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Stranded in suburbia: Why aren’t Americans moving to the city?

This young family is paid well to look happy. They’d much rather live in the city. Somewhere on the way back to the city, Americans got sidetracked. Polling by the real estate advising firm RCLCO finds that 88 percent of Millenials want to live in cities. Their parents, the Baby Boomers, also express a burning desire to live in denser, less car-dependent settings. But in the past decade, many major cities saw population declines, and the overwhelming majority of population growth was in the suburbs. The trends have spawned stories like this one, from America's Finest News Source, headlined, "Family …

Read more: Cities, Sprawl, Urbanism

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Pulling the plug on L.A.

The city of Los Angeles announced a major new initiative this week to cut back on that giant sucking sound -- the sound of commercial buildings hoovering up electricity. Two years ago, the Clinton Climate Initiative helped orchestrate a major overhaul of the Empire State Building that cut the famous spire's energy consumption by nearly 40 percent, trimming more than $400,000 off the building's annual energy bills. Now the Initiative has teamed up with C40, a group of cities that has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to see if they can at least start to do the same for …

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Fighting climate change in the Navajo Nation

Jewelry stand in Bitter Springs.Photo: JetsonoramaThe original inhabitants of the land that is now the Navajo Nation knew something about writing on walls. Spend any amount of time kicking around this canyon country and you'll find symbols and images painted and etched into the stone. Though street art might seem like a similar art form, born from similar impulses generations later in cities such as New York and LA, finding it here in its modern form seems unlikely: You can drive for hours and see little sign of human life, save for an occasional passing pickup truck or a hogan …

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Experiment in (e)co-habitation gets the green light

The G•O Logic prototype passive house.Photo: Steve ChiassonScanning through the website for the Belfast Cohousing & Ecovillage development in Belfast, Maine, you might find yourself wondering if this is a buncha pinko commies who've just slapped a fresh coat of paint on the '60s commune-in-the-woods routine. Says here there will be extensive common facilities (uh huh), complete resident management (ayup), a non-hierarchical structure (I have heard this all before). But wait, what's this? Separate income sources? WTF? "We probably do have some hippie communists [in the group] that have grown up and look a little different now," says Sanna McKim, …

Read more: Green Home, Living

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Street artists see the city as their canvas

Photo: Allison SamuelsOne night in June, a young artist in cutoff jeans and paint-spattered Nike high-tops was walking down Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, a neighborhood in Brooklyn. In his hand, he carried one of the main tools of his trade: a bucket brimming with wallpaper adhesive. He planned to use the stuff to affix a giant copy of one of his linoleum-cut prints to a nearby building. Suddenly, up drives one of New York City's finest, lights flashing and sirens blaring. "I told him I was going to my studio," says the artist, who works under the pseudonym Gaia. "But …

Read more: Cities, Living

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Will new LEED standards allow for clearcut timber?

The green building gurus must have spit their coffee across the table when they saw the full-page ad in the Toronto Star this week. The U.S. Green Building Council and its Canadian sister organization had rallied hundreds of architects and developers to the city for their annual love-in, Green Build. Forest conservation groups seized the opportunity to plant ads in the local paper, with the USGBC logo photoshopped to read "U.S. GreenWASH Building Council." OK, not the cleverest of PR ploys. (We'll have to reserve that title for one of PETA's many gags.) But it had to smart just a …

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City Limits: 'Urbanized' underestimates the allure of the 'burbs

For those who argue that city living represents the Great Green Future, Urbanized, the latest from filmmaker Gary Hustwit (Helvetica, Objectified) is pure eye candy. It's a sensuous, slant-lit tour of the urban world and all its promise and problems. Workers labor like ants on a Beijing skyscraper. Kids chase kites through a shantytown in Santiago. The camera slides silently along a train line through an eerily vacant downtown Detroit. (For a taste, check out the trailer, below.) The clips of cyclists in Copenhagen alone make the film worth watching. Copenhagen is a city of 1.2 million people where 37 …

Read more: Cities, Sprawl, Urbanism

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Meet clean energy's smart guy

Shwetak Patel.Got your undies all in a bundle about Facebook's latest infringements on your privacy? Pshaw. Twenty-nine-year-old Shwetak Patel, an assistant professor in all manner of tech-related fields at the University of Washington, dreams of a not-so-far-off day when computers monitor our every breath. (His cell phone is already monitoring his.) When you and I were monkeying around playing Donkey Kong, the 8-year-old Patel was designing his own computer games on an old TI 49A, and it's been full throttle since then. His clean energy ideas just got a turbo boost in the form of a five-year, half-million-dollar "genius award" …