Cities

Welp, Back to Swimming

Two days after it began, service on the muchly protested Hawaii Superferry has been suspended indefinitely, for environmental-impact and protester-safety reasons.

Hybrid wars

Honda fights to regain green car company mantle

Honda entered the hybrid market before Toyota, but over time it made a fateful mistake: it failed to visually distinguish its line of hybrids. The Prius’ distinct shape is like peacock feathers — it signals your identity to the world. Who wants to be virtuous if nobody knows about it? Now Honda’s gotten the message and it’s returning to the fight: [Honda is] working on a new high-profile hybrid — a Prius fighter that analysts expect will have the highest mileage on the road when it arrives in 2009. Code-named the “Global Small Hybrid,” Honda’s new gas-electric model won’t be …

‘Eco cities’ easier said than done in today’s China

Remember architect Bill McDonough’s much-ballyhooed "eco-cities" in China? Mara Hvistendahl points to troubling signs that the projects are falling apart.

Ferry Ferry, Quite Contrary

Hawaii’s first-ever inter-island ferry service comes under protest Hawaii’s first-ever inter-island passenger ferry service set off this weekend amidst protests that it could harm marine life, spread invasive species, and worsen pollution. The docking of the ferry’s second voyage was delayed by a dozen steamed surfers, while hundreds more protesters stood on the island seawall shouting and carrying signs. (Perhaps most eloquent: “Stupid ferry, stupid riders.”) Hawaii’s Supreme Court had ruled Thursday that the state should have required an environmental review before letting the Hawaii Superferry go forward; in response, the ferry service moved its maiden voyage up by two …

Gardens in the hood

Urban agriculture does more than provide healthy food for those who need it

Phoebe Connelly and Chelsea Ross have a detailed and incredibly heartening story on urban agriculture in In These Times. It focuses on urban ag projects that target inner city "food deserts," where liquor stores outnumber groceries 20-to-1 and the most easily available food is fried. It’s not just about food, though: “We are what most folks would consider organic, but we’re not certified,” the Food Project’s Burns says. “That’s not as important to us. We’re in the community; folks can just come by and see our practices. It’s about transparency.” Accessibility is at the heart of what these groups call …

Mmmm ... low-hanging fruit

Building professionals overestimate costs and underestimate benefits of green building

A new study (PDF) from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development finds that folks in the real estate and construction businesses overestimate the cost of building green by 300%. Specifically, the 1,400 professionals surveyed across the globe estimated that: green building costs 17% more than normal building, when the reality is 5%, and greenhouse gases from buildings are 19% of the global total, when the reality is 40%. Got that? People in the relevant industries underestimate the damage their products are doing, and overestimate how much it costs to clean them up. You can read the study as disheartening, …

Haiku Times on community gardens (with gorgeous photos)

There is a really nice issue of Haiku Times devoted to community gardens. The haikus are variously lovely, funny, and insightful, and the photos are absolutely beautiful.

Roads vs. transit

Seattle enviros face a Hobson’s choice in November

This November, those of us who live in and around Seattle will vote on a $17.7 billion transportation package that would expand light rail (by 50 miles) but also include billions for road expansion -- including roads that will primarily serve sprawling developments to Seattle's south and east, making the package a Hobson's choice for environmentalists. (The state legislature tied the roads and transit votes together last year, on the theory that road supporters will only support transit if it's accompanied by pavement, and vice versa.) A lot of the debate around whether the package is good or bad, environmentally speaking, has centered around whether the roads part of the package (known as the Regional Transportation Investment District, or RTID) consists mostly of "good" or "bad" roads. There are a lot of elements to this debate, the first of which is: What constitutes a "good" road? Are new HOV lanes "good" (because they serve people who are carpooling) or "bad" (because they're still new road miles), and could they have been created by converting preexisting general-purpose lanes to HOV lanes? Another issue is whether roads that are designated primarily for freight, but can be used by single-occupancy cars, count as "good" or "bad." Further confusing matters is the question of whether already-clogged roads produce more or fewer greenhouse gases when they're expanded to accommodate more traffic, because traffic moves more smoothly (at least for a little while.) Given all those variables, it's not surprising that Seattle's environmental community is split on whether RTID/Sound Transit is a good or a bad thing.

Green goes the Lower Ninth

The Nation reports on sustainable revitalization of the New Orleans neighborhood

This article by Rebecca Solnit is reprinted from the Sept. 10, 2007 issue of The Nation, released today, which focuses on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, two years later. Solnit is the author of a dozen books, including, most recently, Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics. ----- The word "will" comes up constantly in the Lower Ninth Ward now; "We Will Rebuild" is spray-painted onto empty houses; "it will happen," one organizer told me. Will itself may achieve the ambitious objective of bringing this destroyed neighborhood back to life, and for many New Orleanians a ferocious determination seems the only alternative to being overwhelmed and becalmed. But the fate of the neighborhood is still up in the air, from the question of whether enough people can and will make it back to the nagging questions of how viable a city and an ecology they will be part of. The majority of houses in this isolated neighborhood are still empty, though about a tenth of the residents are back, some already living in rehabilitated houses, some camped in stark white FEMA trailers outside, some living elsewhere while getting their houses ready. If you measured the Lower Ninth Ward by will, solidarity and dedication, from both residents and far-flung volunteers and nonprofits, it would be among the best neighborhoods in the United States. If you measured it by infrastructure and probabilities, it looks pretty grim. There are more devastated neighborhoods in New Orleans and neighboring St. Bernard Parish, let alone Mississippi and the Delta, but the Lower Ninth got hit hard by Katrina. Its uncertain fate has come to be an indicator for the future of New Orleans and the fate of its African-American majority.

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