Passenger rail to Asheville? Add more value with sustainability innovation

Prior to the announcement of the Asheville Climate Collider I shared my concept for an Earth Science and Sustainability Exploratorium (ESSE), possibly to be located on the former site of Beacon Manufacturing in Swannanoa, NC. As I add more detail over time, this article will also cover my ideas for a National Climate Risk and Sustainability Strategy Center (NCRSSC). NCRSSC and ESSE potentially could be located in Swannanoa. Ideally, NCRSSC would be part of an award-winning EPA Superfund Ready for Reuse plan for the Chemtronics Superfund site.

Connecting these centers of innovation and national security strategy would be ESSE Rail. Passenger rail cars specially designed for ESSE education and NCRSSC public and national security events, while connecting Asheville to the rest of North Carolina and the nation’s capitol by rail, would make daily trips to and from Asheville with stops in Swannanoa and Black Mountain. Of course ESSE Rail works in conjunction with normal future daily commuter/visitor lines to and from Asheville. The special ESSE Rail cars would be used for business meetings and special events for other groups throughout the year as well.

The Asheville brand is already a sustainability brand. More than messaging, we get things done. I am aware of efforts like GO Asheville and the many other local sustainability and human development efforts that in many cases go back decades and that can be better showcased. A new Sustain Asheville brand represented by our community accomplishments so far—with many more initiatives ahead—can be augmented with greater state and national collaboration. Sustainable tourism is a key to changing the course of events for Asheville and WNC. Most tourist drive here right now. ESSE Rail is most certainly for our tourists and a chance for them to learn more about the region.

There are multitude areas for private, nonprofit, and university collaboration around these initiatives. Sustainability is largely a matter of responsible innovation. NCRSSC, ESSE, and ESSE-NCRSSC Rail need to emphasize the human element as Anthropocene science (earth science + human civilization) is and will continue to be a central aspect of strategy. The Asheville area is suited as we need a major economic and political shift towards a more ethical strategy platform. Our inability to form anti-poverty and sustainable tourism strategy, or negotiate regional carbon-busting electricity systems, the presence of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information along with other natural world attributes like our general biodiversity, make Asheville and the region an ideal testbed for a fresh and necessary approach.

But we aren’t alone. Each community on the planet is either generating these necessary sustainability innovations, or are in desperate need of these strategies. Citywide as well as rural energy innovation and poverty innovation can go better with enhanced, open transnational communication, relationship generation, knowledge management, and shared value performance monitoring. The NCRSSC and ESSE products will coordinate and innovate around these new Anthropocene science principles and generate clarity and practical time-bound activities as well as innovations for future action.

The Asheville area has been searching for a new economic development strategic differentiation for decades now. The answer has been right in front of us for some time now.

Posted in Asheville, Climate Change Innovation, Innovation and Opportunity Ecosystem, Open Strategic Innovation for Communities.