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Climate change is making private heat islands for people of color


As if climate change weren't enough of a huge jerk, now we find out that it's racist, too -- or at least it's following America's lead.

A new study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives digs deep under the sidewalks and streets that are soaking up all this new heat in our cities -- and finds that not all neighborhoods and racial groups are faring equally. According to the research, blacks, Asians, and Latinos are all significantly more likely to live in high-risk heat-island conditions than white people.

At first glance, this seems to make some sense: Due to a long history of racist policies and lending practices, people of color are more likely than whites to live in poor neighborhoods. Neighborhood infrastructure in poor areas is mostly made of concrete and asphalt (with some soil here and there, often tinged with heavy metals). Those "impervious surfaces" conduct heat like crazy, and turn these areas into "heat islands" surrounded by their richer, greener neighbors.

Dense tree cover in urban areas can improve local health factors and has even been associated with a decrease in crime in some cities. But cities don't tend to invest in trees for poor neighborhoods, where residents without their own private green space aren't in a position to invest for themselves.

But this study found something entirely new: The heat-island effect and lack of neighborhood trees is more closely correlated with race than it is with class.

Read more: Cities, Climate & Energy


BART strikes at the heart of a region’s planning problems

Bay Area Rapid Transit workers are striking for the first time since 1997. Trains that connect the East Bay Area to San Francisco have ground to a halt, the highways are hella snarled, and don’t even get me started on what it’s like for bicyclists out there.

Nick R 2006

As far as public transportation goes, BART does not have a great reputation. It is not lovably surly like the New York subway, nor clean like the Washington, D.C., train system. It doesn't even run past midnight on the weekends, but BART’s seats are full of bacteria, its escalators full of poop, its police full of controversy -- and its workers full of frustration.

BART employees are negotiating for wage increases, along with more safety and security resources. If you saw this video of a naked acrobat assaulting train riders recently (NSFW!) that last bit may not come as much of a surprise. "Our members aren't interested in disrupting the Bay Area, but management has put us in a position where we have no choice," Antonette Bryant, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1555, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Local 1555 produced this video to make their case:

Read more: Cities


Legal hemp could rise high like a phoenix from farm bill ashes

The farm bill died last week, and we're still sorting out some of our feelings about it.

Between hefty cuts for food stamps and maintaining the status quo on big ag subsidies, that farm bill was kind of a jerk! But the bill also included a late amendment that would've helped pave the way for an industrial hemp industry in the U.S. The amendment passed by a vote of 225-200 in the House -- but then, of course, the whole bill was scrapped, because the farm bill brought a knife to the gun fight that is Congress.

In its wake, there may not be a ton of bipartisan optimism for a new farm bill -- but bipartisan hemp supporters are still seeing green, as in go, grow, and cash-money.


Read more: Politics


David Letterman doesn’t get why Tim DeChristopher went to prison for “a prank”

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher has been out of federal prison for more than six months now, following his incarceration for disrupting a public mineral rights auction in 2008. (DeChrisopher outbid actual oil and gas companies for leases on land surrounding Canyonlands National Park.) And while he may have been banned from dangerous acts of "social justice" after his release, he's not banned from talking about them!

Last night DeChristopher was on the Late Show with David Letterman to talk about Bidder 70, the documentary that chronicles his civil disobedience, walking a friendly but confused Letterman through the day in question.

Highlights from their conversation: Letterman, perplexed as to why "a prank" would land a guy in prison for two years; the, um, upside? to mass incarceration ("our prisons are full of really normal people"); and what DeChristopher had planned to do that day at the auction, before someone handed him a bidder number (hint: remember the dude who threw his shoes at President Bush?).


“Fearless Summer” movement launches months of intense climate protest

Fearless Summer

We already know this summer's gonna be a scorcher, weather-wise. (Sorry, Colorado ...) It's also shaping up to be a hot one for climate activists.

