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China and the long-distance runner

Will bikes or cars win?

China has an environmental problem. No, I'm not talking about weathering huge dust storms, opening one coal power plant a week, surpassing the U.S. as the largest emitter of carbon dioxide, or flooding ecosystems with huge dam projects. I'm talking about something serious: If pollution does not get better in Beijing in time for the 2008 Olympics, the long-distance track events may be canceled. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, "China's new middle class in love with cars -- big cars": The auto boom has dire implications for next summer's Olympic Games in Beijing because it contributes …

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How bad is peak oil, really?

Would the biosphere care?

Recently we've had a couple of discussions here at Gristmill concerning various aspects of peak oil; that is, the assertion that very soon (if it hasn't happened already) the global supply of oil will peak, and even though demand is going up, supply will start to come down, so prices will skyrocket. It seems to me that some of the contention in these discussions boils down to the question: would it really be so bad if the oil started running out? After all, we would stop mucking up the planet with the pollution, carbon emissions, and infrastructural damage we have …

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Speedy urban living is healthier

And New York City is the healthiest of all

As rural and suburban areas have grown, they have become more car dependent. Meanwhile, cities have reduced air pollution. As a consequence, the old urban health disadvantage has disappeared. City dwellers have higher life expectancies and better health on average [PDF] than people in suburbs or the country. And according to New York Magazine, New York City, probably the most urban of U.S. cities, has the greatest health advantage. The difference seems to boil down to walking. People in urban areas walk more than people in rural or suburban areas (on average). Why do New Yorkers do better than, say, …

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Umbra on community-supported agriculture

Umbra, Please illuminate CSAs for us, how they work, and how your readers can join one. Thanks! (And by the way, that photo of a peach in your recent column is an apricot.) Bobbe Santa Fe, N.M. Dearest Bobbe, Alas for stone-fruit misidentification. Hopefully corrected by the time this question hits the screen, but still. A fruit ignorance that community-supported agriculture might solve, if one lived where apricots and peaches grew. Learn to share. Courtesy of MACSAC CSA is a way to get the freshest food, grown right near where you live or work, and to support small-scale farmers. In …

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The traffic is jammin'

Fear of traffic snarls led to easier commutes in Seattle

We tend to think of traffic as an immutable -- that there's literally nothing we can do in our day-to-day lives to drive less. But Seattle's continued and mostly unexpected free-flowing traffic -- in the midst of a major construction project that some feared would trigger a morass of congestion throughout Puget Sound -- shows that this is simply false. Far from being rigid and incompressible, traffic and travel patterns are surprisingly fluid. Seattle's experience demonstrates that, when drivers are given good travel choices and the right kinds of information and incentives, they can get out of their cars. And …

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So That’s What Those Trains Are For

Beijing enacts four-day ban on vehicles, pushes public transportation Today marks the start of an experimental four-day vehicle ban in Beijing, China. While the motivation for the scheme is finding ways to clear the air for next year's Olympics, its execution is a lovely reminder that change is possible. Home to 16 million people, Beijing has about 3 million registered vehicles; today and Sunday, license plates ending in even numbers must stay parked, with odd-numbered plates banned on Saturday and Monday. The experiment will see 1.3 million fewer cars on the city's busy streets, and officials hope for some change …

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Policies to reduce and increase driving at the same time

Subsidizing drivers needs to end

This article in the NYT highlights the absurdity of current transportation policy. While New York City is trying to get federal funding to help it pay for a congestion pricing and traffic congestion policy, the federal government is, at the same time, handing out large tax breaks to help people reduce the costs of driving to work. It's yet another example of government policy gone awry, badly. The solution isn't sexy, won't get you on TV, and doesn't make for great headlines that will earn prestige: eliminate all government subsidies, and either cap pollution or tax it. It's not rocket …

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Ask a Brokeass: Won't you be my neighbor?

More high-tech solutions for low-tech ideas

I first mentioned "neighborrow" a few weeks ago, in a column on the virtues of sharing. This week, we've got an interview with neighborrow founder Adam Berk, who gives us some background on how and why he started the site in his New York apartment building. The basic premise of neighborrow is that it makes no sense to buy stuff when you can get it from your neighbors for free. The site allows you to pool resources with the people who live near you. Everyone can list what they have to loan out, and what they're looking to borrow -- …

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Chicago-style Mad Flavor: I heart Lula

In which the author finds his dream neighorhood restaurant

In Mad Flavor, the author describes his occasional forays from the farm in search of exceptional culinary experiences from small artisanal producers. Recently, Mad Flavor was on the ground in Chicago -- the author's ancestral home city -- a veritable garden of delightful food. I've long dreamed of a very particular neighborhood cafe/restaurant. It would lie in the middle of a dense urban neighborhood, looking onto the chaos of the sidewalk. It would be open from early morning until late at night, and seem to transform itself with the hour of the day. It would serve multiple functions: a place …

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Galbraith says what he really thinks

Economist goes over to the dark side

Some facts to hang your hat on: Good governance might save the day. Bad governance could just make things worse. I generally agree with Galbraith's opinions. However, there is always a reasonable probability that some of his opinions are wrong (as is true of anybody's opinions, including my own). He's quoted in David's post: "Planning" is a word that too many in this debate are trying to avoid, fearful, perhaps, of its Soviet overtones. But the reality of climate change is that central planning is essential, and on a grand scale. History has a bad habit of repeating itself. In …