IDEAS For Us | February 14, 2014

Jacob D Robison: The New Urban Sustainability


When I was a chapter leader at Binghamton University, there were a couple times when my major, Sustainability Policy, was made the butt of a joke by my friends, many of them majoring in Natural Resources or Ecosystems studies. This reaction is understandable, given that every day we are notified in the news of political gridlock in Washington. At the national level, any effort for sustainability policy is quickly bought out by “special interests.” For goodness sake, we are one of the only countries in the world which didn’t sign the Kyoto Protocol! Even at the state level, we see private pandering in the public interest, though at a smaller scale than national level. We recently saw the narrow defeat of the proposed GMO labeling law in Washington State, which Monsanto and others poured millions of dollars into advertising against. However, America is seeing a paradigm shift at the lower level governments of those who are “thinking globally, and acting locally.”

I am proud to be employed by one of these governments. I was recently hired to work in the Sustainability Office of the City of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Bridgeport is my hometown; a small city of 150,000 close to New York City along the I-95 corridor. We are no strangers to the effect of climate change. Not too long ago a Vice President of the University of Bridgeport told me an anecdote about the University provided food to police officers stranded in their neighborhood during Hurricane Sandy. At this point, the City was 4 years into the implementation of the BGreen comprehensive sustainability plan. Unfortunately, there was not much the City was able to implement in their Water Resources section which was able to buffer the effect of Sandy. Millions of dollars of infrastructure damage was done.

The time is now for “thinking globally, and acting locally.” Hurricane Sandy was not an isolated incident, and other effects of climate change will continue to ravage our communities in the coming years. Those who are working with these communities to fight the effects of climate change will make more of a difference than any national policy will be able to make.

– Jacob D Robison
IDEAS for Us