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How my father taught me to leave cars behind

When my husband and I moved back to Montana three years ago, I fantasized about living far from town. We'd settle outside the city boundaries, where the Milky Way sparkles clear as a river and red-tailed hawks bank over bunchgrass meadows. My (imaginary) dogs could run over our five acres, frolicking in the ponderosa pines. That was the plan. But we didn't do it. And it's my father's fault. He kept me on track. Photo: iStockphoto. Before he retired a few years ago, my father spent more than 30 years as an electrical engineer for Bay Area Rapid Transit, the …

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Why is green building still so hard?

Recently, Colorado Company magazine highlighted a developer who believes in nothing but "green" building. It was a wonderful article, but it gets at an underlying question: why is this still a story? The idea of green building has not spread like wildfire. The mass-market building sector is oblivious. Most of the structures in trade magazines like Architectural Digest aren't green. Last month, The New York Times ran an article in which Robert A.M. Stern, dean of Yale's architecture school, said, "I think the trouble with environmentalism is that at most architecture schools it's been confined to a dreary backwater of …

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Train of Thoughtless

Railroad from Beijing to Tibet tries to outmaneuver climate change A railroad connecting Beijing, China, to Lhasa, Tibet, has been completed, despite considerable political and environmental obstacles. The project, conceived over 40 years ago by Mao Zedong, is a symbol of Chinese domination and has faced opposition from proponents of Tibetan independence. The railroad runs through seismically active areas, climbs over a mountain pass that reaches 16,900 feet, and crosses permafrost that could move as much as 15 feet over time as it thaws and refreezes. To adapt, Chinese scientists pushed the project budget up nearly 50 percent, to roughly …

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That Thing Utah Do!

Bill to sell federal land in Utah could set off cascade of land sales In the American West, many of the fastest-growing regions contain the most federally owned land, which limits expansion. This puts developers, local officials, and the vacation-home set in conflict with the public interest, and ... well, we hardly need to finish that sentence, right? Some members of Congress from Western states are getting the itch to sell off public land to make more room for development, and a new bill proposed by a senator and rep from Utah is widely seen as a test of their …

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A commute point

Tomorrow is Commute Another Way Day! In Maine, at least (anyone know of this happening elsewhere?), this is an annual event to promote carpools, vanpools, public transit, biking, walking, pogo-sticking, and other eco-friendly alternatives to that long, lonely slog to and from the 9-to-5. According to the CAWD website: Last year, more than 500 employers and 5,000 commuters got involved statewide, helping to reduce traffic congestion and auto emissions by eliminating 6,000 auto trips; 62,000 auto miles; 1.65 tons of harmful pollution; and $32,000 in commuting costs ... all in a single day! And you know what else those commuters …

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Can we replace oil and maintain energy supply?

This piece on EnergyBulletin is brilliant, and by that I mean it makes arguments I like to make. Can we simply switch out oil for other fuels? No: The question is: can production from non-conventional sources such as the Alberta tar sands or synthetic fuels using coal-to-liquids (CTL) technology be ramped up to anything even approaching a supply deficit of 22 million barrels per day by 2015? The answer appears to be a clear no. Not by a long shot. So what's the answer? Rather than focusing only on what I see as futile and costly attempts to continue to …

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Sustain’t Misbehavin’

Portland, Ore., ranked as most sustainable city in U.S. Portland, Ore., took top honors in SustainLane.com's 2006 ranking of the sustainability of America's 50 most populous cities. The rankings were based on a laundry list of the usual environmental factors: breathable air, clean drinking water, renewable energy, parks, green buildings, farmers' markets, affordable housing, recycling, walkable communities, and, especially, public transit. Commuting was weighted more heavily in the rankings than other factors; nine of the bottom 10 cities have less than 5 percent transit ridership. San Francisco came in second, despite being 49th in affordability (ouch); Seattle rounded out the …

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South Central Community Farm update

If you haven't been keeping up: The situation at the South Central Community Farm has gotten even more grim. The farmers have received an eviction order. A variety of celebs and quasi-celebs and hippie ex-celebs have taken up direct action, camping out on the farm. Julia Butterfly Hill is even sitting up in a tree. It's not looking good. Go give them some money. (Meanwhile, the same city that can't cough up $10 million for this community farm is contemplating spending $800 million renovating a sports stadium to attract an NFL team. Awesome.)

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Fuel Me Once, Shame on You

GM promotion will cap gas at $1.99 a gallon for SUV buyers In a promotion that begins today, General Motors promised to cap gasoline prices at $1.99 a gallon for a year for customers in California and Florida who purchase certain new full-size SUVs or midsize cars. That's right: if you buy a gas-guzzler from GM, they'll help pay for the gas. The refund amount for buyers will be based on estimated fuel use and the difference between $1.99 and the average state-wide price per gallon. Eligible SUVs in California include the Chevrolet Tahoe, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon, and Hummer …

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We’ve Been Cartwheeling to Work

Gas prices spur Americans to change behavior Americans hit in the pocketbook by high gas prices are, shockingly, changing their consumptive behavior. A survey by Consumer Reports found that over a third of American drivers are pondering getting a more fuel-efficient vehicle in place of their current one; half of those are considering a hybrid, and fewer than 5 percent want a luxury sedan or large SUV. Lots of drivers are downsizing to two wheels: when gas prices spiked last year, motorcycle sales jumped 16 percent compared to the same period in 2004, and scooter sales leaped 65 percent. Bike …

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