Friday, April 07, 2006

Houston as a Model City

Houston as a Model City: Meeting the challenges of an environmental crisis
Global Warming, Impacting today's urgent issues

by Vicki Wolf

Global warming and health issues related to living in a fossil-fueled car-based city are the most urgent issues facing the community today, according to experts working to solve health and environmental problems in Houston....People tend to underestimate the importance of their own actions and become immobile when they think a problem is out of their control. “Here we are, each in our individual actions causing the problem, and yet we don’t think we can each in our individual actions change it,” says Karl Rábago, Energy and Buildings Solutions group director with the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), “We have to change that mindset.”

Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs is just one of the things all households and businesses can do today to impact the climate change crisis. Taking advantage of daylight rather than turning on electric lights during the day, using innovative lower-energy consuming systems for heating and cooling, recycling, driving less, reducing and eliminating the use of plastics all can make a difference (see “What we can do today”).

“Houston could be a model city in lots of ways,” says Winfred Hamilton, Environmental Section director for Baylor College of Medicine. “We have one of the most ecologically interesting areas in the world with beautiful bayou systems, next to the gulf, at the divide with the Big Thicket. Anything will grow here despite our pollution,” she adds. “We could be the green energy capital of the world, selling ideas and technology and a showcase for application.”

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