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Thursday, July 10, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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Citizen Dave: Cities are good for the environment

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Chicago is planning for the apocalypse, but it's the apocalypse not now. The Windy City has a 50-year plan to adjust to the slow-moving effects of climate change. p>

Pervious pavement to deal with the heavier rains that will come with more moisture in warm air, reflective roofs to divert heat, and more greenery everywhere are just some of the strategies Chicago is using to mitigate the coming heat. A May 23 article in The New York Times delved into the details.

But Chicago's efforts point up two important things about cities: they are actually governable and they are set up in a way that makes them effective in fighting just about any environmental problem.

While our federal government --- even under a president who gets it --- is paralyzed and states are more apt to debate allowing election workers to carry concealed firearms to stop all that rampant voter fraud than carry on a serious discussion of climate change, cities are acting now. That's because cities tend to be more cohesive political units.

Sure, there's plenty of political diversity in cities but most cities tend to lean progressive and the debates are mostly between shades of left (note the recent mayoral election). As a result, decisions can actually get made and strong policies can actually gain enough support to be enacted.

The other reasons cities are on the cutting edge of the fight against climate change is that there is no better environmental machine then a city. Take recycling. An effective recycling program is made possible by the densities that allow efficient collection of recyclables.

When we went to automated recycling in Madison several years ago, we saw a 30% bump in household recycling and we've sustained that since. You can't have a system that good in a sprawling suburb without incredible costs per housing unit. And the trucks themselves would travel longer distances to get to fewer households, burning a lot more fuel.

Or consider transportation. In large lot subdivisions or on a rural hilltop retreat, you'll have to drive everywhere. In a dense urban neighborhood you might walk to the corner store or take a bus or ride your bike. And when you do have to drive the distances will be shorter.

I could go on with more examples, but my point is that cities are not the cause of modern environmental problems; they're the best hope for the cures.

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