The Earth Day Network released a report today (Friday, February 23) ranking U.S. cities based on their overall goodness of environmental indicators.
Western cities fared pretty well in this effort. Out of 72 small, medium and large cities measured, Fargo was number one; Portland, three; Colorado Springs, four; Sioux Falls, five; Boise, six; Seattle, seven; Cheyenne, 12; Denver, 13; Billings, 14; Mesa, 16; Las Vegas, 26; and Phoenix, 30.
I’m a little disappointed with these results. Westerners are tough, roll-up-your-sleeves, git-’er-done kind of folks. It seems there isn’t much left to do. I mean, hell, anybody can live someplace nice. It takes real character, genuine gumption, to tough it out in Detroit (72) or Miami (71).
Among the eight “very large” cities rated, Phoenix was the highest ranked, proving that the arbiters have never been to Phoenix and there are still a few bugs in the system. Denver, my home, finished 13th, which is pretty good, I guess, unless they’re using the same rating system they used with Phoenix.
Actually, I should say that Denver is the city nearest my home. The rankings stopped at the city limits, and I live in a suburb, one which has grown catastrophically since I moved here 11 years ago. The same could be said of all the suburbs of Denver, which are now scraping topsoil from the purple mountains ‘tis of thee to the fruited plain in favor of New Urbanist condos. I wonder if the Earth Day Network has accounted for all the New Urbanist drivers for whom a four-way stop sign is a deep and abiding mystery.
If you look at the details of the rankings, Denver’s Earthday Network (EDN) scores were pretty middling, going from (one is best, five worst) 2.2 for “drinking and surface water” to 2.8 for “parks and recreational opportunities.” You may want to know what these numbers signify. I haven’t a clue.
It will probably come as surprise to skiers, bikers, hikers, hunters, anglers, drinkers, foodies, balloonists, hang gliders, gamblers, baseball, basketball, hockey and football fans that recreational opportunities fared relatively poorly in this survey. There just isn’t a damn thing to do around here. I’m moving to Fargo.
At the same time, water gets the (relative) thumbs up. This is because all those new developments put in bluegrass lawns, decline to adopt xeric landscaping, we have water rationing every other year or so, and have to contemplate stealing water from the Western Slope via ever more costly public works projects. We’re way out in front of the water curve.
But the rankings give scarce credit to some of the things that Denver and Colorado have been good at — wildlife protection, bicycle friendliness and open space protection, to name but a few.
We’ll end with quiz. Environment-wise, where would you rather live? Honolulu (11) or Fargo (1)? New York City (54) or Phoenix (30)? Billings (14) or San Diego (31)? Record your answers below.