South Bend Becomes a “Cool City”:

Flowering amaryllis in shades of red, pink and yellow served as the backdrop at lovely Potawatomi Park Greenhouse as South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ Climate Protection Agreement today. Joining more than 800 U.S. mayors, this action adds South Bend to the ranks of “Cool Cities” seeking to reduce the causes of global warming.

At the signing ceremony, Luecke was joined by members of the Sierra Club, the St Joe Valley Greens/Green Party, the Audubon society, Step Up/Green Up, IU South Bend’s Environmental Justice League along with representatives of Indiana University at South Bend and the University of Notre Dame who were on hand to unveil collaborations with the city to support this venture.

“With my signature,” Luecke said, “South Bend is committed to producing results and imagining what we can do-not bemoaning what we can’t”.

Initiated by the Sierra Club, cities signing on to the Cool Cities agreement commit to take the following actions:

  • Strive to meet or beat the Kyoto Protocol targets in their own communities through actions ranging from anti-sprawl land-use policies to urban forest restoration projects to public-information campaigns.
  • Urge their state governments and the federal government to enact policies and programs to meet or beat the greenhouse gas emission reduction target suggested for the United States in the Kyoto Protocol (a 7% reduction from 1990 levels by 2012).
  • Urge the U.S. Congress to pass bipartisan greenhouse gas reduction legislation, which would establish a national emission trading system.

Luecke also announced the formation of a “Green Ribbon Commission” to create an inventory of South Bend’s local carbon footprint, assess the city’s progress toward this commitment and develop recommendations for moving forward.

above: Sierra Club representatives Christine Fiordalis and Steve Francis present South Bend Mayor Steve Luecke with a certificate honoring the City’s commitment to becoming a “Cool City”

Collaborating for Sustainability:

Mike Keen, director of IU South Bend’s Center for a Sustainable Future, reported the Center will work with local businesses, government and non-profits to facilitate the development of new courses and degree programs in sustainability and provide support for faculty research. Keen anticipates a close partnership between the Center, the Mayor’s office and the City of South Bend.

Paul R. Brenner, a scientist at Notre Dame’s Center for Research Computing, unveiled a city-university collaboration that reduces heating costs for the city’s greenhouse and air conditioning costs for the Center’s high-performance computers. Notre Dame has placed these computers in the greenhouse’s Desert Dome, a 26,000-square-foot glass house containing plant specimens from the southern United States. The Desert Dome, then, becomes a “heat sink” for the computers’ excess heat.  This arrangement allows the greenhouse to save on heating bills while Notre Dame saves on cooling bills.  Since most of this area relies on coal-powered generators for electricity, this Desert Dome/Computer partnership reduces greenhouse gas emissions from burning coal.

Going Public with Hydroelectric Energy:

Representing the St Joe Valley Greens/Green Party, I asked Mayor Luecke about the feasibility of hydroelectric power in South Bend.  The mayor reported the city is looking seriously at installing a 50 kilowatt “demonstration” generator purchased in the 1980’s but currently in storage. This small generator was intended to power street lights along the East Race and the headgates of the East Race and fish ladder.

The Mayor said the city is also looking into the larger 1.5 megawatt hydroelectric generator proposed as part of the 1980’s East Race redevelopment. He noted that the way Indiana utility laws are written, it makes more sense economically for the city to use the energy generated from hydro power for municipal utilities rather than selling it to a utility company.

This was a great way to celebrate Earth Day at South Bend’s exquisite 90-year-old greenhouse: embracing initiatives to address global climate change and prodding elected officials to consider including hydroelectric power for South Bend.