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Knock, Knock, Knockin’ on Obrador’s Heaven

Ambitious new bus rapid-transit system hits the road in Mexico City Mexico City mayor and popular presidential hopeful Andrés Manuel López Obrador hopes to clear some of his city's legendary smog and gridlock with an ambitious pilot transport project -- a bus system with a hint o' subway. Eighty new low-emission Volvo jumbo buses have replaced about 350 older, smaller buses along a portion of Insurgentes, Mexico City's main north-south drag, running in dedicated lanes free of other vehicles. Passengers prepay for tickets and board from one of 36 modern new stations along the route. While critics contend that everything …

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Al Norman, anti-Wal-Mart activist, answers questions

Al Norman. With what environmental organization are you affiliated? I'm founder of Sprawl-Busters. What does your organization do? We help community groups fight off big-box sprawl -- strategize their battles, understand key objectives, and develop a game plan. What, in a perfect world, would constitute "mission accomplished"? Getting people to stop shopping at these giant stores and invest their money in local businesses. How does it relate to the environment? We would end the practice of building shopping plazas consisting of 20 or more acres of concrete and asphalt. What do you really do, on a day-to-day basis? I hear …

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Nudity. Cycling. What's not to like?

Heck, I’d cycle nude even if it wasn’t for a good cause

Speaking of naked protests: This weekend, hundreds of cyclists across the world rode in what is by far my favorite protest -- the World Naked Bike Ride. Riding against oil dependence, for cyclists' rights, or just to feel the breeze on all their parts while surrounded by a bunch of naked friends and/or strangers, protestors bared all in some 50 cities in 17 countries, including London, Chicago, Seattle, and Madrid. And what could be better? Naked cycling protests combine the energy and exhilaration of three already pretty exhilarating activities: public nudity, protesting in the streets, and cycling. Seriously, if you've …

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Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair

San Francisco named most sustainable city; Houston least San Francisco, Portland, Ore., Berkeley, Calif., and Seattle took the top four spots in a new ranking of 25 U.S. cities based on sustainability practices. Bay Area green group SustainLane created the list after scrutinizing the metropolises based on 12 criteria, including air quality, transportation, green building, and land use. Detroit was second to last and Houston the big loser -- "The city was built on oil and it shows," said the report. "Portland and San Francisco and other cities are really achieving things that are incredible," said SustainLane's Warren Karlenzig, pointing …

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Bikesharing services

Do they ever really work?

This Treehugger post on a Toronto bikeshare service reminded me of my hazy days in Missoula, MT. (The weather was plenty clear, mind you ...) While I was there, a bikeshare service called Freecycles was launched with great fanfare, flooding the streets with clunky green refurbished bikes -- free to use for anyone! For a while they were an iconic sight around town. Of course, I never rode one, and didn't know anybody who did, except as a novelty. Then there were fewer, and fewer, and then the program disappeared with a whimper. And it's not a surprise, I guess. …

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Ask Not for Whom the Toll Jells

U.K. transport secretary wants new tax on motorists U.K. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling wants to prevent "L.A.-style gridlock" on England's major motorways. (With the U.K.'s tough gun-control laws, that shouldn't be a problem, right?) He's trying to drum up public support for "road pricing," a tax of up to $2 per mile on drivers who frequent the country's busiest roads, to be assessed by way of an ambitious high-tech satellite and GPS surveillance system. Transport experts agree it may be the best way to ease congestion; the political feasibility of such taxes is less clear, though the experience of Old …

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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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Suburbia, oil, and preferences

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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A beautiful day in the neighborhood

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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