John Dizikes

dizikesSeveral factors inform what I do for a living, and in my writings readers might glean the influences of family, friends, and certainly my mentor Joel Tarr. Other influences may be less obvious. One is John Dizikes.

John Dizikes is a major reason why I do what I do. I went to the University of California at Santa Cruz determined to get a liberal-arts education, and over the next four years, that’s exactly what I did. Veering from English lit to politics to anthropology to history, with a smattering of stats, economics, bio, philosophy, music and other courses along the way, I received the breadth I hungered for while trying to figure out what the next step in my journey would be.

Taking two courses with Professor Dizikes helped determine that path. John’s joy at recounting and discussing the people and culture of American history was infectious.  Not only did he make me want to take history courses, he made me believe that teaching history was a fun and fulfilling way to spend one’s life.  Technically, neither of us have exactly done that with our lives. His home department was American Studies, and most of my teaching career has been in interdisciplinary social sciences/environmental studies. But the power of history to reveal ways in which humans have interacted with one another is something I got from taking his courses, and is something I try to convey to my students.

His encouragement was also infectious. The care and detail he brought to our course evaluations (this was back when UCSC had narrative evaluations rather than grades) gave us a vivid idea of what our strengths and weaknesses were. I am not unique in learning from his evaluations and shaping my work in ways that informed it into grad school and beyond.  Many professors gave fairly perfunctory narrative evaluations that read as if they had macros replacing “A” with “excellent,” “B” with “very good,” and so on. Professor Dizikes would write three or four full paragraphs describing what your papers in the course were about and evaluating your ability to write, present an argument, and be an effective communicator. He taught me how to evaluate students by evaluating me, and I use his example when I write recommendation letters to students. (It is a shame that the faculty at UCSC lost the commitment for this form of grading over time and it is now optional.)

He encouraged us to channel our enthusiasms into the classroom.  By the time I got to campus in the late 80s, he was focusing on the arts. Our subjects ranged from Georgia O’Keefe and Edward Steichen to Miles Davis. By the time I was in his seminar, I was working at KZSC, eventually becoming the record librarian because the position allowed me to learn about all the new records the station received. With his encouragement, I reviewed Charles Mingus’s Beneath the Underdog for class right as Gunther Schuller was mounting a performance of Mingus’s Epitaph. Hearing it for the first time as I read Mingus’s searing, tortured remembrances of his life gave me an appreciation for the man that has never left me. John Dizikes gave his students space to make that possible in a classroom setting.

My time at UCSC would have been unimaginable without John Dizikes, not only for the courses he taught, but the institution he built.  He was one of the founding faculty at UCSC, more than two decades before I stepped foot on campus. The university’s focus as the liberal-arts campus of the University of California system was a powerful incentive for me to attend, and he worked to ensure that focus on curiosity and breadth continued.  A few years after his 2001 retirement, he gave an interview on the subject:

“What concerns me is the fact that the overwhelming direction of the university is really much more toward preparing people for careers,” Dizikes explained. “That’s extremely important, but it must take a subordinate position to giving people a chance intellectually to challenge themselves. I will say to you, my sympathies are with the people who are up in the trees. It seems to me if they’ve got guts enough to go live up there — more power to them.”

I hope to have the same attitude if I make it to eighty.  Thanks again, John.

What Comes After the People’s Climate March

Hundreds of thousands of people fill Manhattan for the People's Climate March.

Hundreds of thousands of people fill Manhattan for the People’s Climate March.

Here in New York City, more than 300,000 people participated in the People’s Climate March on Sunday. Marchers ranged from environmental justice activists to union members to college students to former Vice President Al Gore, United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki-moon, and several New York City politicians, including over a dozen members of the City Council and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Similar marches around the world attracted thousands more concerned with the toll human-produced greenhouse gases have on climate (a toll underscored by the Global Science Project’s report that global greenhouse gas emissions reached record levels in 2013).

The march and UN Climate Summit come ahead of international negotiations for a climate accord that will replace the Kyoto Accord. Thus far, international political responses to climate change have resulted, to use 350.org founder Bill McKibben’s words, in the world “making no progress as a planet on slowing climate change.”

So what’s next? Though the negotiations on replacing the Kyoto Accord will begin in earnest in Paris next year, the next two weeks see three developments that comprise crucial progress in developing an effective response to climate change.

