Thursday, June 23, 2005

It's the Little Things Like Clean Air

In recent weeks, close to 170 U.S. mayors of both parties have signed on to do their part to fight global warming on the local level by pledging to carry out the Kyoto Accords – an international environmental agreement that would reduce heat-trapping gas emissions to levels 7 percent below those of 1990, by 2012. The U.S. under President Bush has refused to sign these accords. So the mayors have taken it into their own hands.

It was a movement sparked by visionary Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Mayors from liberal Los Angeles to conservative Houston have joined the coalition. Even our neighbors to the west, Little Rock and North Little Rock have signed on. Not so conspicuously missing from this list is Memphis, Tenn.

Perhaps we didn’t get the letter.

A member of the Smart City Consulting staff recently wrote a note to Mayor Herenton’s office urging him to join the coalition. It would be good for the 19th largest city in the country to participate if for nothing else than image. Though we are no longer the cleanest city, we could at least pretend that it is an aspiration both aesthetically as well as environmentally. But alas, no response and no sign of Memphis joining the bandwagon.

By NOT joining the other mayors on the Kyoto initiative, the perception is simply that our city leaders don’t care. Don’t care about air pollution, global warming, the environment and the health of the citizens of our city. While many of the mayors who are a part of the group have plans to actually do something to reduce emissions (Seattle is asking ships in its harbor to turn off their engines while they are docked, for instance), Memphis could gain a lot of respect from both local residents and a national audience simply by just supporting it on paper. It’s the little things that count. Like cutting the grass. Planting flowers. Keeping the streets clean. Placing your signature on a measure for clean air. Showing support for this measure doesn’t cost anything. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain with this simple gesture.

For more information on the coalition, visit

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