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Celebrating the Green Side of Urban Life

Originally published in the BU Daily Free Press

March 6, 2008
Camille Roane (Reporter, BU Daily Free Press)

Mayor Thomas Menino boasted yesterday that Boston has adopted environmentally conscious measures stronger than national standards to meet the demands of the Kyoto Protocol, the pact meant to curb global climate change.

Aggressive green legislation that lessens the environmental impacts of public transportation and requires new buildings in the city to meet stringent codes for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification has helped Boston to become eco-friendly, Menino said at the Boston Public Library.

"The threat of climate change is real," Menino said. "Rising water levels could threaten our beloved harbor."

Boston strives to meet guidelines of the Kyoto Protocol, he said. The Protocol, an international agreement the United States signed, but never ratified in Congress, calls for a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in industrialized nations within the next four years.

Bostonians who commit themselves to recycling, using mass transportation and making homes energy efficient have helped make the city the third greenest in the country, Menino said.

Harvard University President Drew Faust called for collaboration between academic researchers and city planners to push the city's environmental progress. Cities are ideal for experimentation and figuring out new green initiatives, she said.

"Cities provide a critical arena from which to approach sustainability," she said. "Local policies may be effective where broader policies may not be feasible."

Harvard Center for the Environment Director David Schrag said ensuring environmental sustainability is an important and daunting task that a quick fix cannot combat.

"The status of being a green city is a moving target," he said. "What is green today will not be green tomorrow."

The environment's condition today is unprecedented, and no scientist can tell anyone what will happen to the Earth and humans due to rising greenhouse gas levels, Schrag said. He said the best solution to climate change problems will be a combination of energy reduction strategies, alternative-fuel source development and innovative technologies that capture and store carbon dioxide emissions.

Harvard economics professor Edward Glaeser said city life has more green benefits than a suburban lifestyle. Future legislation encouraging people to move back into cities could help slow global climate change, he added.

Public transportation is one of the greener aspects of the urban lifestyle, Glaeser said, pointing out how few people actually live there. He said California cities tend to lead the pack for environmental friendliness, but potential residents are not offered enough incentive to live in these green to offset the high costs of living.

"If you're making your city greener, you want more people living there, not less," Glaeser said.

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