Monday, April 21, 2008

Nature + Family + Urban Surroundings

There are groups that offer a valuable template for green cities or strong families, yet few communities succeed in both. Collectively, the three cities featured below offer a plan to transform the natural and urban surroundings as well as improve marriages/family life. The goal of building sustainable communities is elevated by including family relationships and care for all citizens.

Denver, Colorado – Greenprint Denver

The sustainable development plan for the City of Denver focuses on renewable energy, recycling, public transit, parks and planting trees, green buildings, air and water quality, alternative fuel vehicles, urban gardens, landuse and pedestrian-friendly urban centers. Greenprint Denver is an action agenda with set goals such as increasing material recycled in Denver by 50% for 2007, mobilizing a free curbside pick-up program in residential neighborhoods without requiring the sorting of recyclables. As part of FasTracks, a 12-year transit plan, 119 miles of new light rail and commuter rail plus 18 miles of bus rapid transit will connect the Denver Metropolitan area. Denver is listed in the Top Ten Green Cities by The Green Guide and Top Ten Sustainable Cities in the United States by SustainLane.

Chattanooga, Tennessee – First Things First

In 1997, a group of business leaders gathered to talk about the direction of their city. "We wanted to know how we could really make a difference in Chattanooga," says Hugh O. Maclellan Jr., chairman of the board of the Maclellan Foundation. "We realized that the city's biggest problem was the breakdown of families, and that every part of Chattanooga was being affected by it.” The civic leaders founded First Things First, a community-wide initiative to revitalize the city, beginning with the family.

First Things First (FTF) has three goals: “reduce the number of divorces filed in Hamilton County, reduce out of wedlock pregnancies in the county, and increase sufficient father involvement.” Free weekly classes are offered to singles, engaged couples, married couples, unmarried expectant mothers, and fathers. The FTF Marriage and Family Resource Center is located in the City of Chattanooga, providing books and videos to the public. First Things First equips families with practical skills to have healthy marriages and raise children.

Curitiba, Brazil – Urban Acupuncture

Jaime Lerner, three-time former mayor of Curitiba and architect, has an innovative approach to urban planning. He uses the term “urban acupuncture” to revitalize “pressure points” within the city. The response produces “positive ripple effects” throughout the community. Lerner is well-known for developing the “bus rapid transit”, a system that transports a similar number of passengers as a subway with far less cost in infrastructure. The system is so successful that bus transit represents 60% of overall travel in Curitiba.

Each person, from the smallest citizen on up, has a role in caring for the city. The recycling program began by educating the children to sort trash at home. Since 1989, the city boasts of 70% voluntary participation. In the poorer areas near the edge of the city, people exchange a bag of trash for a bag of food. The “positive ripple effect” is the health of the people improved with adequate nourishment and cleaner surroundings.

Lerner offers a very real picture of the importance in loving all the children. “When you start to love the children, you have to love all of the children because if the city can't love those children too, then those children will grow to hate the city. And if they hate the city, they will destroy the city.” The feeling of belonging and acceptance is essential in the way children and adults relate to their surroundings. Curitiba is unique compared to other top sustainable cities by embracing the care for all its citizens in conjunction with the natural/urban surroundings.