Cities

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 …

Hot Data

Clean-tech and urban renewal in one fell swoop

Clearer skies ahead for Holyoke?Leslie Adams via flickrTo say that Holyoke, Mass., has seen better days would put you squarely in the running for Understatement of the Year. One of the poorest cities in the state, it is the sort of post-Industrial town that is scattered across New England: crumbling smokestacks, shuttered mills, “modern” housing thrown together in the shadow of manufacturers past. But Holyoke, which lies 10 miles outside  Springfield in the western part of the state, hit harder times than most. Compared to state and national averages, everything about Holyoke is high: unemployment, homelessness, poverty, crime. According to …

What would Gandhi drive?

A tour through Indian energy projects suggests small is beautiful

A local irrigation project in southern India.Courtesy Michael Foley Photography via FlickrGeorge Black has a fascinating story about how India might lift its people out of poverty without torching the environment in the current issue of OnEarth, the magazine run by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Written largely as a travelogue through clean energy innovations in northern India, Black’s narrative considers the three essentials the country aspires to deliver to its billion-plus citizens—water, energy, and mobility. The story includes the requisite bleak facts, like India’s booming population, its over-reliance on coal-fired electricity, the melting Himalayan glaciers that will threaten water …

Point A to Point Whee!

The best U.S. transit systems you never knew existed

When it comes to public transit in the U.S., there are certain predictable all-stars: the Metro in Washington, D.C., is convenient, efficient, and clean. The anthropomorphically nicknamed El and BART in Chicago and San Francisco are legendary. And everyone knows it’s easier to navigate New York City without a car than with one. But what about the rest of the country? As cities big and small rethink how their residents get around, new systems are taking shape — and as gas prices and paychecks fluctuate, riders are responding in droves. While the current economic crunch is forcing many cities to …

Next, In Car Nation

Slideshow: The plug-ins and electric vehicles of 2009

Can’t wait until 2010 for the Chevy Volt (or Coda or Fisker Karma or Chrysler Circuit)? Check out these electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles that are either on the market now or will be by the end of 2009. In slideshow order: Aptera 2e Th!nk City Subaru Stella Toyota Prius extended-range hybrid Mitsubishi i-MiEV smart fortwo electric drive BYD Auto F3DM MINI E Tesla Roadster

Counter coalture

Taking coal back to the garden

“…we can train ourselves to attend to the beautiful things waiting to be noticed. We can become curious and push the perceptions outward towards the surrounding world and society. We can see the miracle of life around us. We can be altered and saved by the situation in which we find ourselves.”  Anne Bogart, Siti Theatre Company A few years ago, when coal miners stumbled onto a 300 million-year-old fossilized rainforest in a mine in eastern Illinois, the nation was reminded of coal’s one-time role in the garden.  In one of the more creative protests against dirty coal this year, …

Radiant Cities: Post-Fab

Recession redirects a green-building pioneer

Back around 2006, when the American Dream of home ownership was still intact and green building was officially transferred from the domain of hippies to yuppies, folks got very excited about prefab. Here in New York City, my friends and I felt our second-home prayers had been answered (not that we could afford a first home): we’d buy a plot of land in the country and plop down a bunch of panelized, pre-fabricated high modern houses for well less than $100,000 each–something stylish and healthy and affordable that would re-create the bungalow colony model. Online message boards like FabPreFab exploded …

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