Cities

Loo and Behold

As Philadelphia goes, so goes the nation

More green on the streets will mean less brown in the rivers.Tony the Misfit via flickrPhiladelphia has a poo problem. Old, failing pipes plus a swelling population plus lots of rain equals — well, yuck. So the city has pondered its options, and now it’s poised to make a major splash in the world of sewage management. In a move described by an official from the state environmental council as “the most significant investment in transforming the city that we’ll see in our lifetimes,” Philly is proposing a $1.6 billion plan to radically alter the way it handles stormwater — …

Does Schwarzenegger care more about tea partiers or the planet?

Like any Hollywood actor, and like any politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger likes to talk a good game. And on climate, he talks a lot. He loves to promote inconsequential gab-fests like the Governors Global Summit on Climate Change. But when the rubber hits the road, will he actually, you know, do anything about it? Whether a bill on his desk gets a signature will tell us whether he is real or all puffery. That bill is SB 406, by state Senator Mark Desaulnier. SB 406 would allow regional planning organizations to impose a $1-2 extra vehicle license fee in order to …

Placemakers

Stockton Williams on urban retrofits, Obama, and the sexiness of caulking guns

This is part of a series of interviews with people working to make U.S. communities smarter, greener spaces. Got a suggestion for an interviewee? Send it our way or leave it in the comments section below. Earlier this year, officials from sixteen U.S. cities gathered in Cambridge, Mass., to compare notes on a surprisingly hot topic: building retrofits. The meeting was held just as the Obama Administration announced the creation of a “Recovery through Retrofit” interagency working group, and hopes were high that federal funding, green jobs, and energy savings would flow forth. I dropped in on that event and …

That smarts

MacArthur genius award winners include climate and ocean researchers

Some of the MacArthur Foundation “genius award” winners are doing work related to climate change. And they now they each have $500 grand, no strings attached. Neat-o: Climate scientist Peter Huybers mines “a wealth of often-conflicting experimental observations to develop compelling theories that explain global climate change over time.” Biogeochemist Daniel Sigman unravels “the interrelated physical, chemical, geological, and biological forces that have shaped the oceans’ fertility and the Earth’s climate over the past two million years.” Also sorta related: Bridge engineer Theodore Zoli makes “major technological advances to protect transportation infrastructure in the event of natural and man-made disasters.” …

Talk about a culture jam

The social life of traffic

This article is part of a collaboration with Planetizen, the web’s leading resource for the urban planning, design, and development community. Traffic is essentially “an engineering issue,” says author Tom Vanderbilt. “But there’s also a layer of culture.” That layer of culture determines, to a large extent, how traffic can become a problem. This idea is explored in Vanderbilt’s 2008 book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), a Planetizen Top Book of the year. He recently expanded on that idea for a discussion about traffic put on by Zocalo Public Square in …

Paved paradise put up a lot of parks

PARK(ing) Day puts people and greenery, not cars, in transformed parking spaces [SLIDESHOW]

I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find someone who thinks parking spaces are prettier and more fun to relax in than public parks. Which is one reason you may see people parallel parking themselves instead of their cars on pavement for PARK(ing) Day 2009, which is September 18. Across the world artists and citizens are adorning urban parking spots with flowers, benches, turf, tents — heck, maybe even a ball pit — to transform them into one-day public parks the size of a car (or a couple of them, if it’s a parking lot). Originally dreamed up by Rebar, a …

no more playing hooky

Will a greener White House complex mean a more productive president?

Arrrrr ye gettin’ more done now?Official White House photostream via flickr[UPDATE: A White House spokesperson called me to clarify that it's parts of the White House complex, not the White House itself, that will be seeking LEED certification. Like many others in the blogosphere, I got swept up in the excitement of imagining hemp sheets in the Lincoln bedroom. Maybe next year -- meanwhile, just mutter "complex" to yourself each time you read the phrase White House here.] The benefits of green building are becoming clearer all the time: A study released this week suggests that employees in greener buildings …

Placemakers

An interview with solar activist Anya Schoolman

This interview is part of a series on people who are making their communities smarter, greener places to live. Got a nomination? Leave it in the comments section or send it along to us. All signs point to solar for Schoolman and her neighbors.For a while, things were looking gloomy. The founders of Washington, D.C.’s Mount Pleasant Solar Cooperative had their hearts in the right place; they even had their paperwork in the right place. But they hit snag after snag as they tried to fulfill the dream of converting their neighborhood to solar power: Contractors who didn’t want to …

This 9/11, urban communities remember and serve

This September 11th, communities are honoring those who lost their lives eight years ago by participating in service activities. Churches, schools, and community groups are holding nearly 100 Green the Block service events in more than 24 states. All across the nation, people are choosing to act on encouragement instead of discouragement, on hope instead of despair. Both of us are often asked to speak for those who have no voice, and to remind others of those who are often forgotten. We are asked to respond to the frustrations of our communities and fulfill the aspirations of those who are …