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Abe Lincoln’s summer home goes green

Does this building look LEED certified to you? Well, look again. This is part of Abe Lincoln's summer home complex near Washington, D.C., and after a seven-year restoration, it's the first-ever historic monument to receive the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. The National Trust for Historic Preservation rehabilitated the historic building in a way that minimized adverse environmental impact. This meant restoring as much of the existing fabric of a building as possible, rather than generating new materials and sending the existing materials to a landfill. It also meant updating systems …

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A poet takes the measure of Portland — on foot

Starting early this century, poet and professor David Oates set out to walk the boundary line that Oregon drew around the city of Portland decades ago to concentrate its development and discourage sprawl. What is today called "the New Urbanism" is not new in Portland: it's been part of the political process since l973. As Oates writes in a forward to a book he recently published about his adopted state's experiment in urban utopianism: We hope to grow in, and in some places, up. To get richer in connections and cleverness -- to get deeper -- instead of wider, flatter, …

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Spearheading transit for livable cities at 93

I recently ended 100 days without Grist. And wouldn't you know, the title of the first post I saw, "No climate for old men," spoke directly to the reason I was away. No, I wasn't with the McCain campaign. Rather, I was immersed in a project, spearheaded by a really old man, that could become a terrific tool for beating back the climate crisis. That man is 93-year-old Ted Kheel, legendary New York labor-lawyer-turned-environmentalist. His project is a study of the feasibility of financing free mass transit in New York City through congestion pricing and other charges on driving. I …

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A little of this, a little of that

This week I am, officially anyway, on vacation, spending a week in a condo at the bottom of Mt. Hood, snowboarding by day, soaking in the hot tub by night. Yes: sweet. I will nonetheless be posting occasionally, because, well, I just don't know how to quit you. Before I go I want to clear out all the stuff that's been building up in my browser for, oh, months now. So a link dump it is, and away we go! This post on Dot Earth about sustainable cities reminded me that I forgot to link to Alex Steffen's long and …

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We’ve borrowed more than we can afford to borrow, sprawled more than we can afford to sprawl

There are a lot of moving parts involved in the current, sputtering condition of the economy, which can't yet be declared a recession but may well become one. I'll summarize as best I can. Very cheap credit led to a housing upturn, which became a boom, which became, in many parts of the country, a speculative bubble. The cheap credit was the result of a number of factors, including lax monetary police at the Federal Reserve, but of high importance were the huge foreign exchange reserves accumulated by a number of commodity-exporting nations, which led to a global savings glut. …

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Reflections on death by SUV

It was just a matter of time before a World Trade Center survivor became a victim of a different sort of terrorism: death by automobile. It finally happened last month, in lower Manhattan, when a speeding sport utility vehicle struck and killed a woman who had fled the Twin Towers on 9/11. Florence Cioffi was leaving a dinner celebrating her upcoming 60th birthday when a Mercedes-Benz SUV slammed into her on Water Street at 60 miles an hour, according to a Manhattan assistant district attorney. Six years, four months, and thirteen days earlier, Ms. Cioffi narrowly averted death when she …

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Cities run into roadblocks in attempts to reduce CO2

Announcing an ambitious plan to reduce a city's greenhouse gases is the easy part; when it comes to putting goals into action, local officials tend to run up against significant roadblocks. To take just a few examples: The subprime mortgage crisis has left taxpayers across the country unable to fund efficiency-minded proposals. Across the country, homeowners' associations have vetoed plans for home solar panels on aesthetic grounds. In one city, police pushed back against plans for less-polluting cop cars, saying it would restrict needed speed. And everywhere, individuals are resistant to changing their habits. "They've seen the Al Gore movie, …

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Enterprise and other rental companies move into car-share market

Enterprise Rent-a-Car is zooming ahead with a car-sharing program à la the successful Zipcar. The Enterprise venture, called WeCar, started on the campus of St. Louis's Washington University last month, but will kick off in urban style in the city downtown next week. WeCar will begin with nine Toyota Prius hybrids and will target employees who commute without a car to work and then need a vehicle during the day. (Zipcar, which targets residential areas, is not available in St. Louis.) WeCar joins a U-Haul program with the self-explanatory name U Car Share, available in college cities like Ann Arbor, …

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Fast-growing Atlanta loses rights to major source of drinking water

An 18-year water war between Georgia, Alabama, and Florida has come to an end of sorts: A federal appellate court has voided an Army Corps of Engineers agreement that would have given Georgia the rights to nearly 25 percent of federal reservoir Lake Lanier as a source of drinking water for metro Atlanta. Alabama and Florida had sued over the plan, saying it would siphon off water that would otherwise flow to their states. Atlanta, which has been accused of not being mindful of water resources while encouraging rampant growth, is "the big loser here," says water-law expert George William …

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EPA set to kibosh Mississippi Delta boondoggle

Successive presidential administrations -- including the current one -- have tried to rein in the Army Corps of Engineers and its projects, which are mostly known for their tangy combination of high cost, arguable utility, and disregard for the environment. Tried -- and largely failed, thanks to the level-10 force fields erected by congresscritters who covet the flood of Corps project dollars into their districts. So it's startling and welcome news that apparently, the EPA is initiating the process to veto a massive Corps project known as the Yazoo Pumps. The pump project is situated in the Mississippi-Yazoo Delta, a …

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