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Wheelie Great

Car-Free Day Helps Clear the Air in Europe Citizens in more than 1,000 cities around the world were treated to cleaner air and less congested streets yesterday on the sixth annual car-free day. The event was particularly popular in Europe, where air pollution has had a higher profile since August, when poor air quality accompanied scorching hot temperatures, perhaps contributing to heat-related deaths. In participating cities, the streets were taken over by pedestrians, rollerbladers, and cyclists, and mass transit fees were lowered or dropped altogether. In Paris, police blocked most vehicles from the city center. In Britain, light-hearted phrasebooks were …

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Sake It to ‘em

Tokyo High Court Hears Long-Running Pollution Case In the latest development in a seven-year court case, the Tokyo High Court yesterday began hearing a lawsuit that accuses the Japanese government, the Tokyo metropolitan government, the Metropolitan Expressway Public Corporation, and several diesel-vehicle manufacturers of endangering the health of the city's citizens by failing to stem automobile pollution. The lawsuit features 99 plaintiffs who suffer from respiratory ailments or lost family members to pollution-related illnesses. They say the defendants in the case failed to institute regulations and technology to control the city's pollution problems. Three similar lawsuits involving the same defendants …

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City of Light Traffic

Paris, Edinburgh Contemplate London-Style Traffic Fees Thousands of miles from Tokyo, France and Scotland are trying to figure out what to do about their own traffic-induced pollution problems. The French government is considering instituting a toll for vehicles entering Paris, which is suffering from severe pollution as a result of heavy traffic combined with consistently high summer temperatures. Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Edinburgh city council voted to move forward with a plan to charge drivers roughly $3.25 to enter the city in an effort to limit congestion and pollution. The money would be used to fund public transportation projects. Both …

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Taking Leaves of Our Senses

U.S. Cities Lose 20 Percent of Trees Urban sprawl and highway construction have gobbled up greenery at a startling rate, leaving U.S. cities with 20 percent fewer trees than they had just 10 years ago, according to the environmental group American Forests. In a study released as part of the annual National Urban Forest conference, researchers used satellite images to look at the tree canopy in 448 urban areas. The loss was dramatic everywhere, but it was most acute in cities in the fast-growing Sunbelt. Atlanta, Ga., suffered the highest loss of trees, while Charlotte, N.C., and San Diego, Calif., …

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A Nice Piece of Tailpipe

New Low-Polluting Cars to Hit U.S. Showrooms Next Month There are low-emission vehicles (LEVs), ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs), super-ultra-low-emission vehicles (SULEVs), and the holy grail of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). As if the clean-car world weren't baffling enough, now there's a new acronym to add to this alphabet soup -- partial zero-emission vehicles (PZEVs), which Ford and Toyota will begin selling across the U.S. next month. They're not quite non-polluting, but they're getting closer. PZEVs look and perform like standard cars -- they've just got a couple hundred dollars worth of equipment that makes them markedly cleaner. Ford's first PZEV model will …

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Grand Shift Auto

Car Ownership Surging in Beijing The number of registered cars in Beijing jumped to 2 million last month, doubling in just six years. Now one in five households in the Chinese capital owns a car, a huge shift from the situation a decade ago, when most cars were owned by the government and the city's residents were more likely to have a run-in with a horse-drawn cart than a motorized vehicle. Along with the surge in car ownership has come traffic congestion and increased pollution -- this in a city already notorious for having some of the worst air quality …

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Meet the New Mobile, Worse than the Old Mobile

New Snowmobiles to Be Permitted in Yellowstone Are Dirtier Than Old Models A new generation of ostensibly cleaner and quieter snowmobiles turns out to be more polluting than older models, according to tests by the U.S. EPA. In a controversial Bush administration decision, the new snowmobiles were approved for use in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks after the industry promised they would have a lower impact on the environment; now, it turns out that the new 'mobiles produce from 40 to 213 percent more emissions than 2002 models. The tests measured carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions, as well as …

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Community-based forestry takes root in the U.S.

Can a "forest economy" be good for the forest? A new movement known as community-based forestry says yes. Also referred to as community forestry, CBF is dramatically different from most forest management practiced in the U.S., and increasing numbers of environmentalists are championing the cause. Land of the trees, and home of the brave. Photo: NPS. As the name implies, CBF encourages community members to get involved in forest management. The movement was started by local forest practitioners -- loggers, owners of small mills, private landowners, and community planners -- in collaboration with other stakeholders, such as environmental organizations and …

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The Fat of the Land

Study Links Obesity to Suburban Sprawl No, it's not a national thyroid problem: The U.S. obesity epidemic is caused in part by suburban sprawl, according to a study released yesterday by the National Center for Smart Growth. The study, which involved more than 200,000 people in 448 counties, was the first comprehensive examination of the health effects of sprawl, and was also the first to produce concrete evidence of the relationship between sprawl and weight gain. To wit: People who live in the most sprawling parts of the country spend less time walking and weigh about six pounds more, on …

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Lessons from Blackout 2003

Things started to go awry near Cleveland at 3:06 p.m. on Aug. 14, more than an hour before the largest North American blackout in history. A transmission line carrying 345 kilovolts of power overheated, sagged into a tree, and automatically shut off to protect itself from melting entirely. Instantaneously, the colossal current of electricity it was carrying found a new route, sluicing into a neighboring cable. Twenty-six minutes later, the cable that picked up the misplaced load was also toast, a victim of overload. Stranded commuters cross the Brooklyn Bridge during the blackout. As the mounting flow of wayward electricity …

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