Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Series: Blogging Joan Fitzgerald's Emerald Cities

This is the first in a series of blog posts by EDD Board Members and our extended leadership team on Joan Fitzgerald's Emerald Cities. The Economic Development Division has teamed with the Environment, Natural Resources and Energy Division to host a dinner on economic development and the green economy with Joan Fitzgerald as the keynote speaker on Sunday, April 10th at 7:00pm at Legal Seafoods in Boston during the National Planning Conference.

This first blog post is by Adam Ploetz, AICP EDD Conference Chair and the Deputy Director of Sustainable Development Programs at the 495/MetroWest Partnership in Westborough, MA.

Aaron Renn, author of the blog Urbanophile, recently posted an article lamenting the failure of urbanists to communicate their goals appropriately to the general public. Renn argues that nowhere has this been more evident than around the issue of sustainability – particularly during the most significant economic downturn since the Great Depression. Renn states,
“Urbanists prattle on about sustainability all the time as if the last few years didn’t even happen. No wonder it’s not working. And because pretty much all urbanist policies have been sold as about sustainability, there’s a linkage in the public’s mind, so that if they don’t believe in climate change or don’t rate it highly in favor of more immediate concerns, that takes urbanism down with it. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way. With better packaging, I believe there is a case for pro-urbanist policies (including those that promote sustainability), one that can work with the times and the trends instead of against them. … I’m convinced there’s a lot more people who would be open to various environmental and urbanist ideas if we talked about their practical benefits rather than how they are good for the planet (even if they are).”

Renn is correct; sustainability is a hard sell in good times and a nearly impossible one during bad. Considering that they are at the intersection of economic development and sustainability, planners who focus on economic development and planners who focus on natural resources/environmental issues must deal constantly with the failure to communicate the positive connections between sustainability and economic growth outlined by Renn.

In an effort to advance the dialogue on the challenges and opportunities of connecting economic growth to environmental sustainability the Economic Development Division has teamed with the Environment, Natural Resources and Energy Division to host a dinner on Sunday, April 10 7:00pm at Legal Seafoods in Boston during the National Planning Conference.

Our guest speaker will be Joan Fitzgerald, Director of the Law, Policy and Society Program at Northeastern University and author of the book Emerald Cities: Urban Sustainability and Economic Development (Oxford University Press, 2010). In Emerald Cities, Fitzgerald shows how in the absence of a comprehensive national policy, cities have taken the lead in addressing the interrelated environmental problems of global warming, pollution, energy dependence, and social justice. Cities are major sources of pollution but because of their population density, reliance on public transportation, and other factors, Fitzgerald argues that they are uniquely suited to promote and benefit from green economic development. For cities facing worsening budget constraints, investing in high-paying green jobs in renewable energy technology, construction, manufacturing, recycling, and other fields will solve two problems at once, sparking economic growth while at the same time dramatically improving quality of life.

Join your APA colleagues and hear from an expert on connecting economic growth to environmental sustainability and offer your perspective to the conversation. This event is $50.00 and includes a three course dinner (drinks not included). You can sign up for this event at the APA conference registration page. CM credit (1) has been requested for this event. Though sponsored by the Economic Development and the Environment, Natural Resources, and Energy Divisions, this event is open to all APA members. For more information about the dinner please contact Adam Ploetz at

1 comment:

  1. While it's true that cities are major pollution generators, it's also amazing that we are not attacking issues such as air pollution, energy costs, and climate change at the federal level. Clean air and climate stability are classic examples of public goods, where individuals literally have no way to produce or divide these goods on their own. I guess we expect dirty air and airplane-induced clouds to stop at the city limits.

    But out with the planner talk and back to the main point, yes, we really should concentrate on the jobs. If we are relentless in our support of entrepreneurs in recycling, reuse, green energy, cars and appliances that use less energy, and active transportation, we'll have the economic growth needed to generate a new economy.