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Street-art film fest! Reverse graffiti, urban archaeology, and other writings on the wall

The walls of our cities are becoming canvases for creative expression in the hands of a new generation of artists. These kids are street-smart and engaged. (And, OK, they're not all kids.) They work, on some levels, in the same spirit as Occupy Wall Street, reclaiming and transforming the urban landscape, and infusing their art with social and environmental consciousness. "Street art is showing that there can be these locations and public spaces that are temporarily taken over with artwork -- spaces we would traditionally think of as non-art space," says Martin Irvine, an associate professor at Georgetown University. Irvine has …

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Grimy to green: Three cities that have cleaned up their acts

Jad Daley with the Trust for Public LandPhoto: Hanna Welch All right, we know that no place with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants deserves to be described in these terms -- but let's face it, some cities are known for being dumps. Yet every dump can be cleaned up. Few understand this better than Jad Daley, director of the climate conservation program at the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that acts as a "conservation real estate agent," helping to procure parks and green spaces for public use. The Trust is notable among green groups in that it works in …

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It’s not dead yet! The electric car makes a comeback, again, maybe

There are a couple of things you ought to know about the new film Revenge of the Electric Car, director Chris Paine's sequel to his 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? First, this would be more aptly named The Running Saga of the Electric Car, or better yet, How The Electric Car Gets Its Ass Kicked Over And Over, But Keeps Crawling Back for More. The second thing you should know is that this is a movie made to appeal to car freaks -- read: most Americans -- but even if you consider yourself above all that, as you …

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Dr. Dirt: Street artist scrubs images into the urban landscape

Photo: c/o MooseStreet artist Moose Benjamin Curtis was having some difficulty with the police. The officers had just arrested him for creating designs on a wall in South London. But it was complicated -- as things often are when Moose is involved. You see, Moose doesn't use spray paint or wallpaper paste -- the usual tools of this trade. Instead, he wields scrub brushes, old socks, cleaning fluid, and, when he's living large, a high-pressure hose. He creates images by cleaning shapes into filthy urban surfaces such as retaining walls, signs, and tunnels. People have called it "reverse graffiti," "clean …

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Can the arts save struggling cities?

Something is stirring in Detroit. Here, in a city that in the past decade alone lost a quarter of its already dwindling population, plans are in the works to revive the manufacturing economy -- at least on a small scale. The Detroit FAB Lab taps into the vibe of "maker" labs and hackerspaces around the globe. Its creators envision an incubator for artists, artisans, and entrepreneurs. Members will have access to equipment for woodworking, metalworking, digital fabrication, and media, as well as business coaching and networking. "Detroit has always been a place where things have been made," says Alex Feldman, …

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Old-school flower house leaves LEED in the dust

This is not your grandmother's flower house.Photo: c/o Phipps ConservatoryThe Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh is the kind of place your grandmother would have loved. You know the routine -- the spring tulip show, a whole room full of orchids, 5,000 varieties of rosebush. Housed in a classic Victorian glass house, it's the kind of place you'd think would've sunk into the swamp long ago. But it hasn't. In the past decade, Phipps has set out to become a leader in the green building movement. The conservatory built a LEED silver-certified visitors center and a new tropical forest conservatory tricked out …

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Preoccupied: Grist readers sound off about the Wall Street protests

Photo: Eric WagnerA couple of weeks ago, we asked you all to send us your observations and insights on the growing Occupy Wall Street movement. (Then we asked again.) And man did you deliver. We received an avalanche of emails, comments, tweets, and posts on our Facebook page. Word came in from New York City, Salt Lake City, Portland, London, Oakland, Vancouver, Sarasota, New Orleans, and no doubt many places in between. Here's the quick rundown on what you had to say: A few of you wondered if the Occupy movement is so caught up in economic grievances that protesters …

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Regular or unleaded? Are we willing to invest in healthier homes?

Photo: Steven DepoloHey, have you heard? It's Lead Poisoning Awareness Week! Stop. I know what you're thinking. "We don't have a ribbon," says Beth Bingham, communications director for the national Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. "We get a lot of calls from people wondering what color ribbon they should wear. Everyone else has a ribbon or a bracelet, but we don't." Well that takes the fun out of a festive occasion. Ah well. Lead poisoning is ugly business, anyway -- a little lead in the blood, especially during childhood, is enough to turn your brain to mush. Exhaust from …

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Putting the wilderness back in our cities

Neil Chambers' new book, Urban Green: Architecture for the Future, is a study in imprecision. Ankle deep and a mile wide, the book reads like a half-baked primer in green design and conservation science. It could have used another year or two in the oven. It's too bad. At the heart of this book -- the end, actually -- there's an interesting idea. And while he only brushes past it in the book, Chambers, a design consultant and blogger for Treehugger.com, has an interesting story to tell. Urban Green opens with Chambers' epiphany that in our quest to save the …

Read more: Cities, Smart Cities

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Underwater homes: A visual guide to NYC's future floods

It was late August, and Eve Mosher was keenly aware of the monstrous storm that was surging up the coast. Irene had roared through the Bahamas as a category 3 hurricane, and weather forecasts showed it spinning up the seaboard like a giant bowling ball, blasting directly into Manhattan. New York City officials ordered almost 370,000 people to evacuate low-lying areas. New Yorkers are not fond of Mother Nature messing with their routines, and some dug in, refusing to leave. But Mosher took the storm seriously. "I grew up in Texas -- I prepare for hurricanes," she says. "They can …