Rampant growth has been changing and churning the landscape of Central Florida and makes people wonder if the future Orlando is a place anyone would want to call home. Whether a real change of heart, or reaction to the housing bust, Mayor Buddy Dyer recently announced plans to move in a greener direction.
The City of Orlando recently announced it’s plans to formally get greener. Called Green Works Orlando, Mayor Buddy Dyer heralds some positive steps forward.
“I am proud and excited to unveil Green Works Orlando, the City’s first comprehensive plan to protect our natural resources, encourage environmentally-friendly lifestyles and business practices and engage everyone who lives, works and visits Central Florida in the effort to ‘go green’.”
These next few years will critically effect the course we’ve chosen. Can Orlando better manage it’s growth, or is simply too far out of control? Have we reached our tipping point? The media is a-buzz with the notion of being green, but what does that really mean for Orlando?
Green means many things, but its roots come form the notion of being sustainable, of replacing what we use–for future generations.
The idea of quality of life is central to being green. Is this a place you can really call home, or a transient place we set up shop for a few years, then move on? Setting aside undeveloped places for parks and recreation, building community–that’s a part of what being green means. In this sense many areas of Central Florida are doing an amazing job. Take Winter Garden, a revitalized downtown centered around the West Orange Trail and Greenway. Orlando’s Parks Division has done amazing work over the years, focused on planting trees, improving and creating green spaces and beautification.
Smart growth is a term that really means something for us in Central Florida. Planning for future growth, better managing energy and water use–these are real issues that must be faced and take vision to solve.
Consider Orlando’s daily commute. How would you rate the area in terms of its green-ness? How does traffic effect your quality of life? We can’t keep ignoring huge issues like transportation and imagine our city to be a shining example of a best, possible future.
Building green can help us all dramatically save power and water and help us impact the land and resources less. We have to adopt serious standards and enforce them. Too often developers get a free pass. As Georgia and Tennessee grapple with drought and water shortage we should be doing everything in our power to prevent or lessen that kind of impact here.
And what about energy? Do you know that Florida imports 99% of its energy? While we talk about ways to change the nation from not being so reliant on foreign oil, our state could hardly be more dependent. Yet we bake in sunshine most of the year and are surrounded by ocean and tap directly into the gulf stream. We talk about drilling for oil in the keys, yet, forget the importance of tourism, ignoring the abundance that surrounds us. Our unique location is what makes us special. We have something worth preserving.
Places like Brazil are growing sugar cane to make biofuels, and no longer have to import oil. Sugar cane used to grow wild where I grew up near Oak Ridge Road. Other tech innovations use citrus peel, a waste product, as fuel. And other potential crops, like switchgrass, could grow in our rural and agricultural areas. While Iowa gets federal subsidies to make expensive ethanol from corn, we could be developing an entire industry, close to home.
Solar, biofuels, wave and wind power, Florida has so much potential. How do we get there? How could the City create incentives for business and homeowners?
Mayor Dyer, I applaud the city coming forward and talking about ways to get green and we’re here to support all the good things you do. Conservation, recycling, carpooling and using the right size pot for your plants are all good, but we need something more. Orlando could be the capital of things green, but we need real action to get there. We need leaders with vision and conscience. And we need to execute, not just talk about it.
The city’s new website states that Green Works Orlando is an environmental action agenda designed to transform Orlando into one of the most environmentally-conscious cities in America.”
A noble vision, and one we support. We have a long way to go, and we’ll gladly take these first steps with you, and report about the progress we make.
Last, mayor Dyer rightly notes, “Working together, I know we can make a cleaner, greener and better Orlando for generations to come.”
Only by working together and caring about what kind of tomorrow is going to be here for our kids, can we ever hope to move forward. Margaret Mead aptly wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world, indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
People of Orlando, the ball is in your court. What kind of a future is in store for us? One where we dream and create with purpose, or one that just simply happens?
Get involved today. Write articles for us, send comments. Volunteer, join a service org, give blood. It’s so easy to get all caught up in national issues we can hardly effect. Focus on local issues, where your work can have real effect.