1) Local Policy. It is no secret that a major barrier to global climate policy is inaction at the federal level here in the United States. The separation of powers between the administrative and legislative branches has prevented approving a treaty that threatens entrenched coal and oil interests regardless of which party controls the White House. Although some executive actions (such as regulating aging coal-fired power plants out of business) have produced positive changes, the federal government has not made comprehensive moves to reduce American dependence on fossil energy.

Some change, however, is happening on the local level, with New York City at the forefront. Near the end of his administration, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg served as Chair of the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, which describes itself as “a global network of large cities taking action to address climate change by developing and implementing policies and programs that generate measurable reductions in both greenhouse gas emissions and climate risks.” From implementing congestion taxes to bike-share programs, C40 cities have shared thousands of strategies to reduce local dependence on coal, petroleum, and natural gas over the past decade.

This looks to continue. Ahead of participating in the People’s Climate March, current Mayor de Blasio announced that New York City will overhaul the energy-efficiency standards of all its public buildings and to pressure private landlords to make similar improvements.

The initiative is part of a pledge, to be announced before the start of the United Nations Climate Summit on Tuesday, to decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 2005 levels. The United Nations has pointed to that rate of decrease as a desired target for developed countries to mitigate the effects of climate change.

Should the municipal government succeed in this initiative, it may be a model for its partners in C40, initiating changes at the local level that have eluded most national governments.

2) Divestment. To date, market incentives for reducing fossil fuels have failed due to lack of regulatory sanctions (again, a failure of national and global governance to regulate greenhouse gases). Divestment, a different economic model based upon shaming and punishing actors behaving in destructive practices has begun to take hold. The practice has its roots in the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s and 1980s; demonstrations on college campuses (including one I participated in in 1985 at the University of California’s Berkeley campus) spurred educational institutions to divest from financial institutions tied to the South African government. The University of California subsequently moved to divest $3 billion; months later, Nelson Mandela was freed from prison. He subsequently visited the Bay Area in part to thank those who pushed for divestment.

Thirty years later, the strategy of divestment from fossil fuels is spreading amongst college campuses and other institutional investors. This past May, Stanford University became the largest university to announce it was divesting from coal, and campus movements have pushed for similar actions at schools across the nation.

This week, a new chapter in divestment begins as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund announces its $860 million philanthropic organization is set to join the divestment from fossil fuels. This action is particularly symbolic as the Rockefellers are heirs to John Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil. (Students in my classes may know Rockefeller and Standard Oil’s legacy in part from our discussions of what Cleveland-area refineries did to the Cuyahoga River throughout the twentieth century.) The divestment movement is working to convince large investors ranging from universities to pension funds to join; such actions may produce results where federal policies have thus far failed.

3) Design and Culture. The attraction of hundreds of thousands of diverse people to participate in the People’s Climate March indicates the broad cultural resonance of concerns around climate change. In addition to economic and policy moves, effective designs of buildings, systems, and a variety of goods modern people rely upon every day are crucial to the transition away from fossil fuels, especially if this transition is to be done without significant deprivation. There is no lack of prescriptive literature on sustainable design strategies, and the number of schools focusing on these issues is growing every year.

In the days after the People’s Climate March, a gathering happens that has perhaps less dramatic presence in the news than the policy and divestment events described above, yet will have relevance to the goals of those actions. At the beginning of October, Pratt hosts the Partnership for Academic Leadership on Sustainability meeting, gathering representatives from several art and design schools to work on best implementing sustainability in what we teach to our students (including those enrolled in the Sustainability Studies minor I coordinate at Pratt). As the world pushes for a future away from dependence on fossil fuels, we work to train designers and architects who will help create that future.

Ahead of the People’s Climate March, Secretary Ban announced: “We are anticipating an impressive turnout of leaders from government, business, finance and civil society. Most important, we are expecting significant commitments and progress.”

The march was an important show of concern. The political, economic, and organizational commitments in the days after the march will show the extent of how the symbolism results in progress.

Remembering Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Sustainability Promises Ahead of the 2015 Election

With this week’s news that Chicago Alderman Robert Fioretti is challenging incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the 2015 mayoral election is officially under way. It is a good time to take stock of the promises Candidate Emanuel made when he ran for mayor in 2011.