These last few years have been no chilly picnic: In August of 2011, we saw journalist-turned-activist Bill McKibben and more than 1,000 other peaceful protesters arrested for civil disobedience at the White House. That was pretty big! But this 2013 "Fearless Summer" will likely be even bigger.

A mash-up between grassroots efforts and large, national environmental groups, Fearless Summer is a coordinated effort of more than 50 organizations and unaffiliated individuals that takes aim "against all forms of dirty energy."

Read more: Politics


The feds get seriously creepy about climate change

Shutterstock It's about your friend -- you know, the one who has been paranoid about the government spying on her eco-activism for years? She uses Tor and only chats OTR, which is really inconvenient for you! And still she can't shake the sneaking suspicion that the National Security Agency might be hoovering up all her emails and phone calls, with a special interest in her tree-hugging. Turns out she's (probably) not nuts after all. Unless you've been holed up in a tree-sit somewhere, you're likely intimately familiar with the NSA's mammoth Prism internet dragnet ops. Well now, The Guardian's Earth …

Read more: Politics


Hummingbird tree-sit could stop San Fran developers where occupiers failed

When dozens of police officers in riot gear raided the occupied Hayes Valley Farm in San Francisco early last Thursday morning, it seemed like the end of the road for this garden space. Activists from around the Bay Area had moved in on June 1 with the hopes of holding off the developers set to raze the farm and replace it with 182 condo units, retail space, and a parking garage. But after the early raid, a handful of arrests, and one activist falling 30 feet from a protest platform hung in a tree, it looked like time had run out.

That was before everyone met the Allen's hummingbird.

Susie Cagle
Read more: Cities, Food


Terrifying/hilarious TransCanada docs call Keystone XL protesters terrorists


With mounting public opposition against the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tons of tar-sands oil right down the middle of the country, pipeline owner TransCanada seems to be getting a little nervous. At least, that's the feeling you get reading the PowerPoint presentations the company's staff has been putting together back in the corporate bunker.

TransCanada and law enforcement presentation materials were obtained from Nebraska State Patrol via a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the grassroots opposition group Bold Nebraska. They reveal the corporate logic that’s driving the fight against anti-pipeline activists who have been attempting to physically blockade Keystone XL construction since 2012.

From the activists’ perspective, it’s been a whole lot of police pepper-spray and pain-compliance holds. From TransCanada’s point of view, though, the blockaders are endangering critical infrastructure, and should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Here's a fun sample slide from a PowerPoint presentation, dated December 2012, apparently compiled by the company for local law enforcement agencies:


Urban ag-tivists take over San Francisco condo construction site

San Francisco is currently undergoing an unusual and sometimes uncomfortable growth spurt. The San Francisco Business Times calls it “the biggest burst of apartment construction” since the early 1970s, set to “dramatically reshape San Francisco’s skyline, neighborhoods and politics.” Over roughly the next three years, almost 8,000 new apartments will be constructed in the city, mostly in dense projects -- more than all the rental housing built over the last 15 years combined.

This city has traditionally been an outpost of entrenched NIMBY power, but local residents mostly seem to be welcoming the new construction. San Francisco has some of the lowest housing vacancy rates and the fastest rising rental prices in the country -- the median rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in the city is now more than $2,700, and still going up. Many current and wannabe residents hope the new apartment boom will help level things off.

In the heart of the city, however, one group is fighting the boom, trying to save a patch of land they say represents a vanishing resource: urban farmland.

Read more: Cities, Food, Living, Politics


Get your city fix: Parklets, DIY bike lanes, and other hometown improvement projects


Anthony Cardenas recently painted a crosswalk on his street in Vallejo, Calif., after giving up hope that the city would ever do it. His little act of city hacking landed him in jail on suspicion of felony vandalism. But Cardenas isn't the only urban vigilante to take matters into his own two hands.

Here are a few ideas of ways you can get your hands dirty and make life better at the same time.

Read more: Cities, Living