Cyclists may be the happiest commuters, but not when they're getting shit from passing drivers. Flashback to the summer of 2011, when Los Angeles passed an ordinance to make harassing cyclists a civil and suable infraction. Throw a thing at a cyclist and they can take you to court and seek damages -- revolutionary!
Well, we're not quite there yet, but in the year and a half since L.A. passed its law, Washington, D.C., and the California cities of Berkeley, Sunnyvale, and Sebastopol have all passed similar ordinances. Healdsburg, Calif., is now considering one, too.
To be fair, Columbia, Mo., was actually the first city to enact an ordinance banning harassment of cyclists in 2009, but it didn't include the all-important civil infraction bit. L.A.'s law and those modeled after it make it possible for cyclists to take their harassers to civil court, where there is a lower burden of proof.
Last year, the New York Times put Oakland at No. 5 on its list of “the 45 places to go in 2012,” citing the city’s bars, restaurants, art, and music. The Huffington Post called the city “the coolest new kid in the country.” City officials sent out a press release and made a banner for City Hall celebrating these new honors.
“Oakland is on the rise as a national leader in green building, technology, and international trade. And we’re a nationally acclaimed center for dining, arts, and entertainment,” Mayor Jean Quan said last May, on the occasion of the city’s 160th birthday. “It is why those of us who live here, love our city.”
Notably missing from the city’s PR materials was the fact that Oakland hit No. 5 in another national ranking last year: the FBI’s list of the most violent cities. Oakland saw 131 murders in 2012, a 22 percent increase from the previous year, and a 43 percent rise in burglaries.
While the rest of California is rebounding from the recession, Oakland is struggling with crime, mismanagement, debt, and continued fallout from the mortgage crisis. The city’s police department is under federal monitoring, and millions spent on expensive consultants, most recently former LAPD and NYPD police chief Bill Bratton, have done little to challenge the status quo.
And yet many in Oakland’s growing “creative class” are in denial. Asked to comment about the problems for a recent story in Bloomberg, Doug Leeds, CEO of Ask.com, which moved to Oakland in 2004, was dismissive:
“We certainly read the stories and we see the figures increasing, but on a daily basis, we come to work and we don’t feel the impact of it,” Leeds said. “We don’t see crime tape on the streets, we don’t see chalk outlines of people, there aren't bullet noises.”
That’s nice for Leeds, but, though he apparently doesn't see it, Oakland is also in the midst of a housing, education, and employment crisis. It’s going to be hard to solve these problems if the new, well-to-do residents don’t acknowledge they exist, and even contribute to making them worse.
In front of the White House early Sunday afternoon, a young man deftly scaled a small leafless tree, to the shock and dismay of the older activists around him. One police officer suggested that he come down, which he eventually did -- only to be yelled at by a woman who said he'd damaged not only the tree but the entire climate movement.
"But you're not letting us talk," he told her. "It's just all about you."
"What's going to happen when everyone marches and then everyone goes home? There needs to be something more than that," the tree-climber, Max, of Washington, D.C., told me afterward.
This little altercation defined a tension I saw throughout the Forward on Climate rally Sunday: Climate change reformists and climate change radicals allied tentatively, uncomfortably, against a crazy warming world. When one calls for the largest climate rally in U.S. history, one cannot really control who shows up and what their protest tactics and goals might be. Reform, or revolt? Coax, or prod? Organic, pesticide-free carrot or sustainably harvested, renewable stick?
"The concept that Obama is our friend and he's going to help us is ridiculous. He is the enemy, by all accounts," said Max's friend Josh. (Both men declined to give their last names.)
"We shouldn't be approaching him and saying, 'We support you in your change.' We should be approaching him and saying, 'You fucking start this change or we're going to do it ourselves,'" said Max. "We're going to take over and cross this fence and walk over to that White House."
Organizers called it the largest climate rally in U.S. history, and it was. Depending on who you ask, there were 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000 people in Washington, D.C., Sunday to lobby for political action on climate change. Depending on who you ask, the tone was joyous or righteous. And depending on who you ask, those 30,000, 40,000, even 50,000 people were giving President Obama an angry demand, a stern but friendly prodding, or the "support he needs" to take action.
350.org, the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus, and a comprehensive list of basically anyone in the U.S. who cares about climate change joined with politicians, investors, indigenous peoples, and an assortment of celebrities (can't have a climate rally without some celebs!) to rally and lead a march on the White House Sunday afternoon, calling for an end to politics and policies that are cooking our planet to death. For all the serious stuff, it was also a party -- chants for justice were mixed in with mini dance parties to pop music. But for all the Gangnam Style, there was an overwhelming sense that, while this rally was a glorious show, it was also indicative of just how bad things have gotten.
"We have a very entrenched system that's going to really require us to work together for a vision of people, peace, and the planet," the Green Party's Jill Stein said in an interview. "We are here for the long haul."
From fracking and coal to factory farming, activists called for an end to all the little things that are adding up to climate meltdown. But mainly today we were here because of the Keystone XL pipeline -- the long-embattled project to pump vast quantities of tar-sands oil from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, halted a year ago by President Obama and up for a final decision this spring.