During that campaign, the Environmental Law & Policy Center sent a questionnaire to the candidates about several environmental concerns facing Chicagoans. You can read the complete questionnaire and responses from Emanuel (and his opponents Carol Mosley Braun, Gerry Chico, Miguel Del Valle, William Walls II, and Patricia Van Pelt Watkins) on the ELPC website. My post quotes Emanuel’s stances only and compares them to his administration’s actions since 2011.

ELPC Question 1. Will you strongly advocate for the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance and take other actions to require the clean up of all pollutants or the shut down of the highly-polluting Fisk and Crawford coal plants by 2015?

Emanuel did not answer yes or no, but made the following statement: “Midwest Generation must clean up these two plants, either by installing the necessary infrastructure to dramatically reduce the pollution they emit, or by converting to natural gas or another clean fuel. I will work closely with State and Federal regulators and the City Council to make sure it happens.”

Goal Met? Yes. Emanuel’s statement reflected his knowledge of what the Obama administration and EPA were doing on the federal level to regulate coal powers plants. EPA regulations of mercury emissions enacted in late 2011 effectively made it impossible for aging coal-fired power plants to stay in operation. In 2012, Fisk and Crawford shut down, as did the larger State Lane Power Plant just across the border in Indiana and dozens of other plants across the nation.

ELPC Question 2. Do you support the Chicago Climate Action Plan goal to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 25% by 2020 and commit to take the necessary actions to achieve these results? ELPC Question 3. Do you support investment in auditing and retrofitting all City-owned and City-leased buildings in the next five years with energy efficiency measures that have paybacks of about ten years or less?

Emanuel responded yes to both questions, with the following statements: “The City of Chicago is facing a budget crisis, and cutting energy use in City buildings is an important way to both save money and improve the environment. Chicago city government has to be a leader in demonstrating that environmentally smart choices make economic sense, and I will dramatically improve energy efficiency in City facilities and assist sister agencies in doing the same thing.

But we can’t just stop at City operations, I have outlined a proposal to triple the number of homes and businesses – from the current 7000 to 21,000 annually – that are retrofitted each year in Chicago by creating a $10 million fund that allows current programs to be significantly scaled and expanded. The city’s investment is projected to leverage an additional $100 million in outside resources from ComEd, People’s Gas, and various governmental and lending institutions. The plan is estimated to create more than 400 good-paying jobs and reduce harmful carbon emissions by more than 5,000 tons – the equivalent of cutting our gas consumption by 618,000 gallons annually.

My plan begins by designating a dozen Energy Efficiency Target Zones in areas that are shown to be least energy efficient, and select an anchor organization in each area to act as a one-stop-shop to significantly increase efficiency projects. I would then create a $10 million fund to support efforts in each zone so that local building owners can leverage an additional $100 million in private and public funds. Finally, my plan sets a firm deadline to complete an online one-stop-shop so that every Chicagoan can easily navigate the funding options to make efficiency improvements in their own homes and businesses.

My proposal, which is attached, is fully paid for through savings in other programs.”

“The City of Chicago is facing a budget crisis, and cutting energy use in City buildings is an important way to both save money and improve the environment. Chicago city government has to be a leader in demonstrating that environmentally smart choices make economic sense, and I will dramatically improve energy efficiency in City facilities and assist sister agencies in doing the same thing.

But we can’t just stop at City operations, I have outlined a proposal to triple the number of homes and businesses – from the current 7000 to 21,000 annually – that are retrofitted each year in Chicago by creating a $10 million fund that allows current programs to be significantly scaled and expanded. The city’s investment is projected to leverage an additional $100 million in outside resources from ComEd, People’s Gas, and various governmental and lending institutions. The plan is estimated to create more than 400 good-paying jobs and reduce harmful carbon emissions by more than 5,000 tons – the equivalent of cutting our gas consumption by 618,000 gallons annually.

My plan begins by designating a dozen Energy Efficiency Target Zones in areas that are shown to be least energy efficient, and select an anchor organization in each area to act as a one-stop-shop to significantly increase efficiency projects. I would then create a $10 million fund to support efforts in each zone so that local building owners can leverage an additional $100 million in private and public funds. Finally, my plan sets a firm deadline to complete an online one-stop-shop so that every Chicagoan can easily navigate the funding options to make efficiency improvements in their own homes and businesses.

