Will Rockford be a ‘Cool City’?

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117631364715051.jpg’, ‘Image courtesy of www.portlandmainstreet.org‘, ‘The Cool Cities approach is to seek development for economic growth in the creative sector, guided by the principles and framework of improving our communities: growth, revitalization and momentum. (See www.coolcities.com.)‘);

A fair number of our efforts since we began writing this column six years ago have been directed toward Rockford. We have spelled out energy plans, consulted with the Park District and Mayor Larry Morrissey, performed walk-through energy audits and talked to school classes and civic groups. We were not alone, as many others in the community have been doing their part raising local awareness of the need for changing our wasteful, damaging patterns of energy production and consumption.

There are signs that Rockford, along with the rest of the country, is beginning to respond to what Kuntsler has dubbed the “long emergency.” Simply put, we are faced with an ongoing challenge to redesign our communities and our lifestyles to be dramatically more energy efficient.

Concepts in Mayor Morrissey’s recent state of the city address, “Leading Boldly, Working Together,” will be of increasing importance as the impacts of global warming, oil and natural gas depletion, resource wars and environmental deterioration adversely affect our lives, our communities, the economy and the health of the planet and local ecosystems.

The “n Factor,” highlighting the significance of education and teens making positive life choices, is important in transferring these social values to the younger generation. If energy and environmental stresses unfold as anticipated by some, social cohesion and cooperation rather than unbridled competition will pull us through difficult times.

The mayor’s call for increased opportunities for higher education in Rockford could prove beneficial if conservation, efficiency and renewable energy are included in course offerings.

Revitalizing historic neighborhoods is an excellent use of existing resources. Whether renovating old buildings or filling empty lots with new buildings, energy efficiency and renewables can reduce consumption and our dependence on imported energy. The Housing Redevelopment Incentive Program will rebate for up to 10 years any property tax increments resulting from upgrading old buildings or building new ones.

The mayor’s commitment to promoting green and high efficiency building standards and expressed interest in zero net energy homes are other steps in the right direction. The ongoing pursuit of Amtrak service and the development of recreational opportunities along the riverfront are other energy-saving ideas.

The Green Communities Coalition encouraging Rockford to join the national “Cool Cities” campaign could provide essential citizen support for Rockford to make more rapid progress on energy efficiency, renewable energy and cleaner transportation choices. Coalition members have been working hard to garner community support for these important ideas. Their efforts can help cut energy bills, save taxpayer dollars, reduce environmental deterioration and begin to reduce carbon emissions.

An excellent opportunity to learn more about the Rockford Cool Communities Initiative will be at Earth Day at Rock Valley College April 21. Be sure to stop by their booth to pick up additional information about efforts to make Rockford a Cool City.

Also visit us at the Illinois Renewable Energy Association booth. One of our keynote speakers at the Aug. 11-12 Fair will be Torbjorn Lahti of Sweden, who has assisted with the development of more than 60 Eco-municipalities there. His most recent efforts are focused on developing a model sustainable community in Robertsfors. The goal for the community is to be independent of oil by 2020, and sustainable by 2050. Some of Lahti’s work sounds like a good fit with the effort to make Rockford a Cool City. It appears Rockford will continue to benefit from Swedish influence.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.

from the April 11-17, 2007, issue

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