Why the Madison Region?
Do unto those downstream as you would have those upstream do unto you.
~ Wendell Berry
If you’re from around here, you believe it when headlines tell you that Madison is one of “America’s Best Places to Live and Work,” or that it’s “One of America’s Seven Dream Towns,” or that it’s listed among the “Best Places in America to Start and Grow a Company.”
Madison is a city of superlatives:
“That’s the longest bike path I’ve ever seen!”
“That’s the best beer I’ve ever tasted!”
A superlative city is a city that innovates, inspires, and takes reasonable risks. And it’s a city which understands that it is indeed the sum of its many parts.
In the coming decades, as cities across the country – and beyond – seek to mitigate the realities of climate change, resource depletion, and environmental degradation, they will look to model cities, to places which have proven that sustainable communities work. We believe Madison has the opportunity to show how American cities can thrive, without doing so at the expense of their natural settings.
Madison can be the model of sustainable urbanism, simply because Madison has always been on the advancing edge. It is a Department of Energy Solar America City; a League of American Bicyclists gold-level bike city (but we won’t settle till we’re platinum!); and Madison now gets more than 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources. Even the State Capitol has been fitted for solar panels.
But to call our community truly sustainable, we need to do more than ride our bicycles and rejigger our rooftops.
A sustainable city needs creative thinking on the part of not only individuals, but businesses, civic organizations, and state and federal partners. The Madison Region is a living laboratory for testing innovative sustainability solutions for the rest of the country. The City has adopted The Natural Step, a thriving Swedish framework for sustainability. Madison’s newest Sustainability Report lays out a blueprint (greenprint?) for addressing our impact on the environment with mitigation strategies across fields as diverse as health, transportation, design, and education. And consider the Mpower Program: an innovative partnership of private, public, and non-profit sectors aimed at reducing citywide emissions of climate-disrupting carbon.
Sustain Dane is committed to the Madison Region because this area has already proven that it is an engine of ideas, an incubator of creative business solutions, and a recurring force for re-examination of our connection with our natural setting.
After all, Madison is where John Muir was bitten by the botany bug; now the Sierra Club boasts more than a million members and supporters. It's here, in Madison, where beloved environmentalist Aldo Leopold taught wildlife management and introduced his land ethic. Today, the Wilderness Society which he helped found has been instrumental in some of the most important pieces of conservation legislation in the U.S. It's here, in Madison, where U.S. Senator from Wisconsin Gaylord Nelson engaged the first Earth Day teach-ins. Earth Day is now celebrated in 175 nations annually.
Madison’s environmental legacy reaches from the Capitol Square clear out to each U.S. coastline, and far beyond. It has been a model city, and we hope you’ll join us to continue that tradition of excellence.
Another superlative: It’s the most important work we can do.
(with contributions from Pat Dillon, local author, Green Travel Guide to Southern Wisconsin: Environmentally and Socially Responsible Travel)