Modern Metropolis: Part 3 – The City of Cincinnati was one of the first 10 founding members of the Cincinnati 2030 District. Learn how the city is working to make their 150 year old City Hall more “green” and get a tour of the world’s first “net-zero” Police Station.
Strength In Unity
For over two centuries, the people of Cincinnati have been inspired by the Latin phrase emblazoned on the city’s official insignia: with “juncta juvant,” which roughly translates to “strength in unity.” Cincinnati was very different 200 years ago. But the city’s ideals are very much alive today as the Queen City’s government works to address a broad range of climate-related issues that its founders could not have imagined.
In 1819, most of the Midwest was still unsettled wilderness or widely dispersed farmland. At the time, Cincinnati’s population was less than 10,000. Today, roughly 2 million people are spread across the Cincinnati metro area. The challenges faced in the early 19th century were tests of basic daily survival. Settling and growing in America’s Queen City required great skill and grit, but it also demanded the ability to constantly adapt in order to overcome new and imposing obstacles.
note* (If you’re interested in a taste of the challenges Ohio’s early citizens dealt with, check out “The Pioneers by David McCullough.“)
As Cincinnati enters its third century, adaptation will once again be critical for the city to flourish. It faces a variety of economic, population and climate-related issues — much like other cities around the world. But building a more resilient, more “green” city is one way Cincinnati can better prepare for those challenges.
Rebranding a city in the Rust Belt, though — one whose history has been shaped by industrial-era manufacturing — is no easy task. That said, recent findings have shown that the greener a city is, the higher it can rank nationally. This includes its overall appeal, but also how well it attracts potential investors, business incentives or a labor force seeking to relocate to environmentally friendly cities. As a result, residents see benefits like infrastructure improvement and economic growth through direct investment in programs like these.
Big Problems Require Bold Vision
Greening the Queen City starts with a plan — the Green Cincinnati Plan, to be exact. Originally drafted in 2008, its latest iteration, which was approved in 2018, lays out 80 high-impact, community-driven strategies specific to the Cincinnati metro area that are designed to help address climate change. The plan has two main ambitions: an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050 and for Cincinnati to be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2035. Guided by local businesses, faith-based organizations, nonprofits and government leaders, the plan was built on three central pillars: sustainability, equity and resilience.
The Green Cincinnati Plan also embraces many of the same principles tied to “the science of cities,” driven by a more holistic and systematic approach of looking at and treating cities like any other living organism. Because cities are vastly complex, interconnected systems that constantly change and evolve, no single element operates in isolation from any other. Therefore, this interconnectedness must be acknowledged and honored when big policy decisions are made, ensuring they’re made for the good of everyone. People, planet, and profit.
The plan’s eight interdependent areas were designed to deliver on the spirit of this approach, making the city a better place to live, work and play. Its #1 recommendation focused on improving the Built Environment (the buildings we occupy) by establishing a 2030 sustainability district. More broadly, 2030 District participants focus on reducing their water, energy and transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions across a cities central business district. These aggregated metrics and reductions are the kind of solutions-focused, holistic approaches that are the very foundation of the Green Cincinnati plan.
An Ongoing Success Story
Cincinnati’s 2030 District commitment was a result of its own actions and a number of major milestones that took place over the past two years. The first was funding; the second was the announcement of a major infrastructure project.
Emily Barkdoll, city strategist from the Natural Resources Defense Council, is part of Bloomberg’s American Cities team. She discusses the need for collaboration of all parties. True “juncta juvant” will be needed to “solve the human problem of climate change.”
Emily Barkdoll, city strategist from the Natural Resources Defense Council, is part of Bloomberg’s American Cities team.
WCPO Reports: In November 2019, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced the launch of a new solar array project. A 1,000-acre soybean field will be converted to hold 310,000 solar panels, making it the largest municipal array in the country as of December 2019. It will provide the city with a cheaper source of carbon-free energy and assist in its 2030 District energy-reduction goals.
WCPO Reports: Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley and the city have been early and vocal advocates for building a more sustainable city through programs like the 2030 District.
Part of a Bigger Story
Modern Metropolis isn’t just about the 2030 Districts, or even the City of Cincinnati. It’s a much bigger story of people everywhere coming together to effect change at all levels of sustainability.
From single-family homes to city skyscrapers, every building can play a critical role in the global story of sustainability. As these connections continue to reveal themselves in our fight to halt a warming planet, embracing the spirit of “juncta juvant” will help us all face the future – in unity.
About “Modern Metropolis”
This documentary tells the story of how Cincinnati formed its own sustainability district, designed to make healthier buildings and community. From the city’s mayor to a soap company and into your home, this six-part series documents one community’s efforts to prepare their city for the future.
References / Further Reading
- Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, by Charles Montgomery
- New York 2140, by Kim Stanley Robinson
- Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed, by Jared Diamond
- The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities And The Remaking Of The Civilized World, by Jeff Goodell
- How Soon Is Now: From Personal Initiation To Global Transformation, by Daniel Pinchbeck