Cities around the world face a number of challenges, including infrastructure, safety, economic, and environmental challenges. In its recent report Planting Healthy Air, the Nature Conservancy and C40 Cities collaborated to examine two major environmental challenges that impact health: particulate matter pollution and extreme heat.
Fine particulate matter, which is emitted from a variety of sources, including burning agricultural residues, fuelwood, and fossil fuels, is currently estimated to cause 3.2 million deaths per year globally. By 2050, its projected that fine particulate matter could kill up to 6.2 million people per year.
Extreme heat is also a major health concern. Currently extreme heat kills an estimated 12,000 people annually (and makes life miserable for billions more.) By 2050, it’s projected that deaths from heat waves could reach 260,000.
Though these are very serious issues, taking a heavy toll on our cities. There is a solution. And it is beautifully simple. Plant trees.
During the last century, America’s position as a global economic leader was unaffected by the lack of contribution of disconnected Americans in key performance areas. We were the largely unchallenged global leaders, and U.S. economic competitiveness was assured despite less than optimal productivity from more than half our population. This is no longer the case. With unyielding global competition for jobs and opportunity, our nation cannot continue maintaining the walls that separate too many Americans from opportunities to successfully compete and prosper. Without an economy open to more contributions from more Americans (especially from disconnected populations; generally, women, African Americans, Latinos, and rural populations) we accept spectacular success for a few at the expense of a resilient, globally competitive national economy.
What is your advice for the next generation of city change makers?
The biggest piece of advice I can offer to the next generation of city change makers is to get involved! Community leaders are eager to form relationships with next generation leaders, to share the community’s history, to mentor, and to provide guidance. On the other hand, community leaders need to be open-minded about the approach young leaders take. Here, we have a history of a strong, nine-month community leadership training program. It’s a great program, but I sense we need to update our model. Next generation leaders might prefer to hold a hackathon to solve a problem in a weekend. They may see a solution that involves new technology. We need to move over and make room for new ways of tackling issues.
How civic partnerships can create Transit Information Networks (TINs) to spur economic development and promote transportation equity.
Civic collaboration = shared success
A central theme of the recent CEO’s for Cities national meeting in Columbus was that a culture of civic collaboration between public and private organizations, including business, government and everyone in between, can deliver shared success. Columbus’ success in winning the $40 million federal DOT Smart Cities grant, along with $100 million in additional grants from Vulcan, and local business and organizations, is measurable evidence of this culture in practice.
In an innovative collaboration, committed local leadership, including business improvement districts, foundations, economic development boards, chambers of commerce, advocacy groups, local employers, franchises, merchants, transit agencies and city government, can fund and establish Transit Information Networks (TINs) –indoor electronic screens on which transit arrival times and related information can be distributed and displayed. This model can deliver immediate, highly visible benefits to many stakeholders at a modest cost.
The City of Cleveland is on the rise. Not just because its sports teams are winning championships or because the Republican National Convention brought an influx of economic opportunities and people into the city. But because the city is experiencing a revitalization in many of its neighborhoods that have long been dormant. Some of these neighborhoods have already begun their ascension, including Ohio City, Tremont, and the Flats. It looks like Slavic Village will be next.