greg hanscom

Greg Hanscom

Underwater cities

Greg Hanscom is a senior editor at Grist. He tweets about cities, bikes, transportation, policy, and sustainability at @ghanscom.


The city speaks — and artist Candy Chang finds fresh ways to listen

Photo:Randal FordThe house was a nightmare. “It had been collecting dust and graffiti since Katrina and there was something very shabby and Brothers Grimm about it,” says Candy Chang, an artist and graphic designer who lives just a few blocks from the place in New Orleans. But where others saw blight, Chang saw an opportunity, and armed with a few buckets of paint, she transformed the derelict house from a symbol of the community’s decay into an emblem of its collective aspirations. With permission from the property owner and neighborhood groups, Chang turned the front wall of the house into …


Cities: Not quite as awesome as we like to think

Photo: David Graham If you Google the term “a scholar and a gentleman,” the first result to pop up is a picture of Witold Rybczynski — or it would be if there were any justice in the world. Rybczynski is an architect, author, and professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written a dozen or so books on technology, architecture, real estate — even a natural history of the screwdriver. He knows The City like it’s nobody’s business. So it was notable when, in a blog post a few weeks back, Rybczynski opened a can of Jedi-style …


Fine art, writ large: Billboards become gallery space

“Window,” a photograph by L.A. artist Susanna Battin, appeared on a San Bernardino County billboard in December.Photo: Susanna BattinIf you drove down I-15 in San Bernardino County, Calif., outside of Corona, last Friday, you may have noticed a giant, digital billboard exclaiming, “WE BUY USED GUNS.” But if you’d looked at the same sign from the opposite direction, rather than being socked in the mouth with a solicitation to sell your sidearm, you’d have seen a crystal clear window — a view right through the sign of the undulating ridge of the Santa Ana Mountain Range beyond. The image was …

Energy Efficiency

A magical meter and friendly competition help one community dial back energy use

The Island Energy Dashboard gives residents a real-time look at how much electricity they’re sucking from the grid. When Puget Sound Energy announced plans to build a new substation to meet rising electricity demand on Bainbridge Island, Wash., in 2009, it apparently didn’t know who it was dealing with. Bainbridge is a well-to-do suburb of Seattle (a 35-minute ferry ride will drop you right in downtown), and home to more than a few techies, computer programmers, and folks who have letterhead with lots of fancy degrees in front of their names. Eric Rehm, a software-engineer-turned-marine-biologist, says that “a mosh pit …

Smart Cities

Green giants: Seattle gets even greener, starting with its biggest buildings

Brian Geller, executive director of the Seattle 2030 DistrictPhoto: Greg HanscomSeattle, a.k.a. the Emerald City, looms Oz-like in the imaginations of eco-minded architects and designers. Its reputation for being uber green drew architect Brian Geller to the city from New York a few years ago. Now, he looks at the skyline rising above Elliott Bay and sees how much greener the place could be. More than 70 percent of the electricity generated in this country goes to heating, cooling, lighting, and otherwise powering our homes, offices, and other buildings. This accounts for a whopping 38 percent of our globe-warming carbon …


Spandex wars: Chicago bike critic looks crappy in tights

Photo: Steven VanceThe two-wheeled revolution has arrived in the Windy City, thanks to its bike-loving mayor, Rahm Emanuel. (Finally, a way to describe the man without calling him a potty mouth!) During his campaign, Emanuel pledged to build 100 miles of new separated bike lanes within five years. The first of them went in this summer. Under the steady hand of Chicago’s new transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein — who arrived in Chicago from Washington, D.C., where he helped create the nation’s first bike share program — things seemed to be running smoothly. It was a remarkable feat, particularly when you consider …


Good cop, bad cop: How the police became a public enemy

Police subdue a protester at an Occupy Wall Street rally in New York City.Photo: Audrey Pilato Over the past couple of weeks, the fight between “the 99%” and the powerful Wall Street and Washington elite has devolved into a street battle between protesters and the police. Black-suited cops have pepper sprayed peaceful protesters, bloodied kids who blocked New York streets, and clubbed an old lady. It’s too bad — for everyone involved. It’s easy to scapegoat people like John Pike, the UC Davis police officer who doused a group of students with pepper spray — and was promptly escorted, along …


The next small thing: How sustainable neighborhoods could reshape cities

Lower Downtown Denver has become the city’s night life hub — and a laboratory for community-level sustainability.Photo: Wally GobetzI once worked for a New Yorker who loved to wisecrack that the only difference between Denver and yogurt was that “yogurt’s got culture.” Looking at the Mile High City’s endless sprawl of lookalike, Anywhere, U.S.A. subdivisions, it’s easy to understand where he was coming from. But in a former warehouse district just off of downtown, an innovative experiment in neighborhood-level sustainability is underway that could show New York and the rest of the country what really rocks the house when it …


Stuffed to the gills: How crap took over my life — and how I intend to take it back

Photo: Peretz PartenskyIt’s hard to put a finger on the exact moment the crap took over Americans’ lives, but I know exactly when it happened to me. And as we head into a day of national gluttony followed by a collective, orgiastic display of shopping, I’ve resolved to do more than weather the onslaught. I want to look into my own personal relationship with crap — and I hope others will, too. My story starts in 1997, when I moved from Montana to a small town in Colorado, where I’d landed my first paying job in journalism. I made the …