When the first Earth Day teach-ins took place in 1970, President Nixon was apparently suspicious because they were taking place on the centenary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. He dispatched J. Edgar Hoover to investigate but nothing suspicious was found. Perhaps this was the first indication of the fall of international communism - who knows? At any rate, people around the globe still celebrate Earth Day every April 22.
Today, the intrigue has faded and most accept that environmentalism is not a plot to overthrow America. Instead, Earth Day has become the environmental movement's annual day to celebrate the idea that it makes sense to pay attention to human impact on the environment and to take steps to leave the planet in a better state for future generations. As part of our campaign, I wanted to lay out just a couple of thoughts I have about Nashville and how we can leave its environment in a better condition for the next generations.
Improving our city's environment will require persistence and innovation.
Persistence is the only way to make improvement in our natural environment. Starting during the Bredesen administration in the 1990's and continuing with the hard work of Shane Dennison, the leadership of Nashvillians like Councilman Charlie Tygard, and citizens like Anne Tidwell, we began to build a network of green ways. Mayors Bredesen, Purcell, Dean, and the councils that served with them have added more than 5,000 acres to our parks, doubling their size.
Similarly, I was proud to be the lead sponsor for legislation that required Metro buildings be constructed in an environmentally sustainable way. As my council colleagues and I put it at the time:
"the Metropolitan Government should take a leadership role by incorporating green building practices into all new construction of government facilities, and incorporating life cycle and total cost accounting in the design, construction, demolition, operation, and maintenance of all Metropolitan Government buildings."
For the last 8 years, our City has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on construction projects governed by these principles. This persistence has not only reduced the environmental impact of our City's growth on the front end but has also reduced the long term operating costs for years to come.
Persistent commitment to improving our environment, like expanding our green-way system and constructing green buildings, will leave a better Nashville for the next generation.
Nashville is known as a City of entrepreneurs. Typically, we've thought about this kind of innovation in fields like technology or healthcare but there are other areas to consider. Take aquaponics as an example. Back in February, Nashville's Urban Green Lab offered a basic introduction to aquaponics on site at a local micro-urban farm at the home of Betsy Mason and Austin Littrell. It's a pretty interesting idea where you cultivate vegetables in conjunction with growing fish in an adjacent set of tanks:
Who knows if an idea like this would be scalable. Could this idea solve some of the food desert problems in every urban center? Will it make environmental sense in the long run? For Nashville to be the place where these kinds of questions get answered, we need to be a place where is easy for young, risk taking environmentalists to get their start. Keeping the cost of living low, having an open mind to new ideas, and creating financial incentives for small scale experimentation are principles that will make Nashville a center for environmental entrepreneurs.
If we persistently invest in what we know works - like green building practices and expanding our open space - we'll take great strides in improving our environment. If we that marry persistence with innovation, Nashville can lead the Nation in transforming the environment we leave for the next generation. As Vice Mayor, I will empower leaders on the Council who share this vision and will look for every possible way to make sure our City is a leader in environmental innovation.