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 …


Why don’t candidates who claim to be interested in climate change talk about cities more? That’s where the rubber is hitting the road: Officials in King County and other places are rethinking the way their communities grow and operate, all with an eye toward reducing their overall carbon footprint. After decades of policies that encouraged people to move out to the suburbs in pursuit of larger homes and bigger backyards, some policy makers are now pushing aggressively to increase urban density and discourage the use of private cars.


A modern city can be remade

Check out this great video of the street life in Melbourne, Australia, which is my new Place I Want to Move: From the accompanying post on StreetFilms: Melbourne is simply wonderful. You can get lost in the nooks and crannies that permeate the city. As you walk you feel like free-flowing air with no impediments to your enjoyment. For a city with nearly 4 million people, the streets feel much like the hustle and bustle of New York City but without omnipresent danger and stress cars cause. There is an invaluable lesson here. In the early ’90s, Melbourne was hardly …

<em>Escape from Suburbia</em>

New peak oil documentary fluffs the faithful

A while back I wrote a short review of 2004’s End of Suburbia, and after watching the sequel, Escape from Suburbia, I guess I’d say roughly the same things. I want a movie like this to convince Average Joes. And when it comes to the Romantic agrarian peak oil evangelism this movie traffics in, the Average Joe needs lots of convincing. You’d think the way to go would be to play against stereotype, but to my eye, Escape from Suburbia plays right to it, again and again. It feels ramshackle and homemade, an assemblage of footage with too little focus, …

C'mon ride the train, the Coachella train

Festival-goers hop free ride — and stay car-free, too

As we’ve reported in the past, music festivals across the country are making moves to be more sustainable — mostly involving recycling efforts, compostable utensils, and biodiesel generators. But this year’s Coachella music festival, held in Indio, Calif., April 25-27, took an interesting track, chartering an Amtrak train to transport festival folk to and from L.A. The Coachella Express was set up by the creative minds behind Global Inheritance, a group focusing its attentions on a young, hip, festival-going audience, and involved creating a new train platform in Indio to accommodate the arriving campers. For the 300+ riders who took …

Change now or change never

The longer we wait to move away from gasoline, the more high gas prices will hurt

Like Americans, Europeans are generally not fond of rising fuel costs. Unlike Americans, they’re much better at handling them. It isn’t difficult to understand why; they simply planned ahead. Geoffrey Styles writes: A big part of our problem is that most Americans are still driving cars that were purchased when gasoline was under $1.50/gal., to commute between work and home locations that were chosen when fuel was even cheaper … As of this week, nominal U.S. retail gasoline prices have gone up by 25 percent in the last year and by 130 percent in the last five years. How does …

The ghost of link dumps past

So I was thinking to myself, self, you should do a link dump post so you can close out some of this cluttery crap in your browser. I go to start one, and what do I find? An old link dump post that I’d never published! So here’s an old link dump. Watch for a new one in mere days! —– Thanks to the UK Times Online for deeming Gristmill "the green blog from the other side of the pond." It’s a shame this op-ed is relegated to the Billings Gazette. I’d like to see one like it in every …

Oil hysteria, part 2

Are low gas prices an inalienable right?

I'm listening to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) talk to Thom Hartmann on Air America. Sanders is arguably the best senator in decades, and understands, as he just explained, that we need to transform our energy system toward renewables. But he also said something to the effect that "we have to get gas prices back down." I can't blame him -- particularly in his state of Vermont, rural people are getting slammed by high gas prices, because they have to drive long distances. His main explanation of high prices (with which Thom Hartmann, an important progressive radio talk show host, seems to agree) is based on 1) oil companies ripping us off, 2) speculators pushing up the price of oil, and 3) OPEC keeping a lid on production. While all of those are certainly a problem, and a windfall profits tax that Sanders advocates is certainly in order, if the Senate's most progressive voice is not discussing the problem that the supply of oil is beginning to decline, then I don't see how carbon pricing is going to fare well. In the long run, people will get hysterical as their oil expenditures increase, as I argued in what I will now call Part 1 of what may become a series on oil hysteria. We need to push a mandate on turning the American car fleet into an all-electric fleet, and we need to construct a national high-speed rail and light rail network.

Obama on rail transit

A candidate finally discusses public transit … at a random lunch

So I’m looking at this pool report from a run-of-the-mill day in the Obama campaign. Barack and Michelle dropped by to have lunch with an Indiana couple, Mike and Cheryl Fischer. Mike works in Amtrak’s Beech Grove shop, as his family has for generations. Notes the report dryly: "No news." But I scan down a bit to the middle, where Barack’s talking to Mike about his impending layoff at Amtrak, and suddenly my mouth is hanging open. Says Obama: The irony is with the gas prices what they are, we should be expanding rail service. One of the things I …

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