The message was clear: the future of urban development and climate change is in the hands of my generation. This morning I attended NCSE’s annual New Green Economy conference, specifically the “Green Building, Green Jobs” symposium. Some of the most innovative thinkers in regional urban development spoke about the issues facing the industry today. The most fascinating discussion took place around this idea of the new American dream, and how that has changed dramatically over the years mostly due to transportation technologies.
Most Baby Boomers grew up in the suburbs, where there lives revolved around cars. Cars were a symbol of wealth, and they tended to live by “see the USA in a Chevrolet” type model. Now, my generation is moving further and further from that model, towards a “walkable urban” model. Chris Leinberger, a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and real estate developer described “walkable urbanism” as metropolitan areas of high concentration where people work, live, and shop, which as a result, significantly reduces their carbon footprint. One of the problems with this model was discussed by Jair Lynch, a Washington DC real estate developer who stressed the cultural divide that occurs in these areas. His solution to this was intertwining affordable green housing within more affluent communities, while still maintaining the integrity of the neighborhood.
The take away message from this session was that green building and green jobs are imperative to achieving a new healthy, financially sustainable, and environmentally sound economy. But most importantly, we as Generation X/Y/Millenials, whomever we may be, we have to vocalize and continue to be responsible for our environments.