Our cities face multiple crises, including economic recession, resource scarcity, social and public health concerns, and the consequences of climate change. At the same time, billions of dollars are about to be spent on repairing and building urban infrastructure. This convergence presents us with an historic opportunity to invest these funds differently. Rather than building, or rebuilding, infrastructure that replicates models from the 20th century, we can effectively address the problems we face by designing 21st century smart, green, integrated infrastructure, constructing new models that result in a better environment, improved public health, a stronger economy, and a safer society.
The challenges are immense. What is required is a significant realignment of resources and in fact, entire systems, to achieve the long-term outcomes of health, sustainability, and prosperity. While examples of this kind of smart, green, integrated infrastructure exist, there are relatively few, and few models for the kind of system change that is needed.
To explore this exciting challenge, a group of fifty invited leaders convened on July 23, 2009 for a one-day workshop at the TreePeople Center for Community Forestry in Los Angeles. Participants included leaders from the fields of engineering, environment, academia, government and utility agencies, labor and public health. The discussion that ensued is the beginning of a new effort in the Los Angeles region, with implications for the state and the nation.