Shannon Binns, Founder & Executive Director of Sustain Charlotte, with a Father's Take on the Charlotte Future 2040 PlanJun 02, 2021 12:14PM ● By Shannon Binns
Edie and Shannon
“We do not inherit the earth from our parents, we borrow it from our children.”
― Antoine De Saint-Exupery
As a middle-aged father who has lost his own, I often find myself contemplating this question: How will my daughter remember me?
And when she looks back on how I responded to the climate crisis, will she say, “my daddy tried his best to make the world safe for me?” I don’t know. Some days I feel I am making her proud and others I feel I’m not doing enough; that I’ve grown too comfortable, too complacent.
In our country, transportation is now the largest source (29%) of greenhouse gas emissions, the gases that are causing our climate crisis. This is due to burning fossil fuels for our cars, trucks, ships, trains, and planes.
In my personal life, I’ve tried to do my part by selling my car, sharing an electric hybrid with my wife, and riding my bike as much as possible. Living in Charlotte, getting around entirely without a car, especially with a five-year-old, is challenging. We have not designed our city in a way that makes walking, biking, and riding transit (buses and trains) convenient, safe, and comfortable.
In my professional life, I lead a local nonprofit -- Sustain Charlotte -- that strives to make it easier for all Charlotteans to get to the places they need to go without having to get into a car.
We know that if we change the way we grow our city by prioritizing the safety and convenience of non-vehicular modes of travel (walking, biking, and transit) we can dramatically reduce our shared impact on the climate. And at the same time -- improve our health, reduce our transportation expenses, and improve our access to jobs, schools, parks, child care, grocery stores, and health care without a car.
But transitioning from a city built almost exclusively for car mobility to a city built for walking, biking, and transit requires a long-term plan and commitment.
On June 21, the Charlotte City Council will be voting on such a plan. It’s called the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan. This will be our first comprehensive plan since 1975 and it is a bold vision for how our city will grow over the next two decades.
In fact, the first of ten goals in the plan is this: “All Charlotte households should have access to essential amenities, goods, and services within a comfortable, tree-shaded 10-minute walk, bike, or transit trip by 2040.” Another goal is to create safe and equitable mobility through an integrated system of transit, bikeways, sidewalks, shared-use paths, and streets.
Some elements of this plan have been controversial -- as are all ideas that propose a significant change from the status quo. But the status quo when it comes to our built environment isn’t working for most Charlotteans today.
And it definitely won’t work for our children. Increasingly, they are counting on us to change our ways -- for their health, their safety, their happiness. I invite you to speak for them today by letting City Council know you support the 2040 plan and asking them to vote for it.
Having a local plan won’t end the climate crisis but local plans like this are being approved across the nation. And by each of us taking action locally, together we can end the climate crisis.
And, hopefully, when our children reflect back to this pivotal time, they will say, “my mom and dad did everything they could to make the world safer for me.”
Shannon Binns is the Founder and Executive Director of Sustain Charlotte. Prior to moving to Charlotte, Shannon worked at The Nature Conservancy in Washington, DC where he was part of their climate change science and policy team. He also served in the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps. Shannon currently serves on the North Carolina Advisory Board for Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). In 2015, he was named one of Seven to Watch by the Charlotte Observer and one of the Charlotte Business Journal's 40 Under 40. In 2018, Charlotte's NPR affiliate, WFAE, named him one of The Most Powerful Voices in Charlotte. Connect with Binns at [email protected]