These tiny, all weather libraries house about a hundred books at a time and there is no expectation whatsoever that the books will come back. ... The Mini Libraries are a resource for our communities, a chance to experiment in library science, and a reminder to the public that even if the library itself is in ruins the librarians are still thinking of them.
ULU is quick to point out that its orange boxes, while super-awesome, aren't a replacement for real library infrastructure.
The San Francisco Bay Area has been having some mixed feelings about oysters lately: Are they good for the environment, bad for the environment, or just treats for happy-hour drinkers at the downtown Ferry Building?
Meanwhile, some miles east across the bay on the Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, Christopher Lim and the Watershed Project are bringing oysters back. The bay had a large native oyster habitat that was wiped out by overharvesting and hydraulic mining. From KQED:
I feel like the world is constantly conspiring to get me to eat bacon. That was my first thought when I saw this new study from France claiming that a plant-based diet is not actually the planet-saver we all thought. (My second thought was: WTF, I don't want to eat bacon.)
The study followed nearly 2,000 diners who self-reported their meals to scientists at the National Research Institute of Agronomy in Marseille; the researchers then tried to determine how much greenhouse gas was emitted in production of the most commonly consumed foods. Let the fuzzy math ensue! Reuters reports:
Overall, about 1,600 grams of carbon dioxide were emitted for every 100 grams of meat produced. That's more than 14 times the amount of greenhouse gas emitted during the production of fruit, vegetables and starches. It's also about 2.5 times as much greenhouse gas as that generated by fish, pork, poultry and eggs.
That gap narrowed, however, when the researchers looked at how many grams of carbon dioxide were emitted per 100 kilocalories (kcal) -- a measure of energy in food.
The most greenhouse gas -- 857 grams -- was still emitted to produce 100 kcal of meat, but it was only about three times the emissions from a comparable amount of energy from fruit and vegetables.
Wait wait, hold on, Reuters -- the lede of your article says that a plant-based diet "might not be the greenest in its environmental impact." Now you're telling me it's only three times better? Oh, wait, and now you're telling me it's no better at all?
In a recent poll commissioned by NPR, nearly 80 percent of respondents said it's important or very important to them that the seafood they buy is sustainably caught. But how can they really know? There are dozens of different sustainable seafood guides, advisory lists, labels, and certifications.
"We're not getting what we think we're getting," says Susanna Fuller, co-director of marine programs at Canada's Ecology Action Centre. She says the consumer, when purchasing seafood with the blue MSC label, is "not buying something that's sustainable now."
If the label were accurate, Fuller says, it would include what she says is troubling fine print: The MSC system has certified most fisheries with "conditions." Those conditions spell out that the fishermen will have to change the way they operate or study how their methods are affecting the environment — or both. But they have years to comply with those conditions after the fisheries have already been certified sustainable.
McDonald's Filet-O-Fish sandwich was originally introduced in 1962 to appeal particularly to Catholic customers who eschew meat every Friday during Lent, which lasts for about 40 days. This year, McDonald's will have new Fish McBites on hand, too. But it's not just Lent, which begins this Wednesday, that's been a boon for fast-food fish. From Time:
In recent months, fast food establishments have demonstrated a taste for chicken. Poultry has reached a new level of popularity among fast food restaurants and diners alike because it’s a cheaper and healthier alternative to beef (or at least it’s perceived to be so). Chicken is also easily prepared in bite-size portions (nuggets, dippers, McBites, etc.), making it a perfect fit for the rising culture of on-the-go snacking.
If one affordable, quick, and healthy (or at least healthier) snack proves to be a hit with customers, fast food restaurants are sure to see if similar offerings can succeed as well. That’s why we’re seeing a big push for fish lately.
It was an urbanist’s nightmare. On Feb. 1, a teenager was shot dead in the middle of a popular art gallery walk and street fair in Oakland, Calif. -- a town that highlights exactly what a city wins and loses when it attracts a huge influx of the vaunted “creative class.”
Kiante Campbell, an 18-year-old Oakland resident, was killed in the shadow of new condominiums, gourmet food trucks, and buffed art galleries selling oil paintings that cost more than a few months’ rent in the ’hood. The festival, Art Murmur, shuts down much of Oakland’s downtown on the first Friday of each month, drawing 20,000 people, including tourists from both San Francisco and the surrounding suburbs. Now its future was called into question.
The shooting highlighted a stark reality: The creative class is remaking Oakland in its own image, but the “urban renaissance” isn’t benefitting everyone. The neighborhood where Campbell was killed has new condos and galleries -- and a median household income of less than $22,000.
By the urbanist creative-class metric, Oakland is winning. It’s a top city for urban farmers, local organic gourmet food snobs (love you, food snobs!), cyclists, and art-lovers. It’s home to a growing number of imported young makers, tech start-ups, and rising artists, in large part because of its close proximity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. At the same time, about 13 percent of Oakland residents are unemployed, and the city still has one of the highest murder rates in the nation, especially for teens.
For years, Richard Florida and other urban life pundits have espoused the creative class as the secret to city success. When the creative class wins, their logic goes, we all win. Gentrification has essentially become America’s favored urban redevelopment strategy.
Florida has acknowledged that the rise of the creative class can exacerbate urban class divides, but his new research highlights just how big those divides can be.