published Friday, July 6th, 2012

David Cook: Keeping Chattanooga the Boulder of the West

Went to a Fourth of July party. The kids drank lemonade like a herd of small camels. Out on the back porch, I had a conversation that went something like this.

Other guy: "Talked to my bud out in Colorado the other day. You won't believe what he said."

Me: "Hey! Son! Don't put that bottle rocket in your sister's hair! Sorry, man. What?"

Other guy: "Folks out in Colorado there are no longer saying Chattanooga is the Boulder of the East."

Me: "What are they saying?"

Other guy: "They've switched it. Now they say that Boulder is the Chattanooga of the West."

Me: "Come again?"

Other guy: "Yeah. They've seen or heard about all the things we have that they don't. Boulder. The Chattanooga of the West. Used to be the other way around."

Pretty cool, huh? This conversation points to the growing narrative that Chattanooga -- no longer the tag-along little brother of Boulder -- is now an American talking point. A leader, a destination, more than ever before.

Went to get my hair cut. Conversation went something like this.

Barber: "Hot, isn't it?"

Me: "Man. So hot."

Barber: "Never seen it this hot."

Me: "Me neither."

Barber: "Never."

Me: "Yep. Never."

Barber: "Want your neck shaved?"

Pretty pointless, huh? Hardly. This conversation points to the growing craziness that has become our weather. It's been hotter than J-Lo. Hotter than the inside of Lebron's Game Six sweatband.

"More than 40,000 daily heat records have been broken around the country so far this year," reported the Christian Science Monitor this week. That's 15,000 more -- to date -- than last year.

March is now June, and July is now July 2.0, and Mother Nature is more like Dr. Jekyll. As Times Free Press reporter Pam Sohn reported in Sunday's paper, climate models predict this area will become the regional bulls-eye for hot weather.

Nothing about that is good.

"What we're seeing really is a window into what global warming really looks like," Princeton University geosciences professor Michael Oppenheimer told The Washington Post. "It looks like heat. It looks like fires. It looks like this kind of environmental disasters."

Welcome to the new normal.

And if we're going to remain a leader among American cities, we must respond to climate change. Even more than we already are.

Ran across information about a city facing a lot of the same problems we are. Stormwater and runoff problems. Polluted water. Old, inefficient buildings. A lack of cohesive, coordinated response to climate change.

Then I read the speech from this city's mayor. Went something like this.

On stormwater runoff: "If every residence, business, church and industry could just capture and hold one inch(es) of rain and allow it to soak into the ground. ... the issue would be largely handled without further governmental action or expense."

On green infrastructure: "Communities and business districts are revitalized. Recreation areas are created. The city is more attractive and healthier. And, thousands of jobs will be created in the process."

On energy efficiency: "Beginning now, any building done by the city ... will be LEED certified."

On changing minds and attitudes: "This is a new path. We will learn together. ... I will task our city departments and the Office of Sustainability to provide the resources and support for us to begin that learning process."

Pretty great, huh? I wish every city leader was saying such things.

Want to know who the visionary mayor is?

Our own Mayor Ron Littlefield. These quotes were taken from his State of the City speech in 2010.

If we want to remain a destination city for the future ...

If we want to create healthy, sustainable communities and policies for generations to come ...

If we want to reduce emissions in order to reduce catastrophic climate change ...

We have to talk. And then do more than talk.

We have fund -- as a top priority -- the Office of Sustainability.

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

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The headline makes no sense. A typo?

July 7, 2012 at 12:43 p.m.
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