By Michelle De Blasi
Quarles & Brady

At this year’s Livability Summit, Valley Forward hosted an incredible line-up of speakers, featuring the who’s who in economic and sustainability futurists.  The speakers presented an impressive array of insights, from the practical to the existential.  The half-day of presentations from both local and global speakers had a powerful common theme – the future looks bright for sustainability, but it’s not going to happen without looking at the issue from an economic development approach.  As Jeremy Rifkin cleverly stated, the distributed renewable energy generated under the “Third Industrial Revolution” means “power to the people.”  We all have the power to shape the economic development of our communities in a sustainable way.  So what does this mean?

It means that the Arizona Corporation Commission must continue to push the envelope to encourage renewable energy development and investment.  As Commissioner Newman reiterated at the Summit, it is important to ensure that the renewable energy portfolio standards reflected in our Renewable Energy Standard and Tarriff rules remain competitive. These requirements will continue to foster economic development and diversify our economy by encouraging a strong renewable energy industry in Arizona.  There is no reason that New Jersey should have more renewable energy development than Arizona!  We must also do our part to elect Corporation Commissioners who understand and will continue to support these concepts.

We cannot just bank on renewable energy, however, to solve our community issues.  As artfully pointed out by James Charlier, we must work with both the government and private sectors to design smarter communities. This means more infrastructure closer to population centers and better transportation options.  The impacts of better-planned cities will be manifest in many important ways, including better air quality by cutting down on vehicle miles travelled, better health by developing more walkable/bikable communities, and better economies by allowing each community to keep the investment dollars within that community.  How does one effect this change within his or her community?  Get involved with local civic and private organizations who are planning new projects and provide input on the decisions that are being made by the local zoning boards and commissions.  There are projects being developed over the entire Valley, including at the Arizona Department of Transportation as discussed by Shannon Scutari, that will impact how the metropolitan area develops.  The small investment of your time in these areas will have large impacts on how communities are shaped.

Economic development is key to getting out of this recession.  The results of the surveys published by Paul Leinberger’s The Futures Company indicate that many people are taking a closer look at personal and corporate responsibility, including sustainable practices. By continuing to be selective in the products we consume and the actions we take in our daily lives, we can impact the types of products that are available.  After all, companies that want to remain profitable will have to develop products that support their bottom line.  Although this requires being a more informed consumer, there has never been a time when information has been more readily available.

Bottom line, don’t just stay tuned but get tuned in!

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