Local Sustainability Efforts in the United States: The Progress Since Rio
If we want to think about changes in local sustainability over the last 10 years, perhaps the best place to start is with Al Gore. In 1992, just before the Rio Earth Summit and before he was to be tapped as a vice presidential candidate, then-Senator Gore published a treatise on the environment called Earth in the Balance. The book was rightfully hailed as a work of "statesmanship, evangelism, and scientific exposition." While visionary in its scope and prescient in its analysis of such issues as global warming and energy alternatives, the book failed to mention the words "brownfields," "sustainable communities," "livable communities," "new urbanism," or "smart growth." In short, it failed to mention what would become a national movement since the 1992 Earth Summit.
What a difference 10 years makes! Al Gore would end up championing "livable communities" as a part of his domestic agenda as vice president and later as a plank in his 2000 presidential campaign. The Republican presidential candidate, George W. Bush, also claimed brownfields redevelopment as an important priority and vowed that we need "smart growth." The word "brownfields" was not even in the dictionary in 1992; it achieved that honor in 1999. The term "smart growth" did not exist in 1992. It is now arguably a movement.