“THE SUSTAINABLE CITY”

March 10, 2018 at 5:00 am

The sustainable city. A new book discusses how it works. It’s not just about preserving nature, it’s about transitioning New York into green economies.  Is that even possible? The answer ahead with author Steve Cohen.

Aired on March 9, 2018.

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>>> LIVING SUSTAINABLY IS NOT
JUST ABOUT PRESERVING NATURE OR
KEEPING IT PRISTINE, SINCE IN
FACT TODAY THE MAJORITY OF
PEOPLE ON THE PLANET LIVE IN
URBAN AREAS.
SO IF WE ARE TO LEARN HOW TO
LIVE SUSTAINABLY IN ORDER TO --
MANY PLACES ARE ALREADY
INVESTING IN THE INFRASTRUCTURE
OF THE FUTURE, INCLUDING ARE YOU
YOU
-- RENEWABLE ENERGY AND MODERN
MASS TRANSIT.
THE PROFESSOR AT COLUMBIA'S
EARTH INSTITUTE, HE PROVIDES A
BROAD OVERVIEW OF THE SYSTEMS OF
THE 21st CENTURY.
AND POINTS TO WAYS BY WHICH EVEN
MORE PROGRESS CAN BE MADE.
PROFESSOR COHEN JOINS US NOW.
THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON
"METROFOCUS."
>> THANKS FOR HAVING ME.
>> FIRST OF ALL, PROFESSOR, WHAT
IS A SUSTAINABLE CITY, HOW DO
YOU DESCRIBE IT OR DEFINE IT.
>> I FOCUS ON PHYSICAL ISSUES.
SO IT'S A CITY THAT USES AS MUCH
RENEWABLE ENERGY AS POSSIBLE, IS
ENERGY EFFICIENT, REUSES
MATERIAL, RECYCLES AS MUCH AS
POSSIBLE, REUSES AS MUCH WASTE
AS POSSIBLE, HANDLESS ITS WASTE
EFFECTIVELY AND HAS THE LEAST
IMPACT ON THE SURROUNDING
ENVIRONMENT.
>> PROFESSOR, AS YOU KNOW, THERE
ARE MANY AMERICANS WHO ASSOCIATE
SUSTAINABILITY WITH A NEED TO
SACRIFICE THE COMFORTS AND THE
EFFICIENCY THAT THEY'RE USED TO,
ARE THOSE AMERICANS RIGHT IN
THINKING THAT SUSTAINABILITY
MEANS SACRIFICING THE COMFORTS
WE HAVE BECOME USED TO?
>> I THINK IT'S JUST THE
OPPOSITE.
AND ALSO THAT'S A LOSING
STRATEGY.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS ARE SAYING THE
WAY YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH THIS
IS TO SIT ALONE IN THE DARK WITH
A CANDLE.
NOBODY WANTS TO DO THAT.
NOBODY WANTS TO GIVE UP THEIR
COMFORTS.
THAT'S PART OF THE QUESTION, HOW
DO WE DELIVER THOSE COMFORTS
WITH THE LEAST POSSIBLE AFFECT
ON THE ENVIRONMENT.
PEOPLE WANT SUVS, LET'S MAKE
THEM EFFICIENT SUVS THAT ARE
BASED ON RENEWABLE ENERGY.
I THINK IN GENERAL, WHAT YOU
NEED TO DO IS HAVE PEOPLE LIVE
THE KIND OF LIFESTYLE THEY WANT
BUT WITH LESS CONSUMPTION.
>> WHAT ROLE DOES POLITICS PLAY
IN BUILDING SUSTAINABLE CITIES?
>> WE HAVE BEEN AN
ANTI-GOVERNMENT ERA SINCE RONALD
REAGAN'S PRESIDENCY IN THE '80s.
YOU NEED MONEY FOR MASS TRANSIT.
LOOK WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THIS
CITY TO MASS TRANSIT SYSTEMS.
YOU NEED TO MODERNIZE THE
ELECTRIC GRID.
BETTER SEWAGE SYSTEMS, NEW YORK
CITY IS FAR CLEANER TODAY THAN
IT WAS IN 1960s AND '70s, WE
USED TO BURN GARBAGE IN
APARTMENT INCINERATORS, WE USED
TO DUMP GARBAGE INTO THE WATER
WAYS.
>> IF NEW YORK CITY OR ANY OTHER
CITY HAS THE WILL TO BECOME
SUSTAINABLE, CAN THEY DO IT
WITHOUT THE SUPPORT WITH THE
STATE GOVERNMENT OR THE FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT?
>> IT WOULD BE BETTER IF WE HAD
A FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.
NEW YORK BUILT THE EERIE CANAL
WITHOUT FEDERAL MONEY, WE BUILT
OUR WATER SYSTEM ON OUR OWN.
THE ELECTRICAL GRID WAS
PRIVATELY-FUNDED.
THE MASS TRANSIT SYSTEM
ORIGINALLY WAS PRIVATE.
WE CAN DO IT.
WE HAVE THE RESOURCES, PEOPLE
JUST HAVE TO DECIDE THAT THEY'RE
WILLING TO INVEST IN THE FUTURE.
>> WHAT'S AT STAKE?
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES IF WE
DON'T DEVELOP THE WILL TO CREATE
OR TO FURTHER DEVELOP
SUSTAINABILITY?
>> I THINK THAT THE CONSEQUENCES
ARE EVENTUALLY PAYING THE PRICE
OF A POISONED PLANET.
I MEAN I WAS IN THE EPA, THE
SUPERFUND PROJECT IN 1980, AND
SINCE THAT TIME WE HAVE SPENT
HALF A TRILLION DOLLARS CLEANING
UP THE TOXIC WASTE WE DUMPED
FROM THE 1920s TO THE 1980s,
IT'S PAY ME NOW OR PAY ME LATER.
FOR EVERY DOLLAR YOU SPEND
CLEANING UP THE AIR, YOU GET $15
BACK IN BENEFITS.
SO THERE IS A GREAT DEAL AT
STAKE.
BUT I'M OPTIMISTIC WE'RE GOING
TO GET THERE.
>> WHY?
>> PART OF IT IS YOUNG PEOPLE.
AND WE'RE SEEING THE BEGINNING
OF THE SHARING ECONOMY.
WHEN I WAS YOUNG, YOU WANTED TO
OWN A CAR SO YOU SHOULD SHOW IT
OFF TO YOUR FRIENDS.
NOW MILLENNIAL'S JUST WANT TO
EXPERIENCE THE CAR.
NOW THEY'RE FEELING THAT WAY
ABOUT CLOTHING, PEOPLE RENT
THEIR PARTY CLOTHES AND DON'T
KEEP THEM IN THEIR CLOSET.
THERE'S A LOT OF THIS ACTIVITY
GOING ON, THE IDEA THAT
POSSESSION IS DIFFERENT FROM
CONSUMPTION, YOU CAN USE IT AND
YOU CAN PASS IT ALONG.
>> THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.