As part of the Water Diplomacy doctoral program at Tufts, I recently put together a once-a-month symposium on "civic engagement and water diplomacy." The idea behind this symposium is to bring together students, faculty, and practitioners who have experience or interest in the involvement of people other than water engineers in water decision making. Peter Levine from Tisch College at Tufts is the coordinator, and as one of the world's experts on civic engagement, he has brought a new dimension to the study of water decisions. The first discussion in September focused on what the great political scientist Elinor Ostrom had to say about the role of ordinary people in overcoming the tragedy of the commons and related common pool resource problems. The second meeting focused on "integrated water resource management" which, among other things, prescribes extensive public participation in water policy and decision making. Jerry Delli Priscoli from the US Army Corps of Engineers (one of the world's experts on civic engagement in water issues) was our special guest. The third meeting, scheduled for later this month, will likely address collaborative watershed management. And the final meeting in December will look at mutual gains approaches to stakeholder engagement in water negotiations. Larry Susskind from MIT will likely lead this discussion. For more information, go to the water diplomacy web site.
I was fortunate to have been invited to participate in a workshop last week on "Social science perspectives on non-state actors in environmental governance" at the National Socio-environmental synthesis center at the University of Maryland in Annapolis. Many thanks to Carmen Sirianni, Dana Fisher, and Andy Andrews for the invitation and for putting the workshop together. Not all of the presentations had to do with cities, but research by Dana Fisher from the Universty of Maryland and by Suzanne Staggenborg from Pitt focused on local groups of various sorts. Dana's work is about what she calls local "hybrid" organizations which perform lots of different environmental functions. Her analysis is largely focused on New York City, Washington DC, and Philadelphia. I presented work with my colleague Jeff Berry that looks at how local groups engage in advocacy with local policy makers. Several papers on this subject are accessible at the ourgreencities web site.
For those of you who wish to be able to easily access cities' climate action plans, I have created a library of these plans for the 55 largest U.S. on the OurGreenCities web site. Just go to this site, and look for a the link on the left side. Clicking on the city name will open a pdf file of the plan or report. Since the library contains the pdf files (rather than links to city web sites), these will not disappear. I hope to add cities to the library in the future.
Boulder, Colorado has long been a national leader in trying to become more sustainable. The latest entry in this effort is focused on electricity in the city. The city's electricity is supplied by a private company, Xcel Energy, but over the last few years city leaders and residents have gotten increasingly frustrated with the company. From what I understand, the city has wanted Xcel to work with it to increase the city's portfolio of renewable energy to 40%, but the company has only been willing to go to 30%, what is required by state law. When Xcel embarked on a project to make Boulder the "SmarGridCity," apparently the city became very unhappy with the cost and design of the result. So last November, ballot questions passed that would allow the city to take control of the city's electric grid so that it can municipalize the delivery and possibly the generation of electricity. It apparently intends to do this through condemnation proceedings. Of course, Xcel is not taking this in stride, doing what it can to make this difficult or impossible. This is certainly worth watching. For more information, read the article here.
The 2012 Energy Conference at Tufts will be held on April 20 and 21 in Medford. I have agreed to be one of the judges for the "Energy Competition," where students can submit projects and ideas and win a $5,000 prize. The deadline for entering the competition is March 1. But the full conference promises to bring together a terrific array of experts about energy. Go to the conference web site for more information.
The "Water Systems, Science, and Society" symposium is scheduled for April 27th in Medford, MA. This year's conference is especially impressive because it will be co-sponsored by the Water Resources Research Center at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. This is part of Tufts University's commitment to water-related education and research. Check this year's conference program.
Thanks to Dr. Rick Feiock, public administration professor at Florida State, I was invited to participate in a really excellent symposium on the local benefits of sustainable cities held in Tallahassee on February 24 and 25. He and his colleagues and staff brought together a terrific array of scholars from aroung the U.S. to present their research, and to set an agenda for improving that research well into the future. There were a number of presentations on climate action (mitigation and adaptation) by Rachel Krause (University of Texas-El Paso), Elaine Sharp and Dorothy Daley (University of Kansas), Liz Gerber (University of Michigan), Jim Zvara and Tanya Watt (Arizona State), Chris Weible (University of Colorado -- Denver), and Phil Berke (University of North Carolina). There were also papers presented on an array of economic issues, including mine, and papers by Greg Burge and Keith Ihlanfeldt on the use of impact fees, Sam Staley on the effectiveness of the sustainability program in Santa Monica, and the importance of public health components presented by Chris Coutts (Florida State). To see a full list of the papers and their abstracts, go to the web site.
For those of you who are in Eastern Massachusetts, you might be interested in attending this year's Sustainable Communities conference on April 20 and Sustainable Campuses conference on April 21. The conferences will be held at the campus of UMass Boston, and I will be serving on a panel the morning of the 20th. Check out the full programs.
Michael Reed, from University of Findlay in Findlay, Ohio, sent along an update on the efforts to develop a sustainability program and plan for that city and its county (Hancock County). The Hancock County Sustainability Coalition has made some impressive strides. A presentation Download Findlay ohio.ppfinal050611 at a recent coalition meeting gives a pretty good sense of the progress that has been made. This is not for quotation without atribution.
We have posted the latest rankings of U.S. cities on the OurGreenCities web site. This is the most recent update since 2007. This new set of rankings considers the 54 largest cities in the country plus Pittsburgh (currently the 59th largest city). As before, the rankings are based on an assessment of how many of the 38 different specific policies and programs each city has enacted and implemented. This is the only set of rankings that explicitly looks at local policies and programs, and is truly city-based (rather than metropolitan, county, or regionally based). The cities of Portland, Denver, and Seattle are tied for first place. Check the web site for more information, and let me know if you have any questions about the methodologies employed in these assessments.