My proposal, which is attached, is fully paid for through savings in other programs.”

Goals Met? Not Yet. Emanuel’s major initiative on this point was creation of the Chicago Infrastructure Trust to make downtown buildings more energy-efficient. It is too early to tell the results. The Trust approved its first project in November 2013 to make improvements in 75 city buildings, and this spring the Associated Press concluded that the Trust has “started slowly.”

When first talking about the trust in 2012, Emanuel spoke of including more than 1,000 city buildings, $225 million in investment and $20 million in energy savings. The ultimate $12.2 million deal is even smaller than what went into Chicago’s bike-sharing program: about $22 million. Instead of 2,000 construction jobs, it’s around 100.
The retrofit shrank in part because some buildings couldn’t generate enough of a payback over the 15-year term; others had liens.
The trust’s CEO, Stephen Beitler, says the initiative might later include some of those sites in separate deals. He said he envisions “greater and greater investor interest” as the project gets “better and better.”
Emanuel, in an interview, said he’s not disappointed. He said with a framework now in place the city is ready for projects targeting energy-sucking city swimming pools and a quarter-million streetlights.
“We’re going to do it in steps — since it’s something new,” he said.

In the City of Chicago’s “Sustainable Chicago 2015″ report (DDF), the administration announced a goal to improve citywide energy efficiency by 5% through a variety of incentives. Data on how successful the initiatives have been is not public as of this writing.

EPLC Question 4. Do you support requiring all newly constructed and substantially-rehabilitated buildings in Chicago to include wiring to accommodate an on-site renewable energy generation system, starting in 2014?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “I will work with the City Council to establish these requirements for new buildings of a certain size. Further, I will conduct a detailed review of City code and permit requirements to identify and eliminate barriers to the expansion of renewable energy installations throughout the City and make sure that the City Energy code is fully and effectively implemented.”

Goal Met? No. Perhaps the City has not updated its website on the Energy code yet.

ELPC Question: 5. Will you commit the City of Chicago and its affiliated agencies to purchasing at least 20% of their electricity supply from locally or in-state generated renewable energy resources by 2014?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Renewable energy has to be a critical part of the City’s energy mix and integrated into an overall strategy that dramatically expands efficiency and reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Given the dire financial situation of the City, we need to get the most out of every dollar spent, and I will emphasize local renewable energy sources that support jobs and renewable energy development in Chicago. Further, the State’s renewable energy portfolio standard should be enhanced to support affordable, distributed renewable energy sources in urban areas.”

Goal Met? No. The Sustainable Chicago 2015 report (PDF) now offers a goal of 2 MW of solar panels on public buildings and 20 MW of solar panels on private buildings by 2015. No public data supports the achievement of either those goals or the 20% renewable pledge made in 2011.

ELPC Question 6. Will you support an ordinance that would require cleaner diesel fuel and equipment to be used on City-funded construction projects?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “As part of my comprehensive strategy to reform the procurement process and green Chicago’s supply chain, I have made a commitment to review all City contracts, including construction contracts, to identify environmental impacts and modify specifications to ensure environmentally safe and affordable choices.”

Goal Met? Yes. The City Council passed such an ordinance in April 2011.

ELPC Question 7. Will you ensure that Chicago’s current solid waste recycling ordinance is enforced and that source-separated recycling is available to all homes and businesses by 2014?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “I will enforce the City’s solid waste recycling ordinance.

Improving and expanding curbside recycling is a top priority of mine. Picking up garbage in Chicago is too expensive and inefficient and must be reformed. Recycling has to be part of a comprehensive plan to overhaul the City’s garbage collection system, particularly in light of the massive deficits in the City’s budget. I am committed to making this a long-term project so that all Chicago residents have access to curbside recycling, but the time frame for implementing the expansion will have to be determined based upon the availability of revenue and in the context of the City’s budget crisis.”

Goal Met? No. Two months into his term, Mayor Emanuel unveiled the first step in attempting to provide all Chicago residents with access to curbside recycling, announcing an expansion of blue carts to 20,000 additional households by November of 2011, with further expansion to come. To offset costs, collection from the blue carts would come from dividing the city up into six collection areas, with the massive private vendor Waste Management (previously the city’s partner in the failed blue bag program) collecting from three areas, Midwest Metal Management (a division of Sims) collecting from two areas, and the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation collecting from one area.

