Cities

Sunday on Bourne Street

Getting to know the neighborhood — through its trash

Left behind.coldcolours via flickrIt’s Sunday on Bourne Street. I am weeding at the JP Green House, furious at the reappearance of the Dog Strangling Vine that we battled hard last summer. A pernicious creeping vine, it takes over any neglected area around here: East Coast kudzu. An abandoned house is not really vacant, but inhabited by slow destructive forces like rot and weeds. I tackle a few shoots and then, discouraged, turn to watering the melon and pumpkin patch, newly planted two weeks ago. Ken zips by, testing the bikes that he’s tuning up after the winter. The young African …

The issue is not growth or no growth, but a better world

Growing a better world

Crossposted from Znet “Every society clings to a myth by which it lives. Ours is the myth of economic growth.” So begins “Prosperity Without Growth“[1], the report of the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission.  Questioning growth has been the obsessive focus of many for decades. Questioners make important points. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been, at best, a very rough proxy for wellbeing, often not even that. For this and other reasons many liberals, progressives, and leftists consider a “steady state economy” part of building a good society.  For all that critics of growth get right, they focus in the …

Your train is running late

Phoenix’s light rail project sparks journalism start-up

The following post was written by Michael Andersen of the Nieman Journalism Lab blog. When Adam Klawonn quit his job at a shrinking major metropolitan newspaper in 2006, he did what so many other journalists have: launched an online news operation that looked a lot like a newspaper’s web site, only with less stuff. On The Zonie Report (“A New Kind of News for Arizona”), he set out to cover growth, immigration, the environment. The big issues. “The traditional papers were going local, and they were pulling back their bureaus,” said Klawonn, now 30. “It seemed like it was just …

Radiant Cities: Driving It Home

One man’s plan to re-create suburbia, sans cars

California’s East Bay — the collection of towns, cities, and suburbs across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco — has a lot to boast about. There’s the perpetually great weather, enlightened inhabitants, and a halfway decent, if in my opinion overpriced, public transit system in the form of BART. Yet despite BART’s 43 stations spanning 95 miles, most folks in the area find they need a car, too. Sherman LewisBut one man thinks his town, Hayward — or at least a part of it — can make the leap to automobile-free. “I want to live a lifestyle that’s less dependent …

Recycling a House

How we found 133 Bourne St., and how we almost lost it

In May of 2008, the property at 133 Bourne St., Boston, Massachusetts was purchased from HBHC Bank by myself and Ken Ward. Ninety-nine years old at the time, it had long served the neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain and Roslindale as both a corner store and a family dwelling. At the time of purchase, the house had been abandoned, foreclosed, and uninhabited for four years. It would require an almost total rehab, but seemed to hold immense potential, with space aplenty for a blended family of three young boys, a large central area at the front of the house that called …

Welcome to the JP Green House

In which we chronicle the creation of a groundbreaking eco-home

Editor’s note: This month, Grist contributor Ken Ward and his partner Andrée Zaleska begin chronicling their conversion of a rundown, 100-year-old store into a green home that serves as both family living quarters and a public space for climate activism, green building education, and community gatherings. Recently, I visited the pair for a tour of the space — and an up-close glimpse of their dreams. When the JP Green House is finished, it will be a marvel to behold. From the eco-insulation to the stage for community performances, from the backyard beekeeping to the front-stoop organizing, the house will be …

Love in a time of cataclysm

Fighting climate chaos with a hammer and a heart

The intro question for the first gathering of 350.org activists in Massachusetts early this month was, “How do you feel, personally, about climate change?” Having worked on the agenda, I should have been prepared — but it still stumped me. When I spoke, it was a distillation of five years of hard thinking and writing; truthful, but packaged. We are offered, I said, but two choices: blind optimism of the sort that Waxman-Markey cheerleaders purvey, or deep despair, the feeling one gets from most climate scientists. I prefer, I said, a resolute hope that comes only in accepting reality — …

More riding tips and evolutionary insights

Got some more riding tips to share. I’ve learned that nothing catches people’s attention like a hand wave. It has been hypothesized that our brains have literally evolved the ability to detect hand waves against a cluttered background. I always wave at drivers before crossing in front of them. Try it. They can’t seem to ignore you no matter how much they would like to. I have also discovered an excellent bike light. I use rechargeable batteries and mounted it on my helmet. I turn it on superflash mode night and day. It is amazingly bright. By mounting it on …

Ray (and Shaun and Lisa) of Hope

Feds get cozy for sustainable communities

LaHood and Jackson look on as Obama signs a fuel-economy memo earlier this year.White HouseThere’s this crazy idea spreading through the Obama administration: not only can you work with your opponents to get things done, you can work with your allies. Like today, for instance, comes news that the EPA, Department of Transportation, and HUD have built upon an earlier DOT/HUD deal to create a Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The landmark collaboration identifies six “livability principles” for the agencies to keep in sight as they work on policy. Which means, said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, “For the first time, the …

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