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. :)

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