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Madrid, May I?

Spanish activists up in arms over unchecked urbanization This weekend, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Spain to voice their fury over ... rampant urbanization. Yes, it's true, residents of la piel de toro have had it with the bull. A building boom that started in the 1960s is overrunning rural areas and coastal cities, say observers, and corrupt politicians are only too eager to make illegal deals that can increase pollution and limit water supplies. "Too often, construction in Spain represents the plundering of a community and a culture," reported a European Parliament delegation after a trip …

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Microgrid porn

You know you love it

This AP story is a bit old but it's incredibly significant so I'm going to go ahead and get in a tizzy about it. It's about efforts by the city of Stamford, Conn. (among other places) to establish a micro grid district. What's that, you ask? Within these special zones, sometimes referred to as "energy independence districts," businesses, government buildings and office buildings can design and create their own power source, such as a fuel cell or natural gas generator, using the electric grid only as a backup. They might also tap into underground aquifers and use that water for …

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Putting a price on congestion

Realizing that freeways are not free

Every once in a while there's a truth that everybody knows, but that no one will acknowledge. And when someone finally says it aloud, it sounds shocking. Like this: ... what we're doing now isn't working. Not for drivers, taxpayers or the environment. We can't tax and build our way out of this. That's Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat in his column this week, talking about what most people in Seattle already know: the area's freeway system is flat broke and busted. Even the biggest package ever to go before voters -- this fall's $16 billion roads-and-transit measure -- won't …

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Another refreshing change: Taming the auto

Cities find that people like not being killed by cars!

Good story in the Christian Science Monitor about places that are taking steps (albeit tiny, tiny baby steps) to take back some of the public space given over to cars and letting people use it: The auto's demotion at Golden Gate Park follows dozens of similar moves in at least 20 American cities in the past three years. It's a trend that is gaining ground rapidly in the US, say urban planners. New York is proposing to shut down perimeter roads of Central Park and Brooklyn's Prospect Park all summer long. Atlanta plans to transform 53 acres of blighted, unused …

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Making sure the green wave lifts all boats

New report from Apollo Alliance on good green jobs

The Apollo Alliance and Urban Habitat have a new report out today on the coming green economy and the immense job potential for traditionally excluded groups -- low-income, heavily minority urban communities. The report sets out a vision for green jobs in the U.S. and outlines the green industries that already exist in the country, offering policy guidance for creating better jobs for more people. It also details programs that are working, like apprenticeships, job training, and local hiring policies, and profiles worker and career pathways in the green job market. And it presents some strategies and policies to help …

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Six months to a trimmer footprint

How to reduce your household energy consumption, easy-like

Last Sunday's New York Times honed in on the dubious practice of Americans buying carbon offsets to brand themselves carbon-neutral. Andy Revkin, the paper's global-warming reporter, quoted me saying, "There isn't a single American household above the poverty line that couldn't cut their CO2 at least 25 percent in six months through a straightforward series of fairly simple and terrifically cost-effective measures." My claim has hit a nerve. Despite the absence of a link, already a dozen readers have tracked me down on the web and written to ask what measures I have in mind. This article is for them …

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The eco-chamber

An interview with Julia Russell of the Eco-Home Network

Gristmill commenter Lo Fleming posted a good Q&A with Julia Russell of the Eco-Home Network recently over on her blog. Check it out.

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A refreshing change of pace: sensible policy

Imagine: charging polluters to encourage the others!

Sam Smith, publisher of the estimable e-letter The Progressive Review, is perhaps the ultimate pragmatic environmentalist, with a sharp eye for what works and a sharper ability to deflate the pompous and overly-self-loving. He is often the sole commenter picking up on policy proposals and practices that a less parochial media less obsessed with infotainment would be interested in -- such as the success of congestion charges in London's central district, implemented by Mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone (elected by IRV): The facts about London's congestion charging scheme are clear. It cut the amount of traffic entering central London by 20%. …

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Integrated urbanism in Dongtan

Building the world’s largest eco-city

The May 2007 issue of Wired Magazine has a piece about the development of the world's largest eco-city, Dongtan, underway on the outskirts of Shanghai (as we reported in May of last year). The article focuses on Alejandro Gutierrez and his team from Arup (project info here). Recommended reading.

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Brit's Eye View: Sustainable development turns 20

Happy birthday!

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. "Sustainable development" is 20 years old this week. On April 27, 1987, after four years of deliberation, the World Commission on Environment and Development released its report. The inquiry -- also known as the Brundtland Commission -- was led by the prime minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland. I was at university then, and devoured the contents of the report, which was later published as the book Our Common Future. Here, at last, was someone tying together the …

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