Louisville, KY is an amazing city with an eye on the future. It is situated in the beautiful Ohio River Basin, which allows for unique & scenic surroundings. Unfortunately, this region is also a hindrance to quality of life by creating a barrier that holds pollutants in. Resulting in this region usually ending up on the wrong end of environmental issues, i.e., air, water, health, land use & planning, & transportation.
Global environmental problems are an expression that provokes an assortment of responses, e.g., protecting, caring, worshipping, disregard, crippling, myth, global warming, anthropogenic climate change, just to name a few. Sadly, conflicting views inundates the public creating confusion, leading to a divide between households, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. How is an individual supposed to understand what is really going on with the environment? The average person doesn’t have time or interest to research environmental issues, so they assume local news outlets, CNN, Fox News, MSN, organizations, etc. are educated on the topic.
Environmental protection has a negative ideology, when it is simply improving quality of life for all living creatures. Tactlessly, people portray protecting the environmental with agreeing that anthropogenic climate change does exist. Protecting the environment does not mean a person agrees, just understands the environment affects our way of life. The issue has been distorted & complicated by individuals trying to push their agenda. The issue is not if you believe in climate change, but if you believe that our actions affect the environment.
Our ecosystem provides natural services that are essential to our health, quality of life & existence, e.g.,
- Trees/forests remove air pollutants & reduces surface temperature.
- Wetlands filter storm water & recharge aquifers for our drinking water.
- Soil supports our agriculture
The Ohio River is extremely important to this region as it provides a beautiful biodiversity, along with drinking water for more than five million people11. Unfortunately, it ranks number one in the country for toxic discharge pollution4. According to a nation wide study, Louisville is warming faster than any American city via the urban heat island affect2. CNN even ranked Louisville as the 9th most polluted American city3.
Environmental issues drastically influencing our region:
- Air Quality: Asthma rates are 13%, which is higher than national average6.
- More extreme weather events, e.g., tornados, floods, droughts:
- Heat waves: In 2011 Kentucky had 17 broken heat records7. As temperatures rise, so are the number of illnesses, emergency room visits, & deaths7.
- Rainfall: In 2011 Kentucky had 37 broken rainfall records7. The state is receiving more rain, but it occurs less frequently & with more intensity.
- Urban heat island(?): See heat waves above.
- Sewer Systems: Louisville sewer system is an antiquate system not prepared to handle current rain. The situation will only worsen with more heavy rain events.
Fortunately, there is a movement happening in Louisville, which is trying to create an environmental culture. People from all sectors are uniting to create far-reaching impacts as a foundational framework to shape citywide efforts to promote a vibrant, prosperous, & healthy community.
Louisville Metro created the city’s first sustainability plan, Sustain Louisville(?), which is affirming their commitment to becoming one of the greenest cities in the country10. Another great organization is the Partnership for a Green City, which represents a collaborative effort to improve sustainability via four of Louisville’s largest public entities: Louisville Metro Government, University of Louisville, Jefferson County Public Schools, & Jefferson Community & Technical College12.
- 25th: Louisville national ranking among cities with Energy Star(?) Buildings5.
- Top 10 greenest cities: Louisville ranking according to Livability8.
- Pure Water (public water) wins best tasting water in 20131.
- Park system: Louisville Metro has 122 city parks covering more than 13,000 acres. In development is the City of Parks, a project to create a continuous paved pedestrian and biking trail around Louisville Metro while also adding a large amount of parkland15.
- Bike Master plan: The plan calls for Louisville to expand the bicycle system to over 550 miles9.
- LEED(?) Buildings: Numerous buildings in the city have received this green certification, e.g., the Green Building, Louisville first LEED Platinum building14.
- University of Louisville creation of a sustainability plan13.
- Numerous local governmental agencies dedicated to improving the environment, e.g., Air Pollution Control, Climate Change Committee, Office of Globalization, Tree Advisory Commission, Office of Sustainability, etc.9.
Louisville is making great strides in environmental initiatives, however this should be seen as a solid first step; this city is capable of doing a lot more. Advancing environmental initiatives will require the community’s involvement, as the city will need to continually advance & evolve to the changing environmental dilemmas. One big area of focus will need to be placed on helping the towns on the city’s periphery. Louisville has the potential of being one of the greenest & most environmentally friendly cities in the country & the world, but only if we are willing to do more.
- Energy Star: Program to promote energy efficient products to reduce greenhouse gas emission5.
- LEED Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies & practices14.
- Sustain Louisville: Louisville’s first sustainability plan, which will guide the city in uniting multiple sustainability objectives & creating far-reaching impacts10.
- Urban Heat Island effect: Built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas5.
- American Water Works Association
- Brian Stone & the Urban Climate Lab
- Environment America Research & Policy Center
- Kentucky Health Facts