Transit ridership up across U.S.

Transit ridership has jumped across the U.S. as folks get tired of paying at the pump. From January to March, transit ridership jumped 10 percent in Boston, 8 percent in both Los Angeles and Denver, and 7.2 percent in the Twin Cities. In Philadelphia, transit ridership in March 2008 was up 11 percent from March 2007; in April, ridership in south Florida was an impressive 28 percent above the year before. “Nobody believed that people would actually give up their cars to ride public transportation,” says Joseph Giulietti of south Florida’s transportation authority. “But in the last year, and last …

Fast facts about cities, climate change, and sustainability

Less than 1: Percent of the earth’s surface covered by cities (1) 75: Percent of global energy consumed by cities (2) 80: Percent of global greenhouse-gas emissions contributed by cities (1) 6.7 billion: World population in 2007 (3) 50: Percent of world population expected to live in urban areas by the end of 2008 (3) 70: Percent of world population expected to live in urban areas by 2050 (3) 840: Mayors who have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement (4) 50: States from which those signatories hail (4) 80 million: Citizens those signatories represent (4) 3: Actions those signatories …

Green-city ranking group SustainLane explains its methodology

With a chart-topping 26,000 people per square mile, New York City has to be smart.Photo: Tom TwiggBack in 2004, the news emerged that two-thirds of the world’s population might be living in cities by 2030. At SustainLane, we got curious about what cities were doing to handle that growth, and we began taking a closer look into the sustainability initiatives taking hold: Which cities were planning for the future, and which were painfully unprepared? It turned out there were no clear criteria out there to answer our questions. So we put together a team of writers, researchers, peer reviewers, editors, …

Tornado ravages town already ravaged by pollution

Six people were killed in Picher, Okla., this weekend as a giant tornado swept through. The not-so-bright bright side: It’s likely that some fatalities were avoided, since many residents of Picher have already left. Picher is so polluted with mining waste that it’s listed as a Superfund site; the town’s booming lead and zinc mines closed decades ago, and its population has dwindled from 20,000 to 800. Now, as if the twister fatalities weren’t tragic enough — at least 17 other people were killed elsewhere in Oklahoma and Missouri — U.S. EPA officials are testing in Picher to see whether …

That infrastructure thing

Congestion pricing might come in handy

Speaking of our crumbling public facilities, CBO Director Peter Orszag testified in Congress on Friday and detailed the country’s infrastructure needs. They are dire, in some cases. He notes in a related blog post (yes, the CBO director has a blog): Although capital spending on transportation infrastructure already exceeds $100 billion annually, studies from the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and elsewhere suggest that it would cost roughly $20 billion more per year to keep transportation services at current levels. Those studies also suggest that substantially more than $20 billion in additional capital spending per year on transportation …

California, here we come

Unprecedented land conservation deal

The biggest land conservation deal in California's history was announced yesterday, totaling nearly 240,000 acres in Southern California. A couple of features, while not entirely new, are worth pointing out: The deal involved allowing the owners to develop about 10 percent of the area pretty intensely and maintain some natural resource extraction while preserving as wilderness the overwhelming majority -- a good example of making a trade-off that doesn't pit economic and environmental interests against each other and allows for much greater public access at the same time. New wildlife corridors are being constructed to allow animals and plants the ability to migrate; I have written about this before, since this type of flexibility will be crucial to ensure that species can adapt to climate change. All in all, a good deal for California and the country. Something to celebrate.

Stressed by housing slump, developers sell land to conservationists

Looking for a bright side to the real-estate crunch? Look no further: Some developers, financially stressed by the housing slump, are selling land to folks who want to conserve it. It’s a win-win situation: developers aren’t stuck building expensive real estate that no one wants to buy, and conservation groups like the Trust for Public Land and Nature Conservancy get more funding and buying power. “Two to three years ago, local farmers and ranchers were eager to sell off their land and cash out,” says the Nature Conservancy’s Cristina Mestre. “Now, we’re being approached en masse [to buy development rights].” …

Tasty justice

People’s Grocery is rebuilding food connections in West Oakland

Global Oneness Project has finished a great new series of interviews with Brahm Ahmadi, co-founder/director of People's Grocery. Their food justice work is crucial to Oakland: like many cities, there are usually lots more opportunities to buy beer or smokes on every block than fresh, healthy fruits and veggies. Check out this inspiring 8-minute film to get some new ideas for how we can reconnect urban populations and the planet through food. The sidebar clips are great, too, as are all the short films on this site I've viewed.

Better homes and gardens

The NYT on urban farming

Viewed through a wide lens, the world’s troubles seem overwhelming: climate change, pointless war, spreading hunger, surging food and energy prices, etc. There’s a tendency to seek big-brush answers to these vast problems, to ask: what’s The Solution? Failing inevitably to find it — much less implement it — we plunge deeper into despair and political impotence. Of course, taking a broad view of the world is critically important. But that perspective may be better at providing fodder for analysis than it is at delivering real answers. Our problems may be so big precisely because we tend to think so …

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