What was the most surprising thing that came out of Andrew Ross’s two-year research stint in Phoenix, Ariz.? For my money, it’s this: People who live there (weirdly) don’t expect their desert civilization to collapse around them at any moment.
“One of New Yorkers’ favorite things is to imagine the destruction of their city. There’s a whole library of movies and novels that do this,” Ross said during a recent visit to the Grist offices. “There’s no equivalent in Phoenix.”
In what The Wall Street Journal calls “a move that carries political risks,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) plans to bring his behemoth, car-centric, 1950s-style transportation bill to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives this week. Why is it risky? Because it’s a complete piece of junk.
The bill, which is soaked in suburban identity politics, would cut all designated funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, the Safe Routes to School program, and grants that have encouraged “complete streets” projects. If Boehner has his way, it would kill a longstanding rule that sets aside a portion of the gas tax to fund trains and buses and other public transportation systems. And to add insult to injury, it is loaded up with a long list of provisions that would pave the way for oil drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
So while an increasingly nervous-looking Boehner pushes this jalopy down the road, the rest of America is having a grand time making fun of him.
When Bill Ulfelder looks out over the chiseled, concrete and glass landscape of New York City, he sees habitat -- not just for people, but for critters, too. Ulfelder is the executive director of the Nature Conservancy in New York (the state, not just the city), and he is on the cutting edge of what could become a major shift for the world’s largest conservation group. The city’s parks and sidewalks, he says, are fertile ground for urban forests. Waterfront parks are prime real estate for marshlands. And all those rooftops? He imagines turning them into a system of “sky island” wildlife preserves.
“There are 22,000 acres of roof space in the city. It’s essentially equivalent to another borough,” he says. “There’s a lot of talk about rooftop gardens and storm-water catchment. But this is also a great opportunity to put habitat back in the city. Don’t just plant sedum [a plant often used in green roofs]. Let’s think about habitat for pollinators and birds.”
It’s the concrete jungle recast as a high-relief Serengeti. Super. Cool.
Things at GOP headquarters are even more crazytown than we could have imagined.
The Republican National Committee -- the group that shapes the national GOP political platform, devises campaign strategies, promotes candidates, and bashes all things Obama -- passed a resolution in January warning Americans of a sinister plot hidden in a United Nations report called Agenda 21. Short of suggesting that we all wear tinfoil hats and keep an eye out for contrails, the RNC would have been hard-pressed to put itself further on the wacko fringe.
Here’s the windup to the resolution, unearthed by the New York Times on Feb. 3:
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of extreme environmentalism, social engineering, and global political control … and,
WHEREAS, the United Nations Agenda 21 is being covertly pushed into local communities throughout the United States of America through the International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) through local “sustainable development” policies such as Smart Growth, Wildlands Project, Resilient Cities, Regional Visioning Projects, and other “Green” or “Alternative” projects; and,
WHEREAS, this United Nations Agenda 21 plan of radical so-called “sustainable development” views the American way of life of private property ownership, single family homes, private car ownership and individual travel choices, and privately owned farms; all as destructive to the environment …
What’s that? The America way of life is destructive to the environment? Banish the thought.
It was apparently not enough to obliterate funding for bike lanes and walking paths and kids trying to get to school. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) wants to keep our tax dollars from paying for public transit as well.
Earlier this week, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) unveiled a draft transportation bill that would cut all designated funding for bike and pedestrian infrastructure, the Safe Routes to School program, and grants that have encouraged “complete streets” projects. Still, it looked like the more egregious provisions would be stripped away as the legislation -- titled “The American Energy & Infrastructure Jobs Act” -- ran through the lawmaking process. And at least the bill maintained the country’s longstanding, if weak, commitment to public transportation.
Then, Wednesday night, Boehner and the leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee proposed killing a longstanding rule that sets aside a portion of the gas tax to fund trains and buses and other public transportation systems.
Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled their version of a national transportation bill this week. This is the legislation that doles out billions of dollars annually to highways, train lines, and -- at least in the past -- to bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and a program called Safe Routes to School that helps kids get to home room each morning without being flattened by a passing car.
