David Driskell: The Power to Decide: Boulder's Energy Future

Department of City and Regional Planning Professional Planning Colloquium

David Driskell is the executive director of community planning and sustainability for the City of Boulder, Colorado. This expanded department incorporates the city's long-range planning and land use review functions with historic preservation, ecological planning, economic vitality, regional sustainability, and local environmental action, including the city's climate action and waste reduction programs. Prior to this, Driskell served as the UNESCO Chair for Growing Up in Cities at Cornell University and as principal in the firm of Baird+Driskell Community Planning, leading comprehensive planning, affordable housing, and neighborhood revitalization projects. He has led and managed planning projects in dozens of cities in California, Oregon, New York, and New Jersey, as well as in the countries of Qatar, India, and Kenya. His work has been recognized by awards from the California Chapter of the American Planning Association, the Environmental Design Research Association/PLACES Magazine, and the American Society of Landscape Architects. 

Driskell has a long-standing commitment to community participation in planning, with a particular interest in the participation of young people. He authored the book Creating Better Cities with Children and Youth: A Manual for Participation (Earthscan/UNESCO 2002) and has written numerous articles on the topic. He is a research affiliate at the Children, Youth, and Environments Center for Research and Design at University of ColoradoヨBoulder, serves on the steering committee for the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement at CU-Boulder, and is an adviser to UN-HABITAT's youth-led development program.

He is received a bachelor of arts from Stanford University and a master degree in city planning Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Driskell's talk will focus on climate change, which he feels is the most significant challenge of our age. A clear scientific consensus indicates that a warming planet will profoundly impact our ecosystems and human settlements.

While international action has been frustratingly elusive, local and regional responses are gaining traction. Spurred by citizens, and grounded in the reality that local policy and action are essential to an effective global response, these initiatives are seeking to mitigate climate impacts and support long-term resiliency.

Boulder is a politically progressive community with a history of environmental activism. It was the world's first community to adopt a local carbon tax to support climate action, and continues to challenge itself to go further, faster in addressing greenhouse gas emissions.

In recent years, the city has been engaged in a process of tackling its most significant greenhouse gas source: its electricity supply. Currently served by an investor-owned utility with a coal intensive energy portfolio, the city has evaluated a number of potential strategies to switch to cleaner and renewable energy sources. If successful, it could become the first community in the country to take control of its power system to achieve clean energy goals.

He believes we need to change systems, not just lightbulbs, and that planners (including you) have a unique and critical role to play in such system change initiatives.