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Tornado ravages town already ravaged by pollution

Six people were killed in Picher, Okla., this weekend as a giant tornado swept through. The not-so-bright bright side: It's likely that some fatalities were avoided, since many residents of Picher have already left. Picher is so polluted with mining waste that it's listed as a Superfund site; the town's booming lead and zinc mines closed decades ago, and its population has dwindled from 20,000 to 800. Now, as if the twister fatalities weren't tragic enough -- at least 17 other people were killed elsewhere in Oklahoma and Missouri -- U.S. EPA officials are testing in Picher to see whether …

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That infrastructure thing

Congestion pricing might come in handy

Speaking of our crumbling public facilities, CBO Director Peter Orszag testified in Congress on Friday and detailed the country's infrastructure needs. They are dire, in some cases. He notes in a related blog post (yes, the CBO director has a blog): Although capital spending on transportation infrastructure already exceeds $100 billion annually, studies from the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and elsewhere suggest that it would cost roughly $20 billion more per year to keep transportation services at current levels. Those studies also suggest that substantially more than $20 billion in additional capital spending per year on transportation …

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California, here we come

Unprecedented land conservation deal

The biggest land conservation deal in California's history was announced yesterday, totaling nearly 240,000 acres in Southern California. A couple of features, while not entirely new, are worth pointing out: The deal involved allowing the owners to develop about 10 percent of the area pretty intensely and maintain some natural resource extraction while preserving as wilderness the overwhelming majority -- a good example of making a trade-off that doesn't pit economic and environmental interests against each other and allows for much greater public access at the same time. New wildlife corridors are being constructed to allow animals and plants the …

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Stressed by housing slump, developers sell land to conservationists

Looking for a bright side to the real-estate crunch? Look no further: Some developers, financially stressed by the housing slump, are selling land to folks who want to conserve it. It's a win-win situation: developers aren't stuck building expensive real estate that no one wants to buy, and conservation groups like the Trust for Public Land and Nature Conservancy get more funding and buying power. "Two to three years ago, local farmers and ranchers were eager to sell off their land and cash out," says the Nature Conservancy's Cristina Mestre. "Now, we're being approached en masse [to buy development rights]." …

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Tasty justice

People’s Grocery is rebuilding food connections in West Oakland

Global Oneness Project has finished a great new series of interviews with Brahm Ahmadi, co-founder/director of People's Grocery. Their food justice work is crucial to Oakland: like many cities, there are usually lots more opportunities to buy beer or smokes on every block than fresh, healthy fruits and veggies. Check out this inspiring 8-minute film to get some new ideas for how we can reconnect urban populations and the planet through food. The sidebar clips are great, too, as are all the short films on this site I've viewed.

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Better homes and gardens

The NYT on urban farming

Viewed through a wide lens, the world's troubles seem overwhelming: climate change, pointless war, spreading hunger, surging food and energy prices, etc. There's a tendency to seek big-brush answers to these vast problems, to ask: what's The Solution? Failing inevitably to find it -- much less implement it -- we plunge deeper into despair and political impotence. Of course, taking a broad view of the world is critically important. But that perspective may be better at providing fodder for analysis than it is at delivering real answers. Our problems may be so big precisely because we tend to think so …

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Cities

Why don't candidates who claim to be interested in climate change talk about cities more? That's where the rubber is hitting the road: Officials in King County and other places are rethinking the way their communities grow and operate, all with an eye toward reducing their overall carbon footprint. After decades of policies that encouraged people to move out to the suburbs in pursuit of larger homes and bigger backyards, some policy makers are now pushing aggressively to increase urban density and discourage the use of private cars.

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Melbourne

A modern city can be remade

Check out this great video of the street life in Melbourne, Australia, which is my new Place I Want to Move: From the accompanying post on StreetFilms: Melbourne is simply wonderful. You can get lost in the nooks and crannies that permeate the city. As you walk you feel like free-flowing air with no impediments to your enjoyment. For a city with nearly 4 million people, the streets feel much like the hustle and bustle of New York City but without omnipresent danger and stress cars cause. There is an invaluable lesson here. In the early '90s, Melbourne was hardly …

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<em>Escape from Suburbia</em>

New peak oil documentary fluffs the faithful

A while back I wrote a short review of 2004's End of Suburbia, and after watching the sequel, Escape from Suburbia, I guess I'd say roughly the same things. I want a movie like this to convince Average Joes. And when it comes to the Romantic agrarian peak oil evangelism this movie traffics in, the Average Joe needs lots of convincing. You'd think the way to go would be to play against stereotype, but to my eye, Escape from Suburbia plays right to it, again and again. It feels ramshackle and homemade, an assemblage of footage with too little focus, …

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C'mon ride the train, the Coachella train

Festival-goers hop free ride — and stay car-free, too

As we've reported in the past, music festivals across the country are making moves to be more sustainable -- mostly involving recycling efforts, compostable utensils, and biodiesel generators. But this year's Coachella music festival, held in Indio, Calif., April 25-27, took an interesting track, chartering an Amtrak train to transport festival folk to and from L.A. The Coachella Express was set up by the creative minds behind Global Inheritance, a group focusing its attentions on a young, hip, festival-going audience, and involved creating a new train platform in Indio to accommodate the arriving campers. For the 300+ riders who took …

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