Healthier, Safer, More Livable Communities—Block by Block with John Crowley and Leslie Curchack

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There is a movement happening that has been proven effective in helping individuals do their part in alleviating the effects of climate change. It’s the grassroots efforts of The Cool Cities Challenge. This movement relies on building social capital that includes concrete, inclusive, and non-political actions taken at a grassroots level to mitigate the effects of climate change. We don’t need to feel like we have to act alone, all this can be done in neighborhoods, block by block. And today we’ll be sharing The Cool Cities Challenge that includes cities becoming carbon neutral (beyond offsets) by 2030. This deep dialogue helps us to return to our roots of community that support civic engagement and social networks. Crowley recalls, “I remember as a child when we were just driving along and my dad noticed somebody had a flat tire. He immediately hopped out of the car and asked if he could be of help. Now, fear of what could happen prevents us from reaching out to our neighbors.” He goes on to point out, “I think American society has kind of taught us to be individuals and not to depend on our neighbor. However, it's actually quite the opposite. We need to be interdependent.” Crowley and Curchack encourage us to start a cool city project in our own towns which incorporates a sense of community, a sense of belonging, and a sense of fun. Crowley points out how this movement can be aggregators of individuals at the block level. It is also aggregators of experts. Our towns and neighborhoods are full of great experts and the willingness to find out important information together is exciting. This is a movement that is happening and hopefully your town will soon be part of it. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms) 


John Crowley is co-founder of Cool City Petaluma 2030 and co-owner of the Aqus Café in Petaluma, California. He’s a social instigator and champion connection-maker. It was his intention in starting Aqus Café to recreate an Irish pub atmosphere with a focus on social dynamics that create opportunities and support the connection of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits by bringing them together with their various interests, talents, and energy. He believes that social capital determines the health and happiness of a community and that as individuals of a town are provided more opportunities to interact and connect the entire town benefits. 

Leslie Curchack is a nature photographer and block leader of Cool City Petaluma 2030. 

To learn more about Leslie Curchack’s photography go to

 To learn more about the work of Cool City Petaluma 2030 go to 

Topics explored in this dialogue include: 

  • What is social capital that Crowley learned in his grandfather’s Irish pub
  • How the pubs in Ireland serve as the social centers of the community
  • Why Crowley fashioned his Aqus Café in Petaluma, California to be a social gathering place
  • How the Cool City Challenge helps us to be more resilient when disasters inevitably strike and be more prepared for emergencies
  • What to expect in being a block leader in Cool City Petaluma 2030
  • Some thoughts on what to prepare ahead of time before a natural disaster happens
  • What is a 15-minute block
  • What is the importance of getting to know the issues you and your neighbors have to improve life on your block
  • Passeggiata, an Italian word meaning a pleasant stroll after dinner
  • Raising your hand to be a block leader
  • What is an example of block celebrations and personal connections
  • Where did Cool Cities name come from and what does it signify
  • How can we help one another to be better stewards of our precious water 

Host: Justine Willis Toms   Interview Date: 8/19/2022   Program Number: 3773 

Music Playlist

From Album:  17 Seconds to Anywhere
Artist: Liz Story
1998 Windham Hill Records #01934-11291-2

Opening Essay: Track 01 Captain April
Music Break 1: Track 02 Rumors of Discipline
Music Break 2: Track 03 Beginner’s Mind
Music Break 3: Track 04 Voices