Climate change is expected to boost homicidal heat waves in Manhattan, while cold snaps in the densely packed borough should become slightly less deadly.
Researchers from Columbia University and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention used climate models and two emissions scenarios to project seasonal patterns in temperature-related deaths in Manhattan. In all 32 of the scenarios developed by the researchers, the spike in summertime heat-related deaths was forecast to more than outweigh the decline in deaths caused by cold weather.
Have you ever sat on the subway across from a hot guy or girl holding the book you just finished, trying to peek at their left hand and wondering whether it's kosher to start a conversation? The organization that runs the subways in Prague has a plan that will end these awkward deliberations for good. The company, ROPID, "wants to set aside carriages on some or all of its trains for singles seeking a soul mate," Reuters reports. It'd basically be like Amtrak's quiet car, except instead of sitting in silence, everyone will be scanning the car like they would a bar on a Saturday night.
Fueled by the recent fascination with all things DIY, community gardening -- like brainstorming clever uses for Mason jars and eating like a caveman -- has been popular lately. But on a large plot in inner-city Baltimore, gardeners have been working the land for almost 25 years. The Duncan Street Miracle Garden, a lush rectangle crisscrossed by grape arbors and trellises, sits in a desolate patch of East Baltimore where 44 rowhouses once stood. On a recent spring day, the blue sky was visible through the empty shells of neighboring buildings and birdsong competed with police sirens.
"I call it 'God's little acre,'" says garden manager Lewis Sharpe, 74. The garden is in fact nearly an acre, and it owes its existence to a core group of dedicated gardeners. In 1988, with Baltimore in the throes of the crack cocaine epidemic, a local men’s group cleaned up what had become a dumping ground after the city razed a stretch of crumbling rowhouses. The gardeners then convinced the city to close the alley to traffic. Decades later, it is dotted with trees, including a mulberry that Sharpe likes to nap under, and row upon row of flower, fruit, and vegetable plants.
A few -- the "fruit cocktail tree" and the "strawberry tree" -- do sound vaguely miraculous. But the biggest miracle is that the garden is here at all.
A chain-link fence surrounds the plot, though it does nothing to thwart the rats, the garden’s worst pests. Instead, it was built some years back to deter a two-legged nuisance: drug dealers. "At one time they was running through here with police chasing 'em," Sharpe says. "Now they ain't got time to go over the fence. They go around it."
Sharpe joined the farm in 1989, and as founding members passed away or began to garden less, he became its self-appointed manager. He -- like famous Milwaukee urban farmer Will Allen -- grew up on a farm, in his case in rural Virginia. "During the summer, grandma got us up at 6 a.m. and gave us a hoe or a shovel," Sharpe says. "We'd go out there and cut the rows, put the seed, put fertilizer down."
Health problems have kept him from retiring to his ancestral home, so Sharpe has done the next best thing: create an urban facsimile. "It keeps me busy," he says simply.
It's easy to get paranoid when you're riding a bike alongside drivers who, despite commanding vehicles much bigger and faster than yours, seem uninterested in your safety or survival. Sometimes it feels like they're out to get you. Or at least like they'd be happy if you got hurt.
And apparently, that paranoia is not entirely unjustified. In the U.K., for instance, one driver bragged on Twitter about knocking a person off his bike with her car:
In this case, bike activists who monitor social media for anti-cycling comments alerted the police, who told Way to report having being in a collision. (We can just imagine her whining "but I did report it! I told everyone on Twitter he deserved it!") But it is creepy that anyone would be so excited about potentially injuring another human being.
Back in 1897, a structure called the California Cycleway came very close to beautiful existence. The elevated structure would have provided a smooth, flat, uninterrupted ride for the nine miles from Pasadena to downtown. (You can see a Google map of the proposed route here.) Man, bike infrastructure proposals were so much better when bikes were the only game in town.
In this video for the Nature Conservancy, rapper Macklemore explains how municipal green space in his home city of Seattle influenced his career: He and his friends didn't want to kick it at their parents' houses, so they went and freestyled in parks. (Side note: Do people really still say "kick it," or is Macklemore even older than I am?) We knew, of course, that Macklemore was into creative reuse, but who knew he had so many ideas about urban infrastructure?
Don't freak out, but there's a problem with green roofs: They're not necessarily greener than ordinary roofs. Soooooo kind of a major problem. With a little extra effort, though, green roofs can be efficient AND locally sourced -- you just can’t take the easy way out.
[R]ooftop vegetation has to be able to survive the high winds, prolonged UV radiation and unpredictable fluctuations in water availability. To resist these harsh environments, a majority of green roofs are planted with sedum, a non-native species that can survive wind and long periods without rainfall. A roof planted with sedum, however, is no greener, from the standpoint of sustainability, than is ordinary tar or asphalt.
Sedum, it turns out, absorbs sunlight, just like a tar roof would, and isn't particularly good at absorbing water. Planting your green roof with sedum is like hiring employees based on how long they can physically sit in an office chair instead of how good they are at doing the work.
