By CAROLYN SZCZEPANSKI
To protect the environment, consumption-crazed Americans have to learn to tread lightly when it comes to gobbling up natural resources. Too bad Kansas City residents are clomping around in combat boots.
Today the Brookings Institution, an independent think-tank in Washington, D.C., released this study ranking the carbon footprint of the largest 100 U.S. cities. According to their calculations, Kansas City residents are each responsible for spewing nearly 3 tons -- 6,600 pounds -- of global warming pollution each year. That's foul enough to put this Cowtown near the bottom of the pile at No. 84. Even pollution-choked cities like Houston, Texas, Los Angeles and Cleveland ranked better.
Luckily, a group of the city's elite environmental, civic and business leaders have been hard at work trying to figure out how to tighten our belts when it comes to global warming. But many of the meetings I've attended have consisted of progressive citizens presenting ideas from their work groups on how to make KC less polluting. Meanwhile, business leaders like Pete Levi, the president of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, and David Warm, director of the Mid-America Regional Council, often throw cold water on the creative suggestions or come up with reasons why the steering committee should keep "studying" the issue or start a "dialogue" with some other "stakeholders." (Ironically, the committee didn't even meet in April -- the most eco-minded month, given the Earth Day holiday.)
Maybe it was the super-amped air-conditioning in the Plaza library meeting room yesterday, but despite some characteristic hot air, the group moved on some overdue action. The group agreed to set a goal that the Kansas City community -- not just city government -- should work to reduce its carbon footprint by 30 percent by 2020. Still, it's not the kind of aggressive action that will propel us from the bowels of the Brookings Institution list.
The recommendations need to clear the City Council, perhaps sometime in July. In the meantime, grab your inhalers and cloister your respiratory-challenged elders. Next week the Ozone Alert season kicks into high gear.