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Umbra on alternatives to flying

Dear Umbra, I just read about Brits swearing off flying and feel such a sense of elation that I'm not the only one! Difference is, I'm in the U.S. I can't take the train to Thailand. Any ideas on transoceanic travel? What will it take to get from Boston to Europe by boat? Anna Churchill Watertown, Mass. Dearest Anna, Not much -- just planning ahead, a hardy stomach or a good supply of Dramamine, and a few weeks of adventure on the high seas. My choice for you today is freighter travel, also an interesting option for those of you …

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Personal Rapid Transit

I've oftened wished the bus would "appear" when I arrive at the bus stop. Such daydreaming often led to ideas about somehow combining personal vehicles and public transit. As usual, mine is not an original idea, as Jeremy Faludi over at WC points out: Wouldn't it be nice to have a bus waiting for you every time you walked up to a stop? And wouldn't it be nice if the bus just went to your destination, without stopping anywhere else in between? The main reason people drive is for convenience like this. But if public transportation were as cheap as …

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Benzene There, Might Do That

New EPA regs would slash benzene emissions from cars by 2030 The Bush administration delighted enviros yesterday (yes, we just wrote that) by unveiling long-awaited proposals to cut toxic tailpipe emissions. Of course, it took a lawsuit to get the plan released, but why look a gift regulation in the mouth? According to the U.S. EPA, the proposed rules would cut benzene emissions from passenger cars almost in half by 2030, as well as reduce tailpipe emissions of formaldehyde. A national trading system would be established to let refiners making gasoline with higher benzene levels buy pollution credits from cleaner …

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Alan Hipólito, creator of green jobs for low-income people, answers questions

What work do you do? I run a very small, very new nonprofit organization called Verde. What does your organization do? What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? Verde offers a helping hand in the form of green jobs for low-income folks. Photo: iStockphoto. The mission of Verde is to increase the economic health of low-income and people-of-color communities by creating environmental job training, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities, drawing tighter the connections between environmental protection and economic opportunity. Really it means that we had a perfectly reasonable and very frustrating realization: that low-income folks -- people who really, …

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Community forests help revitalize New England towns

Beyond a set of granite gates on a hillside in Rumford, Maine, a lost city sits amid silver maples and oaks, just across the river from a sprawling paper mill. It's called Strathglass Park, and it's a vestige of an experiment in corporate benevolence. Designed in 1904 by noted architect Cass Gilbert, who later designed the Woolworth Building in Manhattan and the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, this cluster of regal brick homes and boarding houses was built by a paper-company mogul for 266 workers and their families. Same as it ever was? Photo: iStockphoto. The complex offers a glimpse …

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How the feds make bad-for-you food cheaper than healthful fare

If you're going to talk about poverty, food, and the environment in the United States, you might as well start in the Corn Belt. So good, and so good for you -- until it's turned into soda. Photo: stock.xchng. This fertile area produces most of the country's annual corn harvest of more than 10 billion bushels, far and away the world's largest such haul. Where does it all go? The majority -- after accounting for exports (nearly 20 percent), ethanol (about 10 percent, and climbing), and excess (another 10 percent) -- anchors the world's cheapest food supply in purchasing-power terms. …

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Going, Going, Oregon

Oregon's sweeping property-rights law upheld by state Supreme Court Will Oregon's famously tough urban-growth boundaries be breached in favor of McMansions and office parks? Seems so. After an expedited review, the state's Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Tuesday that a controversial 2004 property-rights ballot measure is legal. Measure 37 allows landowners seeking to develop their property to apply for waivers from tough state rules protecting open space if the state can't compensate them for lost land value -- and the state has no funds for such compensation. A lower trial court judge had ruled that Measure 37 violated both the …

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A positive environmental program that can (almost) fit on an index card

Without further ado, here's the first draft of my index-card manifesto. It turned out to be two index-card manifestos, with five points each: one for stuff I consider immediately urgent, and a second for what I consider longer-term goals. Feedback is welcome -- nay, requested. (I'll discuss the whole project more in a subsequent post.) WHAT A GREEN WANTS: IMMEDIATE PRIORITIES Energy efficiency: Proven techniques can get the same amount of work with 50% of the oil. Tax/subsidy shifts: Markets should tell the ecological truth. That means shifting subsidies from industries and practices that harm us to those that help …

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But Kermit Said …

Japan rules, U.S. drools in new list of greenest vehicles An annual list of the world's greenest cars placed the top American car at an impressive, uh, No. 10, while Japanese cars took all of the top five spots. (But American cars dominated the Totally Un-Gay Testostero-Manly Mean Machine list!) The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy gave the two-door hybrid Honda Insight top marks, based on fuel economy and air-polluting emissions. The natural-gas-powered Honda Civic GX, Toyota's Prius hybrid, the Honda Civic hybrid, and Toyota's gasoline-powered Corolla rounded out the top five. The first U.S. car on the list …

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Steve Frillmann, community-garden guru, answers questions

Steve Frillmann. With what environmental organization are you affiliated? I am the executive director of Green Guerillas, New York City's oldest community-gardening group. What does your organization do? At Green Guerillas, we help people carry out their visions for what community gardens can be in a dense, vibrant urban area -- urban farms, botanic gardens, performance spaces, community centers, lungs that help the city breathe. Some of our activities are fairly simple, like giving gardeners a few seedlings. Some are very complex, like organizing coalitions or helping grassroots leaders fight to protect gardens from development. New Yorkers appreciating a community …

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