Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Green Infrastructure

A key component of turning Detroit into a more vibrant and sustainable place to live and work is green infrastructure. Green infrastructure is made of planned natural features, such as parks, green alleys, and greenways, that support both healthy ecosystems and communities. Aside from the obvious benefits of having more parks in the place that we live, this approach to planning can also help to clean our environment. By building more parks and fewer parking lots, more rainwater can soak into the ground and filter naturally instead of coming into the sewers and needing to be treated. Having more trees in our communities helps to clean the air and also take up carbon from the atmosphere. Green infrastructure can also help to support biodiversity and reduce the urban heat island effect. Where would we be without clean air and water? Or insects to pollinate plants that we eat? We depend on well-functioning ecosystems to maintain our quality of life. Green infrastructure is a great way to make neighborhoods more fun, attractive, and healthier places to live in!

DWEJ is working on a green alley project on the East Side with with Genesis Hope (http://www.genesishope.org/). Since alleys are an often neglected areas that are home to undesireable activities, revitalizing them can have a big impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. Other cities, like Chicago (http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/cdot/provdrs/alley/svcs/green_alleys.html), Baltimore (http://www.communitygreens.org/AGandAG) , and Los Angeles, have used green alleys to combat blight, crime, and environmental issues.

DWEJ is also working with Community Development Advocates of Detroit (http://cdadonline.ning.com/) to help develop strategic planning tool that neighborhood groups can use to help direct the future of their areas. This tool includes strategies for areas that could be redeveloped into naturescapes or green thoroughfares that would function as green infrastructure.

If you want to learn more about green infrastructure here are some links that will show you the development of green areas and links across metro-Detroit and the world!
A great place to get started: http://www.greeninfrastructurewiki.com/
Michigan Trails & Rails: http://www.michigantrails.org/projects/detroit-trails/
A greenway report from Time: http://detroit.blogs.time.com/2010/07/15/a-greenway-runs-through-it/

- Volunteer Anne Shivkovsky

Friday, May 27, 2011

Our new intern's first day on the job...

This spring, we got connected to Taylor Daugherty, a super-energetic, smart young lady this summer who is one of our new interns. She just finished her sophomore year at Western Michigan University, and juggles pageant competitions with a double major in environmental studies and broadcast journalism.

Her first day on the job was helping out with the May 5 Environmental Summit, which DWEJ partnered with sister organizations and residents to organize. We wanted to expand community engagement on environmental issues for the Detroit Works Project. I asked her to write a little reflection about what she thought about the event for our blog, and wow - here's what she wrote:

"The Environmental Summit was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.
Heading into my junior year of college as an environmental studies major, I thought I knew a pretty good amount of information. The biological aspects of the environment, importance of maintaining ecological equilibrium , the necessity of preserving the ozone ... blah blah blah, so to speak.  One thing that was missing from the lectures, labs, field experiments and statistical assessments however, ... was actual application.

So the summit, needless to say, was amazing. As a mere “fly on the wall”, I was able to absorb so much information. Being able to see the passion behind the people’s stories, opinions and ideas, and the fact that they were directly effected by the things I read about in my textbooks everyday, helped me to understand 1. the interconnection among the different aspects of the environmental realm (social, ecological, political) 2. the importance of having a variety of organizations aimed at different sectors of the environmental field and 3. the benefits of simple communication.

All in all, I really enjoyed the summit. I was able to see generations of Detroiters with strong opinions and passionate appeals, speaking up for things they believed in. It was encouraging, it was insightful ... it was ... Bold!

-signed, the new intern."

Friday, May 20, 2011

There are so many things I like about this picture. Revival of a key historic building (with the help of state historic tax credits) downtown, and a couple of our sweetest trainees (Curtis Harper, Jr. and Curtis Harper, Sr.) employed on the project. 

Broderick Towers: Woodward at Grand Circus Park. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

Detroit's Environmental Holy Grail...?

What would be the environmental holy grail for Detroit?

For Simone Sagovac of Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision, a cap on cumulative impacts + reduction goals is pretty close. That would be one power-packing policy, because setting both a cap and reduction goal would not only totally change the way permitting decisions are made, but also require currently polluting facilities to get cleaner and cleaner. That would REALLY be prioritizing human wellbeing.

Why cumulative impacts? Here's why, in very simple terms by Peter Montague, director of Environmental Research Foundation in Annapolis, Maryland:

"Actions that are tolerable or even harmless at the individual level can degrade the planet if thousands or millions of people do them."

A locally relevant version would be "Permitted emissions that are tolerable or even harmless at the individual level may be reducing air, water and soil quality to hazardous levels in areas of concentrated industry" - like in Southwest Detroit.

We could address all different sources of cumulative health impacts - air quality, water quality, soil quality, in the built environment, etc. You could get into zoning, green infrastructure, brownfield remediation, alternative energy...

Would it adequately capture issues like access to recreation, public transit and housing options, and energy conservation? I guess if we included fuel emissions, indoor environmental quality, and power plant emissions.

Anyway, I wanted to share two rather wonky items that I like:

Santa Monica's Sustainability Plan - guiding principles, indicators, goals... drool.


Smart Growth Leadership Institute's Policy Audit tool. OOHH. You're supposed to have a shared city vision to audit policies against? That makes sense. :)