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Pathways to Urban Sustainability: The Atlanta Metropolitan Region - Summary of a Workshop
actions.” He explained that EPA’s present interest in supporting sustainable communities is driven by a number of separate but related factors: concern with projected urbanization trends and growth patterns (as they relate to environmental impacts), a demand for more walkable communities, and the rapid loss of scenic vistas within the United States.
Environmental issues have not typically been discussed as limits to further development in the region, although Dr. Couch suggested that this may be changing. Water resources in particular have been a point of contention, and future growth in metropolitan Atlanta (and an expected increase in municipal demand) could be constrained in order to meet competing needs in the aquatic systems that form part of the watershed. As several participants noted, the 2009 federal court’s ruling on Georgia’s limited rights to use Lake Lanier might be a turning point and, at a minimum, has increased the scrutiny of municipal withdrawals, including regional coal-fired power plants.
By altering the landscape, Atlanta’s built environment has become less and less resilient to natural disturbances. The flooding in fall 2009 provided one such example, when as much as 20 inches of rain in a 24-hour period overwhelmed metropolitan Atlanta; severe weather events like this could become more frequent or severe with climate change.
Renee Glover, President and CEO, Atlanta Housing Authority, noted that, while sustainability is a laudable goal, we must consider whether efforts to achieve sustainability continue to support other goals for urban areas, such as reducing poverty and providing affordable housing. She stated that regional stakeholders can probably agree to some of the long-term visions for metropolitan Atlanta (e.g., more walkable communities) and can use that as a basis to try to integrate what have traditionally been separate goals. She further stated that sustainability should be something that is desirable—achieving outcomes that everyone in society can recognize and benefit from.
SUSTAINABILITY AND HUMAN HEALTH
Dr. Christopher Portier, director of the National Center for Environmental Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, discussed interactions between human and natural systems in the built environment from a public health perspective. He noted that we tend to understand the impact physiological factors can have on our health. For