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Two new nature books for city slickers

Lately, green is the new black in the American metropolis. Here in New York City, the cabbies are driving hybrids and the fashionistas are wearing organic jeans. Even in my decidedly un-hip Brooklyn neighborhood, the corner deli sells organic milk and cookies. Green is busting out all over. Photo: iStockphoto. Green-tinted consumerism is probably gaining ground in your city too. (Is that a Whole Foods opening up downtown? A Chipotle restaurant selling free-range pork burritos in the storefront that once nurtured a Krispy Kreme?) But if your city is anything like mine, centuries of energy, habitation, waste, and other systems …

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Bay City Tollers

San Francisco looks into congestion charging If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear ... a money clip. The city creatively known as "The City" plans to study the possibility of "congestion charges" -- making drivers pay to enter downtown during business hours. Critics include some stores in high-traffic areas, which fear that disincentives for downtown motor travel would hurt business. In London, which pioneered the concept three years ago, congestion charges have reduced downtown traffic by 30 percent and brought in about $350 million for the government. They take it very seriously there: London mayor Ken Livingstone …

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Does Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods say anything new?

OK, call me a crank, a malcontent, a hypercritical reviewer with a small, crabbed heart. But despite all its earnestness, despite its heartfelt message, which an environmentalist and concerned parent like me should embrace -- in brief, that nature is good for children -- Richard Louv's plea to reengage our children with nature left me strangely uninspired. As with all good ideas, it is one worth repeating, but I would have been happier reading Emerson, I think, for the lesson. Last Child in the Woods, by Richard Louv, Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 336 pgs, 2005. Louv, a columnist for …

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An interview with Richard Louv about the need to get kids out into nature

Richard Louv is an anecdote machine. As we milled about near the door of a Seattle cafe awaiting lunch-hour seating, he kept up a constant stream of witty, telling stories -- about "no running" signs on playgrounds, clueless environmental leaders, suffering outdoor-gear execs. I started fumbling for my recorder. Richard Louv. It's no wonder Louv's got a trove of such chestnuts: As a longtime journalist (he's written for just about every leading U.S. newspaper and magazine, and now has a regular column in the San Diego Union-Tribune) and the author of seven books about family, community, and nature, he's been …

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In the world’s slums, the worst of poverty and environmental degradation collide

This article was originally published in OrionOnline. Precarious dwellings in North Sulawasi, Indonesia. Photos: iStockphoto. A villa miseria outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, may have the worst feng shui in the world: it is built in a flood zone over a former lake, a toxic dump, and a cemetery. Then there's the barrio perched precariously on stilts over the excrement-clogged Pasig River in Manila, Philippines, and the bustee in Vijayawada, India, that floods so regularly that residents have door numbers written on pieces of furniture. In slums the world over, squatters trade safety and health for a few square meters of …

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Oiling for a Flight

The top 10 best places to live during an oil crisis Pack yer bags, kids -- there's an oil crisis coming and we're moving to the Big Apple! Eco-website SustainLane has come up with a list of the 10 U.S. cities best able to weather an oil crisis, and New Yawk is number one. The most heavily weighted factor was mobility; in an oil crunch there's likely to be less of it. Thus, the top 10 were the usual suspects, big cities that have managed to avoid (relatively) excessive sprawl while encouraging citizens to use public transport. Philadelphia made No. …

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Will an Atlanta parks and redevelopment project benefit low-income residents?

Atlanta, Ga.: the famous "Hot-lanta" of Southern heat and hospitality, home of "down-home" fried chicken and a growing black middle class, cradle of the largest historically black college community in the world, hotbed of the civil-rights movement, and ... the sprawl capital of the South. As Atlanta gets greener, who will benefit? Photo: iStockphoto. As a resident of Atlanta for the past 15 years, I have witnessed one bad urban-planning decision after another. I have watched the fare for public transportation go up to pay for its expansion into the suburbs, while services in the inner city got cut -- …

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So 2003

Luxury SUVs are losing their cool The jerk-offs who drive enormous, fuel-hogging luxury SUVs between their gated McMansions, plastic surgeons, and corporate-whore jobs -- not that there's anything wrong with that -- are slowly but surely realizing that they are, in fact, jerk-offs. Sales of all SUVs have dropped, but luxe behemoths like the Hummer H2 are taking a particularly big hit; more than half the folks who bought them and their like are opting for something a little less jerk-offy when they return to the dealer lot. Don't blame high gas prices -- if you can afford a $60,000 …

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The Road to Hell Is Paved With ‘Hood Intentions

Census estimates show U.S. population shifting to exurbs As the U.S. population rises, more and more people are moving into compact, smartly planned, energy-efficient cities. Ha! Ha! Sigh. Actually, the fastest-growing areas of the country are fringes: suburbs and semi-rural areas on the edges of expanding metropolitan regions. "It's not just the decade of the exurbs but the decade of the exurbs of the exurbs. People are leaving expensive cores and going as far out as they can to get a big house and a big yard," says demographer William Frey, compactly summarizing everything wrong with this crazy country. Americans …

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A plan to spruce up D.C.’s Anacostia River has some residents anxious

In the southeast corner of Washington, D.C., the capital of the most powerful nation in history, lies a polluted, neglected neighborhood known as Anacostia. Slated for a grand renewal project centered on the local river that gives it its name, the area stands at the juncture of poverty and opportunity. If plans move forward, it will one day be a showcase of urban design, with revitalized neighborhoods, verdant parks, rolling pedestrian and bicycle paths, and an occasional eagle soaring overhead -- in other words, a paradise. Today, Anacostia is more of a nightmare. Capital improvements are coming to D.C.'s other …

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