeown
At the beginning of a new century, how can we get cleaner and greener? What if we evaluated all our policies and actions in terms of the true cost to our planet instead of short-term economic expediencies?
Beginning in 2001, a large team of community stakeholders, including elected and appointed officials, city staff, and representatives of neighborhood organizations, schools, the business community and other community groups, examined Santa Monica's long-term sustainability with this expanded perspective. Updated goals and indicators were developed by Santa Monica's longstanding Task Force on the Environment, vice-chaired by Green Sandy Grant. The new Plan enjoyed unanimous embrace at the City Council.
We've set goals for more parks and for more unpaved, rainfall-permeable open space, and we've focused not just on human usage of our city but on natural land functions like streams and wildlife habitats.
Distant jobs without transportation options perpetuate our Southern California "commute and pollute" lifestyle, so the new Sustainable City Plan includes housing clustered around mass transit nodes.
We've made a head start already on our Green Building Guidelines with an affordable housing project, walkably located downtown, that generates its own electricity from attractive glass-panel photovoltaics on the sunny sides of the building.
What about the sadly unwise natural resource impacts enthusiastically encouraged by our corporate consumer society? For the first time, the city and residents will factor in their "ecological footprint", which is a measure of how one's use of Earth's resources measures against the portion of the planet to which one is justly entitled.
Santa Monicans will begin to take greater personal responsibility for how our consumption choices affect our community's ecological footprint, even though the specific impacts and resource wastage engendered by our habits may occur outside the city.
One plan element, championed by Greens, makes Santa Monica the first known city to have a policy favoring vegetarianism. Eating high on the food chain is generally accepted to be the average Americans' second highest impact on the planet, after transportation. We must educate, not mandate, but one of the new plan's desired outcomes will be an annual increase in the percentage of Santa Monica residents who report that vegetable-based protein dominates their diet.
With Green Party leadership, Santa Monica has set itself a challenge. Years of work lay ahead of us, but Santa Monica is well on the way to creating the basis for a more sustainable way of life-one that safeguards and enhances our resources, prevents harm to the natural environment and human health, and supports and benefits the community and local economy-for current and future generations.
Kevin McKeown is Mayor pro tem of Santa Monica. The Sustainable City Plan is online at http://pen.ci.santa-monica.ca.us/environment/policy/SCP2003.pdf.###
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