Small Towns, Green Futures

| 3/27/2009 3:37:08 PM

Small Town GreenFar from the mall-pocked, highway-scarred backwaters they’re made out to be, small cities should be a cornerstone of America’s sustainable future. Renewable energy sources like geothermal and solar often require abundant, cheap land, making small towns ideally situated to take advantage of a green revolution.

Urban planners and policy makers are making a mistake by neglecting small towns, Catherine Tumber writes for the Boston Review. Many people suffer from a kind of “metropolitan bias,” giving disproportionate funds and attention to big cities. “Smaller cities located in the heartland could one day anchor a regional agricultural shift from industrial monoculture to more localized biodiversity,” Tumber writes, and could show the way toward a more sustainable future.

Gainsville, Florida, (population 120,000) for example, is “gearing up for a solar power boom,” Mariah Blake writes for the Washington Monthly, “fueled by homegrown businesses and scrappy investors who have descended on the community and are hiring local contractors to install photovoltaic panels on rooftops around town.”

The key to Gainsville’s success is a “feed-in-tariff” policy that requires local power companies to buy renewable energy from independent producers. The policy, pioneered in Germany, is fueling investment in green technology at a time when much of the corporate investment for renewable energy has dried up.

Image by Kate Mereand, licensed under Creative Commons.

Sources: Boston Review, Washington Monthly

Bennett Gordon
3/30/2009 9:48:08 PM

Hi Kelly, Good point. Catherine Tumber wrote in her article about "small–to–mid–size cities of 50,000 to 500,000" people. So that's what I was basing it on. But your point is well-taken.

Kelly Fuller
3/30/2009 6:21:29 PM

What Gainsville, FL has done with feed-in tariffs is great, but 120,000 people is not remotely a small town (although it may seem that way to folks living in metro areas that are a million people or more). Getting the nomenclature right matters because it has policy implications.

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