The last few would seem like a populist no-brainers, but if House Republicans have their way, even Safe Routes to School will get no more love from Washington.
When we last spoke with Rocky Anderson, he was kicking some serious butt for the planet from his position as the supergreen mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. Anderson, an unflinching champion of issues ranging from climate action to gay marriage, quit politics in 2008 after two terms in office. But now he’s back, and this time he’s trained his sights on the White House.
Running for president under the banner of the Justice Party (his Facebook followers reportedly came up with name), and backed by a tiny, mostly volunteer staff, Anderson promises a grassroots, social-media-powered campaign that will give Obama and his yet-to-be-determined Republican rival a run for their money.
It will be no small task: Obama has raised a war chest of close to $100 million, according to The New York Times. Mitt Romney is sitting on $32 million. Anderson, whose platform centers on ridding American politics of the “corrupting influence of money,” is remarkably uncorrupted by that measure. Accepting a maximum of $100 per donor, he has raised less than $1 million so far. Like, way, way less.
But Rocky is fierce and determined, and he’s pissed about what short shrift American workers and the environment keep getting while the political elite and Wall Street fat cats get ever fatter. Given the outrage we’ve seen in the Occupy movement in recent months, his message is bound to strike a chord.
We caught up with the former mayor this week to see what in the world has gotten into him.
Looking for the ultimate earth-friendly bungalow? No need to engineer some LEED certified space pod. Buy an old house and gird yourself for an eco-friendly remodel.
A study released Tuesday finds that in almost every instance, remodeling an old building is greener than building a new one. Beyond that, it shows that reusing old buildings provides immediate results in the fight against climate change, while a relatively energy efficient new building won’t pay climate dividends for decades.
Taken to the scale of the city, the study has some fascinating implications. Cities, it turns out, serve as a sort of carbon sink -- the existing buildings hold a tremendous amount of “embodied energy.” Conserving that energy by sparing these buildings from the wrecking ball does a lot of good for the planet, too.
Director Chris Paine chatted with Grist readers about his latest film, Revenge of the Electric Car, which comes out on DVD this week after a nationwide tour.
Paine’s 2006 documentary, Who Killed the Electric Car?, told the tale of the EV-1, a prototype electric car created, then buried, by General Motors. Revenge of the Electric Car is the sequel, and follows the saga of four men, all racing to create a plug-in vehicle for the mass market, for the luxury set, or just for the pure awesomeness of it. (Read our review of the film here.)
How times change. Four years ago, a Washington Postop-ed gushed that the Democratic primary had turned into “a sharp competition among the leading candidates to become champions of urban America.” Skip ahead to the 2012 Republican primaries, and cities are getting dissed. Big time.
The national Conference of Mayors is having its annual meeting in Washington this weekend. Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and Rick Perry were all invited. Romney said he had a scheduling conflict. (OK, fair’s fair: The South Carolina primary is a legitimate excuse -- but he couldn’t swing by Sunday? Oh, right.) The other two didn’t even bother to reply. The chorus seemed to be: “Cities -- who needs ’em?”
Truth be told, cities won’t likely decide this election. America is still firmly rooted in the suburbs. (Emily Badger wrote in The Atlantic Cities last week that both Romney and President Obama have drawn most of their campaign cash from the “moneyed ’burbs.”) But this is just the latest in decades of insults slung at cities by Republicans in Washington.
“The core of the Republican constituency in metropolitan America are the growing, racially and economically exclusive ‘outer suburbs’ whose privileged status Republicans seek to protect at all costs,” former Albuquerque Mayor David Rusk told Daniel Denvir in his excellent primer on the subject for Salon.
But the Republicans currently taking pot shots at each other in the presidential primary never cease to surprise. While there has been almost no mention of urban policy on the campaign trail, a look at their sordid pasts reveals that (surprise!) some of them have actually had some sensible ideas over the years, albeit often grounded in some pretty weird logic. Here’s a quick peek.