Thank you. It is great to be here with all of you tonight.
First join me in a big thank you to Eric Sterling and Melissas Burlingame, and everyone who helped to put this all together for us tonight. A great effort that has led to a great event.
Tonight I’d like to talk about the creation of a DeKalb Community Sustainable Master Plan.
I have lived in DeKalb since 1974. And I have seen many changes in the community since then.
One of the biggest changes has been the movement from small farms to large corporate mono-culture petroleum dependent farms in the county.
Also the growth in housing since 1974 has been huge, and many of the homes have been what has become known as Mc Mansions with unsustainable energy use.
Another major change has been DeKalb. like many other Midwest communities, has moved from a city with a industrial base that actually made things to becoming a warehousing center for storing stuff that is in transition from China to store shelves around the Midwest.
So it is obvious that with the coming natural resource depletion that we are facing in the next few decades that this way of life, depending upon the flow of goods by truck and rail to and away from these huge warehouses is not sustainable.
I also come at this subject as someone who has done considerable research over the past couple of years on the flow of garbage within our county. I have been the chair of a citizens’ grassroots effort to stop a major landfill expansion proposed by Waste Management Inc, the largest waste hauler and the biggest single landfill management company in North America. It’s revenues exceed $11 billion a year and yet they want to take 500 acres of productive farm land, the land that also has a large natural habitat with a stream and a pond surrounded by trees, they want to take all of this and turn it into one of the last regional mega landfills in the U.S.
Waste Management in essence is turning our county into the garbage dump for 17 northeast Illinois Counties, including Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendal, etc.
Waste Management will be making billions of dollars over the next 45 years taking in over 2,000 tons of solid waste per day from these other counties.
Again as a teacher of nine and ten years old I also see that this is not a sustainable situation. When the children I am teaching now are my age they will be left with a mountain of garbage and the environmental problems large landfills cause and at the same time have no place for their own garbage.
So seeing the unsustainable sand that our community is sitting on it seemed like a good time to try and change our present direction and path.
So I proposed to the Citizens environmental Commission, which I am a member, to look into the possibility of creating a sustainability master plan for our community.
Sustainability is a broad and often over used term these days. It can have many different definitions. And ideally each community will come together and create their own definition.
For now, for me, the one that is simplest and makes the most sense comes from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development. They state:
“Sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
Meeting our needs now without screwing things up to the point where future generations have to clean up our messes and at the same time not be able to meet their own needs.
So in essence we need to return to the thinking of the Native Americans generations ago, when they lived with their thoughts and based their actions on a vision of seven generations ahead.
Too often today, driven by the worship of the bottom line, and the misguided belief in an economy based on endless growth we are shortsighted instead of taking the long view.
We are lucky if our policy makers at all levels of government think beyond the present generation.
So the need is there to create a master plan to guide policy makers and to lay the ground work for a community that is thinking ahead, thinking ahead to what it can do today to protect the viability and livelihood of the generations to follow.
A plan would provide the city of DeKalb with a sustainability vision, providing opportunities for sustainable practices, and serving as a guide for developing a sustainable philosophy.
A plan identifies areas which could address sustainability in terms of energy, water, construction and building technology, economic viability, a respect for the environment, a healthy land ethic and land stewardship, transportation, safe waste management, and sustainable living practices.
A sustainability plan promotes responsible management and effective stewardship of the city’s built and natural environments, a plan that is capable of transforming the city of DeKalb into a model government that is clean, healthy, resource-efficient, and environmentally conscientious.
An overall plan could include goals in nine areas of sustainability:
Green Building Technology
Healthy Living & Community Education
Transportation & Mobility
Water & Land Resources
Recycling, Composting, and Waste Management
Healthy Community and Urban design
The city of Elgin can be used as a model to learn from. They just passed their first Sustainability Master Plan this August and are just beginning to implement it.
The city of Elgin first had hired an expensive consultant, but then the citizens said they could do this for themselves. So they fired the consultant and took over the creation of the plan. They set up nine working groups each responsible for drawing up a plan for their chosen area. Over 100 citizen volunteers worked for eleven months to develop the plan. By holding public forums and workshop to gather as much citizen input as possible.
The goals or recommendations put forth by the working groups related to these nine areas of sustainability are not all-inclusive or expected to represent all sustainable solutions but they would provide a road map to move the city and its citizens toward a more sustainable life. The plan would need to be dynamic and ever-changing as recommendations become implemented and as DeKalb’s collective sustainability vision evolves.
The overall mission of such a plan should be to improve the quality of life for DeKalb citizens and improve the local environment, while making DeKalb a sustainable, viable, and vibrant place to live. The strategies that emerge from the plan will hopefully help DeKalb manage its environmental assets, reduce our environmental impact, promote citizen engagement, and educate the community-at-large.
The DeKalb Citizens’ Environmental Commission
Which is made-up of members from NIU and members of the community is a logical organizing body for such an effort.
One of the duties of the commission as stated in “Chapter 50: 50.04 Duties” of the Municipal Code of DeKalb states: “The environmental commission shall examine, study, and identify issues related to the environment”
It seems that the coordination of the creation of a sustainable master plan for the city would be a worthy undertaking of this commission.
Not to create the plan but to move the creation forward, after gaining city support to do so, and establish citizen working groups that then will study, discuss, and write the various sections of the plan that the Environmental Commission can then finalize and present to the city council for adoption.
We have available here this evening a sign up sheet if you would be interested in being a volunteer to the process. It will also provide as an organizing tool for a new citizen’s group forming called Citizens for a Sustainable DeKalb County.
The time is right in this community; the citizens group would be focused on finding ways forward to creating the community we want now and one that will supply for our children’s children.
Please sign up on the sheet if you would like to be part of such a process.
I often think of my time here on earth as my turn to run the relay. In a sense I have been handed the baton of the earth and its resources, now is my turn to run with the baton, that soon I will be handing off to others to carry on.
Every generation has its own responsibilities.
Without a clear and comprehensive vision of what we want our community to be, we will continue to follow the path that is laid in front of us without seeing seven generations ahead and we will not meet the responsibilities of our generation.
Thus we need to create our path, one that will preserve and enhance our city environment to meet our needs today, and also preserve and enhance our resources for the generations to follow.
Thank you for listening and consider being part of the change, and being part of the process.
Thank you and thank you for all the good work you are doing for our Earth Community.
Here is a link to Elgin’s sustainability plan for an example.