The idea was that the three entities were participating in a “managed competition” program, and the goal of the program was to reduce the high costs of recycling. The competition would take place for six months (starting in November 2011), and the city would assess its results as it moved to expand recycling services.

In April of 2012, the city announced that the competition had reduced the costs of the recycling program. The city claimed that blue cart collection had cost the city $4.77 for every blue cart collected before the managed competition program, and those costs were lowered to $3.28 per bin in the area collected by the Department of Streets and Sanitation and to $2.70 a cart in the areas collected by the private vendors. Mayor Emanuel also promised to complete the rollout of blue bins to single-family dwellings by the end of 2014.

In October of 2013, Mayor Emanuel followed up on that promise, detailing plans to deliver 72,000 more blue bins, bringing the number of households served by the program to 600,000 citywide.  At the announcement he remarked, “With the final phase of the blue cart recycling expansion, Chicago is no longer the tale of two cities when it comes to recycling. “Recycling is now a reality for every neighborhood in every community, and we have made Chicago a greener, more environmentally friendly city.”

The mayor overstated his case.  Blue bins are going to houses throughout the city, but hundreds of thousands of Chicagoans do not live in houses.  As WLS-TV noted, “twice a week, the blue carts are collected at residences in single family homes and buildings with fewer than four units.”  Larger, multi-dwelling buildings have not received blue bins.  The Burke-Hansen ordinance, law in Chicago for more than twenty years, requires such buildings to hire private vendors to collect recyclables.  The ordinance, however, was never enforced during the Daley administration and thus far has not been enforced during the first term of the Emanuel administration. The administration has given no specifics how Chicago might improve recycling services in large buildings.

It also remains to be seen whether Chicago will comply with Illinois state law and collect yard waste, or how much of the collected material from the recycling program is actually recycled. That said, the expansion of blue bin services is an improvement.

ELPC Question 8. Will you change Chicago’s MeterSave program from a voluntary installation system to a mandatory one with a goal of reaching 50% of single-family homes and two-flats during your first term?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Yes. Too often, water is squandered as though it is limitless. As Mayor, I will direct the Department of Water Management to increase efforts to educate the public about the importance of water conservation, ensure proper water metering, and accelerate its water main replacement program to reduce leaks in the system. He will also task the Department of Water Management to study water rates in the city to determine the best way to adjust rates to encourage conservation and keep water rates affordable for all Chicagoans.

Goal Met? No. The MeterSave program remains voluntary, though the City announced in January 2014 that it “is progressing ahead of schedule.”

ELPC Question 9. Will you commit to requiring all City building, street, alley, sidewalk and parking lot projects to adhere to the City’s own stormwater ordinance in order to significantly reduce stormwater runoff, localized flooding and basement backups?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “I will direct the Departments of Water Management, Environment, Housing and Economic Development, Transportation and the Office of Budget and Management, to develop a multi-year plan to reduce overflows and basement flooding. The plan will set measurable targets for reductions in sewer overflows and basement flooding, identify the priority locations for sewer improvements and green infrastructure, like permeable alleys and planted parkways, coordinate projects to minimize costs and leverage state and federal dollars to make it happen.”

Goal Met? Yes. In October of 2013, the Metropolitan Planning Council praised the progress of the city and Metropolitan Water Reclamation District on this point. This progress included a plan the city unveiled that month.

EPLC Question 10. Will you publicly support disinfecting the sewage effluent that is pumped into the Chicago-area waterways?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Disinfection is a standard practice around the country and it is long overdue in Chicago.”

Goal Met? Yes. After longstanding pressure by Friends of the Chicago River and attention from the US EPA, Chicago is finally developing a system of disinfecting the sewage effluent that has polluted the river.

EPLC Question 11. Will you advocate for an accelerated timeline for the U.S. Army Corps’ Great Lakes-Mississippi River Interbasin Study that is examining watershed separation to permanently solve our invasive species problem?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Invasive species are a significant and immediate threat, and separation of the watersheds is an important opportunity to invest in and improve the environment, our infrastructure and our economy. We cannot go slow or take a wait and see approach. The study must be expedited.”

