The green zeitgeist radar
Although Louisville’s tap water has been dubbed “Best Tasting” by the American Waterworks Association, that refreshing, metallic tang you detect every time you take a good swig of Ohio River aqua has earned our fair city a new distinction: We are now among 25 American cities whose tap water contains unsafe levels of carcinogenic hexavalent chromium, aka chromium VI. Per new safety regulations proposed by the state of California, Louisville ranks 22nd out of 25 communities whose drinking water contains unsafe levels of chromium VI, despite assurances (made many months later) by the Louisville Water Company that the recently upgraded filtration system meets current EPA regulatory standards.
Oldmsted 2.0? If greedy developers manage not to spoil the idea with strip malls and the Ohio River Bridges Project remains but a twinkle in a road contractor lobbyist’s eye, then the city’s visionary 21st Century Parks system could form the backbone of a future Louisville wherein 4,000 acres of parklands spur greener, less-sprawling neighborhoods. Additionally, the ensuing creation of the Louisville Loop will provide a 100-mile pedestrian circuit ensnaring what just might be a healthier Jefferson County.
Although Louisville is home to a bronze award from the League of American Bicyclists (as well as a former mayor who really likes wearing spandex), the fact remains that Louisville’s green infrastructure consists of haphazardly connected bike paths and broken sidewalks tethered to a public bus system stymied by a broken occupational-tax funding stream. Combined with an exploding suburban population and no vehicle emissions testing whatsoever, it’s little wonder that the Brookings Institute named Louisville the fifth worst carbon footprint in America just one year after Louisville’s hottest summer on record.
Something you won’t find in a tri-fold glossy chamber of commerce “Possibility City” brochure? Any mention of the city’s Rubbertown neighborhood, which recently suffered two tragic deaths in an explosion at the Carbide Industries plant — one of a dozen major chemical processing plants located in the area — nor will you learn that Metro Louisville is home to three coal-fired power plants (LG&E’s Cane Run Road and Mill Creek plants, and Duke Energy’s plant in New Albany) and an unlined, open-air toxic coal ash pond that lives next door to residents of nearby Riverside Gardens. With 56 coal plants statewide, it’s no surprise that Kentucky ranks 6th worst for mercury pollution, which causes brain damage, death and the careers of most Kentucky politicians.
Perhaps thanks in part to the pioneering efforts of East Market Street’s Green Building, which is the first structure in the commonwealth to obtain a LEED platinum certification, the rest of the city has slowly started to follow suit. The city’s Metro Development Center and Metro Archives building, as well as the Louisville Zoo, have either built or announced plans to install green roofs and other such features.
No matter how fun the Polar Plunge looks, there’s no charitable cause great enough to warrant swimming with cocaine-addicted, transsexual mutant fish. Last year, a report by the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission found our city’s beloved body of water contains dozens of chemicals, including veterinary hormones, pharmaceutical antidepressants and what Tony Montana lovingly refers to as “llello.” (Pronounced “yayo,” which is Spanish for “Holy shit, cocaine!”)
Although more could be done to enhance the slow food movement in Louisville, great strides have been made in recent years to connect the poor, indigenous, food-growing farmers of Kentucky’s rural communities to their poor, indigenous and hungry urban counterparts, most notably via the Healthy in Hurry and Healthy Hometown initiatives, and the efforts of CSAs and local food-minded nonprofits.
As the only mayoral candidate who addressed issues of unsustainable development in the East End, the dearth of infill development in the West End, and the lack of an adequate mass-transit system connecting the two (and beyond), one man Office of Sustainability Jackie Green’s green credentials also include owning the local Bike Couriers Bike Shop chain, towing a massive trailer with his own legs, and having the last name of “green,” which makes the conceit in this joke work.