Jacqueline Patterson can rattle off an endless stream of statistics about how climate change, and the industries that are driving it, put communities of color at risk. Patterson heads the NAACP's environmental and climate justice program, so she lives and breathes these numbers -- statistics that show that African American, Hispanic, and other minority communities bear the brunt of our dirty ways, from power plant pollution to urban heat island effect and superstorms like Katrina and Sandy.
I caught up with Patterson at the SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas, this week and found that she had some good news along with all the grim.
Mohamed Hage is not your typical urban farmer. The Lebanese-born entrepreneur, now living in Montreal, got into food as a technological challenge: He wanted to come up with a better way for family back in Lebanon to grow crops. But to say he has a green thumb would be a bit of a stretch; instead, he relies on a knack for high-tech gizmos and marketing. In 2011, his business, Lufa Farms, opened the world's first commercial greenhouse on a roof in Montreal. Today, the company has two rooftop farms and a staff of about 30, including "more programmers than farmers," he says. Next year, Lufa expands to Boston, with plans for world conquest from there.
I caught up with Hage at the SXSW Eco conference happening this week in Austin. Here's what he had to say:
So you want to share your car. You've got a plan to rent it out during your off-hours. Good on you: You might help a few of your neighbors get by without owning a car, sparing your city some pollution-spewing, parking-space-hogging trouble. But be warned: Your car will take on a life of its own, and much of it will be a mystery to you.
Think of it as giving your S.O. permission to see other people. In the right trusting relationship, being monogamish (as Dan Savage calls it) can work just fine. But don't be surprised if your partner car comes home late sometimes, smelling like sex and cigarettes.
For my series on car-sharing, I spoke with a handful of people who rent their vehicles out by the hour, day, and week via the online platform RelayRides. They all reported that they were generally satisfied, if not downright pleased, with the experience, but each one had a story about the time things went wrong. Or weird. Or both.
The idea is seductively simple: Most of us use our cars just a tiny fraction of the time. Why not make a little money by renting out the neglected speed racer, rather than just leaving it sitting in the driveway, or worse, racking up bills in a parking garage?
"Rent your car, get paid." That’s how one car-sharing company, RelayRides, puts it on its website. "Earn up to $1,000 a month sharing your vehicle." Steve Webb, RelayRides’ press guy, tells stories about car owners who have given up their day jobs to become “micro-fleet managers.”
You might be tempted to think like Erinn Hutkin, a Chicago journalist who was laid off from her job at a suburban newspaper in January. She saw an ad from RelayRides while looking for work online and thought, "Here's a way to make some extra money by not doing much of anything."
But if all this sounds a little too much like one of those “make $100,000 a year working at home” schemes, surprise: You are right to be a little skeptical.
Their days of seafaring plunder are over, but Danes are still the happiest people in the world, says the U.N. How do they do it? With sustainable development, a sane workweek, and umbrella drinks, for starters.
The news comes from a new United Nations report [PDF] attempting to measure the happiness factor of countries around the globe. The world's people are feeling decidedly “meh,” according to the report, released Monday by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network: "On a scale running from 0 to 10, people in over 150 countries, surveyed by Gallup over the period 2010-12, reveal a population-weighted average score of 5.1."
But the mood in some countries is downright giddy: The U.N. calls them “happiness hot spots,” but you can just think of them as the Earth's erogenous zones. Topping the list? Denmark, which scored a 7.693 on the happiness scale.
In an age of booming cities, rising temperatures, and vanishing wildlife, there's at least one critter that's doing just fine: the humble crow. But if it weren't for us, they wouldn't have it nearly so good. Find out why in this video:
If there’s any doubt remaining in your mind that climate change is a plague on humanity, Linda Marsa will take care of that for you. Marsa is a longtime medical writer. She’s made a career as a muckraker, taking on the pharmaceutical industry and dispensers of scientific snake oil. And she’s recently turned her attention to how our warming of the planet increases the chances for a wide array of epidemic illnesses.
“I’ve done some important stories, but nothing compares to the magnitude of this,” Marsa told us during a recent visit to Grist HQ. “Because this threatens civilization, this threatens us as a species.”
Here's a little more of what she had to say. Goodbye now. We're all moving to Canada.
This is the final piece of a short series about bicycles in Copenhagen. Read parts 1 and2.
During my short trip to Denmark last month, I spent a good amount of time on a heavy, black cruiser bike rented from my hotel, exploring the city of Copenhagen and surrounds in search of lessons in bike culture, infrastructure, and policy that I could bring back home to the states. Some of my most productive time, however, was spent out of the saddle sitting at sidewalk cafés, talking to designers, planners, and policy wonks. Also, I spent loads of time drinking copious amounts of beer and/or coffee, and watching the beautiful people pedal by -- most of them on “granny bikes” like mine.
