What will the Charlotte region be like in 2030? "Charlotte 2030: A Sustainable Vision for our Region," released on Monday by the nonprofit Sustain Charlotte, paints an idealistic image of sustainability nirvana. It's a 16-page wish list put together after a gathering last spring, and includes envisioned goals in 10 different areas. Examples:
• "The region is a national leader for clean energy and green jobs,
which include research, design and manufacturing of innovative
• "Energy usage per person is reduced by at least 20% – or 1% per year."
• "Acres of parkland per person meets or exceeds the national average."
• "Economic growth is not viewed as dependent on infrastructure
• "New development takes place near existing development
or on previously developed sites (re-development)."
• "Buildings are designed for reconfiguration to accommodate
Now comes this pundit's commentary: Obviously our city, region, state and nation need to get a lot smarter about our energy use, develop new sources and learn to better conserve what we produce. We need to transition into a way of life that isn't so wasteful of our land, our resources and our public money. The Charlotte 2030 vision would be grand, if even half of it comes to pass.
But if I had $10 for every laudable "envision Charlotte" brochure or pamphlet or website produced in the past 20 years I'd be blogging at my leisure from the south of France between glasses of the local red while I live off my accumulated wealth. Will this effort be The One to succeed at changing the behavior of businesses and people? I confess to skepticism. I'm writing this on an election day when experts predict a takeover of Congress by a party that rejects the idea of carbon limits ("the energy tax"), vows to stymie the EPA at every turn and holds many members who cling to the notion that global climate change is a hoax perpetrated by all the world's climate scientists except a brave few. (I personally cannot envision a group of people less easily herded into a global hoax than a large collection of scientists and academics, many of whom relish bursting conventional wisdom bubbles and try their best at revisionist history.)
These are the people that a majority of voters are going to give our government to? This doesn't bode well for much action at the national level beyond continued mountaintop removal (see photo above), offshore oil spills, declining air and water quality.
So it will be up to cities, and a few states (but not likely North Carolina). Will Charlotte be one of the cities that rises to the occasion? Hard to say. Many of our elected officials are happy to be environmentally friendly until it means they actually have to displease any businesses or spend any government money on the notion.
But I'll end on a modestly cheerful note: Sustain Charlotte drew a crowd of about 60 to its launch at Trade and Tryon uptown, and is drawing on a lot of people relatively new to the region and enthusiastic about the mission. Plenty of things are happening at the small, local level regardless of what happens in Congress. And for now, that will have to suffice.
Photo: Kayford Mountain, West Virginia, victim of coal mining that removes the mountaintop. Credit - Observer file photo/AFP/Getty.