Artist Matt Hope calls the concept bicycle he's inventing "a weird provocative object" with a "Chinese fighter pilot breathing thingy." We call it a bike that, as the rider pedals, powers a purifier that feeds the rider more breathable air.
Mark Tercek leads the largest conservation group in the galaxy. As president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy, he oversees a staff of 4,000 people spread around the planet, an annual budget exceeding a half-billion dollars, and land holdings that would fetch billions more if they weren't all locked up for the sake of protecting wild animals. Still, the former Goldman Sachs exec insists that he’s a small-time player in a world where large corporations rule and nature lovers get what they can.
In his recent book, Nature’s Fortune, co-authored by Jonathan Adams, Tercek argues that nature deserves a bigger slice of the pie. He's not looking for handouts (though his organization, like Grist, depends on the generosity of good people like you). Instead, he argues that conservation is good for business -- a message he says is catching on, particularly among corporations and cities.
Witness New York. In the 1990s, faced with the prospect of building a multi-billion-dollar water treatment system, the city instead invested in protecting its watershed in the Catskills, partnering with communities, landowners, and farmers to prevent pollution, rather than paying to clean it up after the fact. As a result, the Big Apple gets clean drinking water at a fraction of what it would cost to build water treatment plants, and the Catskills get an infusion of green -- trees, yes, but also cash. (Tercek and Adams tell that story in the book, in a section that we’ve reprinted here.) The Nature Conservancy is now helping to spread that model to cities all over the world.
Tercek dropped by Grist HQ a few weeks ago for some vegan vittles and a chat with the whole staff. Here are a few of our questions, and snippets of his answers, about how his organization is changing with the times, the challenge of getting city people to care about conservation, and his dealings with the big businesses that make even the Nature Conservancy look small.
Q.Why should we be putting half a billion dollars a year into protecting nature as opposed to say, pushing solar and other renewable energy technology forward?
A. I think we should do both. That new technology should be pursued either by the government doing the right thing because the private sector’s not, or the private sector. Obviously there’s lots of ways to incentivize that private-sector investment -- put a price on carbon. And there are enormous numbers of people who are rich, or powerful and influential, attracted to those initiatives. So they’re going pretty well.
In the meantime, we think the work we do is extraordinarily important. For example, in northwestern Montana, near Glacier National Park, there were 300,000 acres of land made available for purchase by us by Plum Creek. This land, just because of where it’s situated in between other protected areas, was extraordinarily attractive for development -- second homes for well-to-do people. So we bought all that land in one swoop for half a billion dollars.
Now why is that important? Well, all the species that were there when Lewis and Clark were there are still there. So it’s extraordinary wilderness. And if climate change occurs like we expect it will, those grizzlies and lynx, they can migrate north up to B.C. -- we’re doing comparable work right over the border. If we hadn’t done that, this land would have been developed, for sure, and this opportunity would be gone forever.
Eddie & Sam’s Pizza in downtown Tampa, Fla., boasts "Real New York Pizza." The distinguishing characteristic of real New York Pizza? Not the crust, the cheese, the sauce, the toppings, or even the giant, floppy slices. It's the water. Every few months, Eddie & Sam’s brings in 1,000 gallons of water from the same Catskill springs that feed New York City's reservoirs. Another company, the Brooklyn Water Bagel Co., with about 20 locations across the country, has gone even further. Rather than import water from Brooklyn, the company seeks to recreate the precise chemistry of New York water through a patented 14-step filtration process, and only then can the water be used to make their bagels.
All that time, money, and technology to get just the right water for pizza and bagels may seem excessive, but New Yorkers take justifiable pride in their water. Most of New York’s supply never passes through a filter and receives comparatively small doses of chlorine and fluoride.
For their high-quality and lightly-treated water, today’s New Yorkers can thank quite a few forested hillsides and a handful of foresighted city planners. Though they did not put it in these terms, those planners invested in nature, and generations of New Yorkers have reaped the benefits ever since.
The city planners’ investment had particular urgency. Cholera outbreaks that spread through the city’s water in the early 19th century killed thousands of New Yorkers. These epidemics, along with water pollution and a quickly growing population, forced city officials to search the countryside for cleaner and more reliable sources than surface water and local wells. Even in 1837, New York officials, anticipating the city’s growth, invested in a system of aqueducts to bring water from the Croton River, east of the Hudson River and some 25 miles north of the city line.
By the end of the 19th century, population growth outstripped the capacity of the aqueducts from the Croton River. To supplement this supply, officials turned their attention to the Catskills, 2,000 square miles of hills and valleys west of the Hudson and three times as far from the city as the Croton. The region was still almost entirely rural. There were some farms, but forests were largely intact and streams clean-running. Construction of a system of reservoirs, tunnels, and conduits from this ideal water supply began in 1905.