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Eric Britton, sustainable-development booster, answers questions

Eric Britton. What work do you do? I earn my living and pay the rent as an international adviser, consultant, and team builder for public- and private-sector organizations that have accepted that they need new thinking in the face of this uncomfortable concept that some call "sustainable development." That takes about half my time. For the rest, I have since the mid-'70s been involved in creating and maintaining a number of continuing public dialogues about various aspects of sustainable development, starting with The Commons: Open Society Sustainability Initiative. I try to reconcile my NGO work with my advisory relationship with …

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Why can’t we change our oil-sucking land-use preferences?

The other day I expressed disappointment at Kevin Drum's fifth peak oil post -- the one where he lays out his recommendations for oil policy. In my inimitably oblique and unfocused way, I was simply trying to say that I wish he'd been more imaginative. If nothing else, peak oil is going to be a major inflection point in our collective history. It's a sharp turn in the road, and we can't see clearly around the bend. The stakes are huge, and call for a commensurate greatness of mind and expansiveness of thought. What Drum did is basically gather the …

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Choosing the healthiest place to raise your kids can be a complicated matter

Two new reports in British medical journals suggest that choosing the right place to raise your children can have a major impact on their health and well-being. "Duh," you say. But let's look at the details. One study says living within 650 feet of a power line may significantly increase a child's likelihood of developing leukemia, the most common type of childhood cancer. It's a question that's been debated for a while now, and some researchers say the link is still weak. Another study says exposure to aircraft noise may impair reading comprehension, while road traffic noise may actually improve …

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Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Build

Brownfield redevelopment increasingly popular in U.S. cities Developers the U.S. over are lately enamored of "Cinderella" properties (aka brownfields). These formerly contaminated sites can transform into luxury real estate, thanks to the magic of fairy godmothers like, um, the federal government. Once upon a time, the abandoned toxic sites were shunned and only a brave few would attempt cleanup and redevelopment. But recently, federal funding and liability protection for site buyers has increased (along with the price of conventional uncontaminated sites). Also, six states last year passed legislation to ramp up incentives for brownfield redevelopment. Many developers are now eager …

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Like a Metric Earth Day

Mayors from all over globe gather to celebrate World Environment Day A five-day gathering to mark U.N. World Environment Day kicks off tomorrow in San Francisco and is expected to bring together at least 70 mayors from cities across the globe. San Francisco is the first U.S. city to host the annual event and will focus workshops, lectures, and other activities on sustainable city living. One of the major goals of the conference is the signing of the Urban Environmental Accords, a plan -- billed as the urban Kyoto Protocol -- aimed at spurring world cities to take action related …

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Can a Brit survive in North America without a driver’s license?

In the rich mosaic of North American society, I stand rather forlornly on my own as a member of an oft-forgotten minority group: I am an adult male who can't drive. I have a wheelie bad feeling about this. Photo: Andrew White. Catapulted into the overcrowded car culture of Vancouver, British Columbia, from the U.K. last January, I quickly found myself labeled as a maverick and an outcast. People looked at me as if I were mad, misinformed, incapable, or just plain wacky. They told me that the honeymoon couldn't last -- that I wouldn't survive, that the long walks …

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Highway Just Met a Girl Named Maria

Provision in highway bill would require gas-mileage reality check The U.S. EPA would have to use more realistic conditions when testing new vehicle models for gas-mileage figures under an amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), backed by green and consumer groups, and successfully attached to the Senate highway bill. Currently, the agency's methods include evaluating vehicles at an average of 48 miles per hour, and do not account for variables like air-conditioner use, extra cargo, or stop-and-go traffic. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, those unrealistic methods could be costing consumers $20 billion a year for unexpected gas …

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Oh What a Feeling!

Toyota to build Camry hybrids at U.S. plant Toyota announced plans yesterday to begin production of a new hybrid Camry model at a Kentucky plant, marking the Japanese automaker's first foray into hybrid production in North America. With Camry sales tops in the U.S. last year and the company's hybrid Prius selling used for higher than sticker price, Toyota sales exec Jim Press thinks combining the Camry with hybrid technology will be "like magic." The cars should start rolling off assembly lines late in 2006, with initial output expected to be about 48,000 vehicles a year. Toyota will be investing …

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Umbra on whether to visit national parks

Dear Umbra, We are considering a driving vacation this summer with the intent of visiting as many of America's wonderful national parks as we can -- both to enjoy them and to add some money to their coffers, which have been depleted in recent years. But as we all know, burning up lots of gasoline is bad for the environment. My question is: would it be a better environmental choice to drive around and support the national parks, or stay home and not spew all those hydrocarbons into the atmosphere? Jan McCrearySilver City, N.M. Dearest Jan, Our parks are indeed …

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Sick Transit Gloria

Public transit in major cities on collision course with tight budgets Flat or declining revenue and ridership, coupled with increased fuel costs, have left public transit systems in many major cities across the U.S. in financial trouble. Commuters in New York, D.C., Pittsburgh, and Boston have already seen boosted fares over the past few years. Philadelphia and San Francisco are considering similar measures, and Chicago has proposed reducing service, eliminating routes, and hiking fares to account for a $55 million budget hole. Though the cuts are meant to ease financial problems, higher fares and reduced service often lead to a …

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