Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nebraka Sustainability Leadership Workshop - Documents

Initiatives: Nebraska Sustainability Leadership Workshop

The Nebraska Sustainability Leadership Workshop (NSLW) completed its series of 22 workshops in towns and cities across the state, with the goal of creating a network of sustainability leaders throughout Nebraska. The workshops are part of a new partnership program that is preparing Nebraska’s communities for today’s and tomorrow’s complex challenges.

We've now begun a series of four regional Conversations Conferences on Nebraska Environment and Sustainability Issues,centering on the imperative to protect and conserve vital resources within Nebraska: land, water, energy, materials, and food. Nebraska is in a unique position in all of the United States because of its abundance of water, land, energy and food.

The Conversations Conferences are bringing together more than 400 participants and experts from the NSLW workshops with other leaders throughout the state to learn more about how these resources can best be both protected and sustainably developed.

The first two Conversations Conferences were held at Creighton University in Omaha and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. More than 350 people were on-hand for the day-long explorations into the dual challenges of conserving and developing our important resources. You can find out more about the Conversations Conferences The next Conference will be in Grand Island on May 26, 2011, and a fourth Conversations Conference will be in Scottsbluff in late August. The series is being underwritten by the Nebraska Environmental Trust, the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority, Lincoln Electric System, and the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality.

Our community leaders are the chief designers of our communities and their component parts—central business districts, subdivisions, schools, industries and highways—and hold significant influence over current and future public policies. Civic leaders hold enormous sway over whether or not a new development is a good fit that brings long-term economic benefits without harming the ecological or cultural fabric of the community.

An uncertain energy future, growing shortages of water and other natural resources, and the unfolding consequences of climate change represent daunting challenges for Nebraska’s community leaders. Whether they live and work in sprawling cities or depopulating towns, all are struggling with myriad problems as natural resources become increasingly scarce while demands on resources continue to rise.

An initiative of the Joslyn Institute, the NSLW has been a unique opportunity for community leaders from across the state to share their challenges and successes and to discover new ways to address the critical environmental, social-cultural, technological, economic and public policy challenges facing their communities.

The two-year program consisted of a series of 22 workshops in which elected officials, city managers, members of county boards, city councils, school boards and other community leaders engage planning, design and leadership experts. Organized around case-study problems, these small-group workshops were tailored to address issues unique to each participating community while also exploring shared solutions to statewide and regional challenges including:

• Efficient resource use Future prosperity, economic or otherwise, will not occur unless Nebraska’s community leaders find consensus on identifying and efficiently managing our most fragile natural resources.

• Environmental quality Degradation of water quality and supply, loss of habitat and food production to poor land use practices, and toxins in our water, soil and air threaten the very survival of plant, animal and human communities. Species failure is a loss not only for our environment, but a dire warning of our own fragile ecological condition.

• Alternative energy Communities need to act quickly to address future energy challenges, working on a regional and statewide scale to increase the use of clean, alternative energy and to make energy efficiency and the efficient use of resources (materials reuse and recycling) a priority through building code improvements and incentive programs.

• Economic opportunities Valuable natural resources—water, wind, soils, and our four-season solar climate—are underutilized or misallocated in many communities large and small. Regional cooperation, coupled with long-term planning are keys to economic sustainability and substantial improvements to quality of life.

• Effective public policy No single jurisdiction can afford to foot the bill for the future, yet competitive tensions within and between jurisdictions often lead to inefficiencies in natural resource allocation and infrastructure investment. Policies designed to address 19th century conditions are not suited to the global and environmental challenges of the 21st century. Community leaders must work together to develop policies and incentives based on a shared vision of preferred growth patterns, land use policies, and economic goals.

• Healthy, vibrant towns and cities Policies and incentives are needed to encourage healthy, walkable, and culturally rich communities that offer transportation and housing choices in mixed-use developments that concurrently protect habitat, water supplies and local culture/history.

• Food-based coalitions Rural/urban interests are in conflict as farmland and fragile natural environments are lost to sprawl, acreage-style development and other non-food crop uses. Leaders need to explore ways to renew ties between populations and local food communities.