I spent an entire afternoon at one café with Mikael Colville-Andersen, the CEO of Copenhagenize Design Co. Colville-Andersen makes a living as a provocateur and a preacher, spreading the gospel of biking to cities around the world. He makes a strong case that we should take our streets back from the traffic engineers, and instead design them with people in mind. He also says Americans need to take bicycling back from the bike tribes -- the hipsters, speedsters, and bike messengers -- and make them as ordinary as the black granny bikes on Copenhagen’s streets.
“Subcultures are actually a hindrance to building cycling,” Colville-Andersen said. “From an American perspective, I think you need to get the subcultures to shut up.”
This is part 2 of a short series about bicycles in Copenhagen. Read parts 1and 3.
As an American on my first visit to Copenhagen a few weeks back, I was whopperjawed by the bicycle traffic on the “bike tracks” that swallow up a lane on each side of many city streets there.
Particularly mind-blowing was the cavalcade of bicyclists that charged across a certain bridge just a few hundred feet from my hotel -- a bridge that, I later learned from city officials, probably sees more bike traffic than any other in the world. Queen Louise’s Bridge (Dronning Louises Bro to the Danes) carries over 40,000 bicycles each day. For perspective, that’s more than twice as many people as bike to school or work each day in the entire city of Portland, Ore., which is roughly the same size as Copenhagen.
Standing on Queen Louise’s Bridge at rush hour, you watch the crush of bike-riding humanity riding past. The riders queue up at the stoplights at either end of the bridge, and woe be to the pedestrian (or driver, for that matter) who gets in their way when that thing turns green. It's such a spectacle that, since the city widened the bike tracks and sidewalks about five years ago, the bridge has become a popular hangout and people-watching spot for young Copenhageners. Some have taken to calling it the "hipster bridge."
More than a third of the residents of the Copenhagen metro area -- 36 percent, by the city’s count -- bike to school or work each day. That blows away any city in the U.S.: In Portland, top among U.S. cities, only 6 percent of commuters go by bike. And a whopping 75 percent of Copenhagen cyclists ride year-round, despite the fact that the weather in this city, which is at roughly the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska, was described by almost every local I spoke to as flat-out “shitty” (imagine Seattle, only darker in winter).
Copenhageners are proud of their biking habits. “It’s like brushing your teeth -- it’s something everyone does,” says Marie Brøndom Bay, a representative of the city’s bicycling division. But those numbers have been hard-won. And to Brøndom Bay and other city officials charged with minimizing car traffic and air pollution, and promoting public health, even a third of the populace on bikes is not nearly enough.
This is part 1 of a short series about bicycles in Copenhagen. Read parts 2and 3.
The first thing that struck me, climbing the steps from the train station into the city of Copenhagen on a recent Wednesday morning, was the great abundance of bicycles. The street outside the train station had been converted into a chaotic, open-air bicycle parking lot, with bikes stacked on double-decker racks. Bikes lined every sidewalk, stood two- and three-deep against the old stucco and brick facades, and leaned against every lamp and signpost.
The second thing that very nearly struck me was someone riding a bike. I was crossing a square en route to my hotel, lugging my bags, when I heard, behind me, the jolly “jing, jing!” of a bike bell. Back home in Seattle, bike bells are quaint -- a pleasant way to give fellow bikers and pedestrians a gentle “heads up -- coming through.” Not so much in Copenhagen.
As the cyclist swerved around me he muttered something about a “bike track.” A second bell rang behind me and I realized, suddenly, that I was walking in a bike path that cut through the square. I shuffled as quickly as I could out of the way, realizing that here, a bike bell should be taken as seriously as a car horn.
Such was my introduction to Danish bike culture. I was in Copenhagen for four days with a group of travel bloggers, the trip paid for by Denmark’s tourism bureau, which is trying to promote Copenhagen as a destination for bike tourism. (I generally avoid such junkets. They make me feel dirty. But this one seemed too good to pass up, and with a little arm-twisting, my editor consented to let me go.)
I wasn’t the first bleary-eyed American to nearly get mowed down by a bicyclist upon arriving in one of Europe’s bike capitals. Pete Jordan describes a similar experience in the opening chapter of his book, In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist. Nor was I the first American to be blown away, befuddled, or generally wowed by the number of people who ride bikes in these cities. Jordan (you may know him as Dishwasher Pete) reveals that we Yanks have been ogling European bike culture (and the toned legs of European bicyclists) for 100 years or more.
But there’s no shame in that. The ogling is good here! In a jetlag-induced haze, I spent my first day in Copenhagen wandering the streets, swilling espresso at sidewalk cafes, and checking out the bikes and the people who rode them. I learned a few things in the process.