Goal Met? Yes. The Study was released in early 2014.

EPLC Question 12. Will you be a vocal advocate for increased capital and operating funds for the Chicago Transit Authority from all levels of government in order to maintain transit operations and provide for necessary service expansions?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Reliable and affordable public transit is critical to Chicago’s environmental and economic well being. I will push to expand state and federal funding, advocate for reform of the State funding formula to ensure adequate resources for critical services and demand better planning and coordination by CTA, Metra and Pace to enhance customer convenience and increase ridership.”

Goal Met? Mixed. The Civic Foundation praised the CTA’s 2014 budget for not relying as heavily on one-time revenue sources but also stated that the CTA’s funding precariously depended upon the state’s funding (which had not been reformed).

EPLC Question 13. Will you support ensuring that 100% of CTA’s diesel bus fleet is equipped with modern pollution controls within three years?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Public agencies need to be leaders in converting their fleets, and diesel improvements are a reasonable and affordable step.”

Goal Met? No. The last time the CTA’s website bragging about pollution reduction was updated was 2011, with the last statement about diesel coming from 2003.

ELPC Question 14. Will you be a strong advocate for the federal government’s increased investment in the Chicago-hubbed Midwest high-speed rail network and work to ensure that Chicago’s high-speed train station is designed to catalyze economic development and connect well with CTA, Metra and other transportation modes?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “High-Speed rail will create jobs and investment in Chicago and throughout the Midwest. To ensure that Chicago gets the maximum benefit, I will make sure that high-speed rail investments are closely coordinated with local transit and other transportation improvements. A high speed rail terminal, with easy access to other transit options, will be a tremendous anchor that will drive investment and economic development both around the terminal and for the communities linked to it.”

Goal Met? Too Early to Tell. As the question indicated, this is a complex issue in which federal activity is particularly important. That said, the HSR line to Saint Louis is progressing.

The Midwest High-Speed Rail website last had a post tagged with Emanuel’s name on May 30, 2012, when the city announced upgrades to Union Station.

ELPC Question 15. Will you commit to implementing strategies outlined in the 2015 Bike Plan, Chicago’s Pedestrian Plan and Chicago’s Complete Streets Policy to increase bicycle use and promote safe walkways?

Goal Met? Yes. As with other cities, including Boston and New York City, Chicago introduced a bike-share program in 2013 and has implemented protected bike lanes. The Active Transportation Alliance summarized the city’s progress on this front in July, concluding “since 2011 Chicago has built nearly twice as many miles of barrier-protected bike lanes than any American city including New York, Portland and San Francisco.

But 100 miles by 2015? Well, that’s proven to be a very ambitious goal the city won’t meet. The city is counting protected and buffered bike lanes towards meeting a 100 mile goal for “advanced” bike lanes, which will be a huge accomplishment and way ahead of other cities.

We love buffered lanes, too, but remain committed to at least 100 miles of protected lanes as part of a comprehensive network.”

ELPC Question 16. Will you support the adoption of policies to promote car sharing and electric vehicles, which can relieve congestion and reduce air pollution?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Car sharing and electric vehicles are important alternatives that need to be fully integrated into transportation planning. But we need to do more than plan; we need to invest in the infrastructure that will make those plans reality. As part of my green fleets strategy I have set specific targets for reducing trips and switching to transportation alternatives reducing City employee vehicle miles travelled by 10% and switching 10% of their work related trips to alternative transportation. Transportation alternatives will include car sharing, bicycling and transit. Chicago has received over $15 million dollars in Federal Stimulus grants to increase the conversion to alternative fuel vehicles and development of alternative fueling infrastructure. Chicago needs to make the most of the federal dollars that it has received by expediting the implementation of the fueling infrastructure and developing a concrete plan for continued expansion of that infrastructure network after the federal stimulus program has ended. Chicago, and other state and local governments have fallen behind in spending their energy related stimulus dollars. I will conduct a detailed review of the performance of stimulus energy dollars, set hard deadlines for meeting grant targets and reprogram money that isn’t effectively spent to important priorities like expanding the alternative fuelling infrastructure and tripling the rate of energy retrofits for Chicago homes and businesses.”

Goal Met? Yes. Chicago’s car-sharing services (as with other cities) have proven sufficiently successful that large rental agencies such as Enterprise and Avis have gotten into the business locally.

