Cities in the U.S. Are Working to Meet Sustainability Goals Without Washington

This week we want to put the power of U.S. cities to meet global sustainability goals on the table. Considering that time isn’t on our side here, cities like Los Angeles, New York, Orlando, and Pittsburgh are moving toward sustainability without Washington. 

This is a very good sign. When good mayors who are listening to their constituents and to the scientists actually do something in very pragmatic ways for economic growth and sustainability, it means that they know something is shifting and change must happen. There are a few happenings that reflect this that we want you to know about. 

From Paris to Pittsburgh

In the new National Geographic, RadicalMedia and Bloomberg Philanthropies film, “From Paris to Pittsburgh”, you will see how cities and people in the U.S. are responding to the climate crisis. The documentary is narrated by Golden Globe® Award-winning actress and activist Rachel Brosnahan (in case you want to roll right into this film from binge-watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel!). 

With all of the headlines around what Washington isn’t doing, this is a movie about how citizens are choosing to respond anyway. This isn’t a film about why people should believe the science, it is rather for people who get it and are wondering about how to take action in their own communities and regions. There are interviews with a number of local and regional leaders and scientists who are working to make the change. These are people in places like Orlando, Iowa, and Pittsburgh. The latest science is presented here along with the threats and opportunities.

From Paris to Pittsburgh

A Get S$!T Done Event

An event at Brookings on November 29th, also brought a number of people together to discuss the Sustainable Development Goals in the U.S. Though the goals were agreed at the national level, this event highlights the ways that cities can and are taking up the challenge themselves. Tony Pipa, Senior Fellow, Global Economy and Development at Brookings Institution opened the event and Amy Liu, Vice President and Director, Metropolitan Policy Program also at Brookings opened the event. The Panel included Pipa as well as officials from Penny Abeywardena from New York City, Grant Ervin from Pittsburgh and Nina Hachigian from Los Angeles as well as Karen Lightman from the Metro21 Smart Cities Initiative.

During the event, there were a number of challenges presented along with opportunities and initiatives that each of these cities are involved in to meet the SDGs. For example, NYC’s OneNYC initiative which is designed to make New York City the most resilient, equitable, and sustainable city in the world mapped their goals to the SDGs and reported their progress to the UN. Los Angeles partnered with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to pilot the implementation of the goals at the city level. Pittsburgh joined the cause in the form of engagement with the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Initiative. Listening to or watching or reading the transcript of this event is worthwhile. 

The bottom line here is that while Washington may not be prioritizing sustainability, there are many cities and people that are. And the movement is growing. While the biggest cities are stepping out as leaders, towns and regional progress is also very possible. Funny, there is apparently a membership group called the GSD – or the “Get Shit Done” party. Many mayors around the country are a part of that group through a number of ways including C40 for bold climate action and the others above. Feel free to send your mayor this article to see if he or she would like to join. 

Categories: Events, film, Sustainable Development Goals

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