ELPC Question 17. Do you commit to adding neighborhood public park space in communities that have less than 2 acres of parks per 1,000 residents?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “I will work to expand parks and make sure that those parks are properly programmed to provide recreational opportunities, improve quality of life and support environmental education and stewardship.”

Goal Met? Partially. The answer to this question depends on how you count the progress of the new 606 and Chicago Riverwalk expansion developments. A July article of “the five most anticipated parks” in Chicago involved reuse of existing parkland in Grant Park. The last space allotted to parks on the South Side was Stearns Quarry Park in 2009, and neighborhoods such as Little Village have not seen new spaces devoted to public parks.

ELPC Question 18. Are you committed to transferring the approximately 1,500 acres of City- or Port District-owned land in the Calumet region to the Chicago Park District and/or Forest Preserve District as identified in the City’s Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Despite a legacy of contamination and neglect, the Calumet region is home to nationally significant environmental assets that demonstrate the resilience of nature. Protecting the region’s natural resources is fully compatible with plans to create jobs and economic development, and celebrating and enhancing environmental assets must be a critical component of the sustainable development of the southeast side. I support the Open Space Reserve Plan including the transfer of property to the Park District and Forest Preserve.”

Goal Met? No property transfer reported yet. While I could find no news on a formal property transfer as stated in the Calumet Open Space Reserve Plan, Mayor Emanuel has appeared with Governor Quinn to announce redevelopments of the region, including Millennium Reserve.

ELPC Question 19. Do you commit to completing the south lakefront park system from 71st Street to the Indiana border by 2015?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Chicago’s lakefront is an incredible natural resource that helps define our City and drive our economy. Completing the park system to the Indiana border during my first term will be a priority of my administration. I will make sure that that connection, brings the wonders of the lakefront to Chicago neighborhoods that have been cut off from Lake Michigan, and I will implement park development strategies that improve water quality and enhance and celebrate natural resources.”

Goal Met? Not Yet. With three months to go before 2015, no news on “The Last Four Miles” becoming part of the park system yet.

ELPC Question 20. Will you support coordinated and flexible city policies and zoning ordinances that will remove barriers and provide incentives for growing, producing and selling locally grown foods in Chicago neighborhoods?

Emanuel answered yes, stating: “Local food and urban agriculture create jobs, improve healthy food opportunities, and provide access to fresh and affordable produce. The City shouldn’t create barriers to expansion through excessive setbacks and overly restrictive zoning requirements, and we need better models to promote urban agriculture as a transitional use in communities that want it – particularly those that are currently in a food desert. I will do a top to bottom review of all existing programs and requirements and will develop and implement common sense approaches that promote the growth, production and sale of locally grown food in Chicago neighborhoods.”

Goal Met? Yes. The Emanuel administration has worked with Growing Power to use vacant lots for agriculture and provided incentives for farmers market purchases with LINK cards. The city has yet to make progress on collecting compost to use as soil in local agriculture, but overall Mayor Emanuel has kept this campaign pledge.

Now that Mayor Emanuel and Alderman Fioretti are formally in the 2015 campaign (with other candidates, perhaps including Karen Lewis, to follow), it is my hope that questions about sustainable energy, waste reclamation, water, food, and public lands will inform the debate to come so that Chicago citizens may make an informed decision this winter.

Sustainability Courses Back in Session As Pratt Starts Fall Semester

How do humans live in concert with the environment?  Discuss this question in these two Fall 2013 courses.

How do humans live in concert with the environment? Discuss this question in these two Fall 2014 courses.

Fall term started Monday at Pratt, officially kicking off the second year of the Sustainability Studies minor. The Sustainable Core course is offering two sections. I am leading the Monday 2-4:50pm section and Jen Telesca is leading the Wednesday 5-7:50pm section. Each section includes participation by various Pratt instructors, giving students a sense of how sustainability is approached in design, architecture, the social sciences, the natural sciences, and humanities. This course is designed as our introduction to sustainability, and it is a required course for Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor.

We deliberately have larger enrollment caps on the core course, so interested students can still sign up for either section. In addition, we have added more elective courses that count toward completion of the minorIf you are a Pratt student and have any questions for me about either of these courses, please feel free to contact me at czimring@pratt.edu.

Is the Polluted Past Prologue to a Sustainable Future? Society for the History of Technology Presentation November 7

A man stands upon waste on Bubbly Creek, 1911.  Chicago Daily News.

A man stands upon waste on Bubbly Creek, 1911. Chicago Daily News.

November brings the Society for the History of Technology (SHOT) meeting to Dearborn, Michigan. The Envirotech Special Interest Group (SIG) always has a presence at SHOT, and as part of it, I will present a talk about the use of environmental history to develop sustainability studies education at 2pm on November 7. Although this talk is right after lunch, it will probably include the image of a man standing atop slaughterhouse waste on Chicago’s Bubbly Creek. Audience members are advised to eat Coney Island hot dogs for lunch at their peril. Here’s the panel information.

Technology Natures Communication (Friday, 2-3:30pm)

Carl Zimring (Pratt Institute): Is the Polluted Past Prologue to a Sustainable Future? Uses of the Environmental History of Waterways as Pedagogy for Sustainability Education

Ann N. Greene (University of Pennsylvania): Engineering the Erie: The Technopolitics of Water in 19th Century America

Michael Winslow (University of Iowa): The Culture of Turfgrass: Golf Tourism, Progressive Agriculture, and Technologies of Landscape in North Carolina, 1895–1935

“Paths to Sustainability: Contested Spaces in American Urban Environments” at the Urban History Association, October 9-12

SUST405GowanusFromMTAAs the coordinator of Pratt’s Sustainability Studies minor, I try to use my discipline of environmental history to spur discussion of how we may learn from the past to develop better practices in the future.

At this October’s Urban History Conference in Philadelphia, Steve Corey of Columbia College, Jim Longhurst of the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, and I will discuss some historical paths to sustainability, specifically on solid waste management, urban cycling, and urban waterway stewardship. I look forward to the discussion, even if Professor Longhurst does not put his money where his mouth is and take a round-trip bicycle journey between LaCrosse and Philadelphia. (I certainly will not swim down there from the Gowanus Canal, so I suppose that’s fair.)

Whose Waste? Whose Problem? Munich Conference, October 23-25

PlasticBagsChicagoNothing like talking about waste with like-minded people, so I’m looking forward to this workshop at the Rachel Carson Center this October:

Conveners: Eveline Dürr (LMU), Soraya Heuss (LMU), Roman Koster (LMU), and Christof Mauch (LMU/RCC)

Waste has until now mainly been a technical problem, matched by technical solutions in waste disposal, waste management, and recycling. But waste is a complex phenomenon that can only be fully understood by exploring cultural perceptions and social practices alongside the technical strategies for dealing with waste. A broader view helps us to focus more clearly on the political topicality of waste, for instance in the context of the fast-growing megacities. It is all the more surprising, therefore, that there has not yet been any systematic research into the social, legal, and political discussions about waste in the light of modern developments.

This three-day workshop, as part of the LMU Center for Advanced Studies research focus ‘Waste in Environment and Society,’ features presentations by leading scholars on ‘waste-scapes,’ how waste travels, and the possibility of a future without waste.

Presenters include:

  • Catherine Alexander (Anthropologist, University of Durham)
  • Amanda Boetzkes (Art Historian, Ohio State University)
  • Kate Brown (Historian, University of Maryland, Baltimore)
  • Christian Felske (City of Edmonton, Waste Management Services)
  • Stefania Gallini (Historian, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá)
  • Zsuzsa Gille (Sociologist, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
  • Jutta Gutberlet (Geographer, University of Victoria)
  • Sarah Hill (Anthropologist, Western Michigan University)
  • Herbert Köpnik (Formerly from Bavarian Ministry for Environment and Health)
  • Martin Melosi (Historian, University of Houston)
  • Jorge Fernández Niello (Environmental Engineer, Universidad Nacional de San Martín)
  • Gerhard Rettenberger (Engineer, Hochschule Trier)
  • Vera Susanne Rottner (Engineer, Waste Management)
  • Djahane Salehabadi (Sociologist)
  • John Scanlan (Sociologist, Manchester Metropolitan University)
  • Tian Song (Philosophy/Sociology, Beijing Normal University)
  • Carl Zimring (Environmental Historian, Pratt Institute)