Cities

Carbon offsets and tree huggers

Trees should play a bigger role

After reading the recent posts by Romm, Stein, and Roberts, I have concluded that carbon offsets are a pretty good idea if properly implemented. Once government regulations have been established (and enforced), consumers should be able to buy with greater confidence. As it stands today, you are taking a small risk that your purchase may not actually result in CO2 reductions. So, if you are going to buy them, do your homework first. I also don't see why an individual should do everything reasonably possible to offset carbon emissions that are under their direct control before buying offsets from a third party. Individuals are just as likely to screw up as a third party. For example, putting solar panels on my house might not reduce emissions if my power comes from hydroelectric. I might have had more impact buying green power. Dumping my Prius and riding a Seattle Metro bus might actually increase my CO2 emissions (Seattle Metro buses get about 38 MPG per passenger on average last time I checked).

Fighting transit racism: Building the environmental movement on the buses of L.A.

A perspective from Eric Mann

A Latina woman addresses the board of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). She is part of a crowd of 1,500 people opposing the agency's proposed bus-fare increases. She holds her 3-year-old child up to the board and says, "What would you like me to do? Take the clothes off his back or the food out of his mouth?" L.A., with 10 million people and 7 million cars on the road, is the freeway capital of the U.S. For more than 14 years, the MTA on one side and the Strategy Center and Bus Riders Union (BRU) on the other have been fighting over the future of L.A.'s public transportation -- a fight with important implications for the future of the environmental movement. The heavyweight bout has grown more high-profile this year. Despite massive opposition, on May 24, 2007, the MTA board of directors voted to raise the daily bus fare from $3 to $5 a day and the cost of a monthly bus pass from $52 to $62 a month. This is just the first step in a draconian trajectory that will, if not stopped, push the monthly bus pass to $75 and then $90, force many low-income people off the buses, and compel people to use or buy old cars instead of taking public transit. These policies will increase toxic air pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions, and make the bus riders poorer while making rail contractors richer. The fight over the fare hikes has become a cause célèbre. The Bus Riders Union and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) are in state court trying to reverse the fare hikes on environmental grounds. The BRU is also in front of the federal courts asking for a five-year extension of a federal civil-rights consent decree controlling MTA actions. Dozens of BRU organizers are on the buses, talking to thousands of bus riders, holding community meetings to plan our next countermove. The fight to reverse those fare increases, buy more buses, and stop future money-sucking rail projects is far from over. This dramatic expansion in the breadth and impact of the environmental movement in L.A. could be a model for urban coalitions throughout the U.S.

National Downshifting Week

Quick, do nothing!

In April, Grist profiled Tracey Smith in our InterActivist column. She answered questions from Grist editors and from readers during National Downshifting Week in Britain. She just sent me a note to let me know that this very week is National Downshifting Week USA. Quick! Do nothing!

Here's a green Ditty for ya

More green musicians

We’ve gotten tons of emails from people who are all like “Why didn’t my fav band make your ‘15 Green Musicians and Bands‘ list, yo?” Most of them are just sorta self-righteous and annoying. But today we got one from the good folks over on Spinner.com that pointed to their own list on the subject, which had some overlap with ours, as well as a few cool additions. Their No. 1 gets extra cool points: The Ditty Bops. As they describe them: To promote their 2006 album ‘Moon Over the Freeway,’ the female folk duo went beyond using eco-friendly biodiesel …

Share and share a bike

NYC puts training wheels on new program

New York City is putting training wheels on a new bicycle-sharing program to demonstrate to city-dwellers that two-wheelers can be a viable form of alternative transportation. Sponsored by the Forum for Urban Design, a group of architects, designers, and planners, the five-day trial run has made 20 bikes available for free from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for 30 minutes at a time. Bicycle-sharing programs are already thriving in European cities like Barcelona, Spain, and Lyon, France. A program in Paris will soon make 10,000 bicyclettes available for public use. “A ride-share program would reduce the dependency on automobiles,” says David Haskell …

Southern vacation

A few random observations before getting back to work

Well, here I am, back from a nine-day vacation in the South, sunburned, mosquito-bitten, jet lagged, and generally dazed. Rather than wading through the 300 or so emails demanding my attention, how about a few vacation observations? I split my time between big-city Atlanta and the sort of not-quite-rural, not-quite-city, not-quite-suburb nether regions that, it seems to me, don’t get enough attention in the kind of lay sociological analysis we enviros are prone to. Anyway, everywhere I went looked almost exactly the same: big highways, endless, indistinguishable strip malls, and isolated residential areas separated from any retail or services by …

Sure it's 100 in the shade, but man, nice plane!

While planet burns, Boeing scores a PR victory

At the gym, in between hearing an EMT talk about the heat stroke issues he expects tomorrow, I marveled at how awful news programs were today, devoting huge chunks of time to talking up Boeing's new "Dreamliner" jet, which the blow-drieds say will consume 20 percent less fuel per mile. I even heard one blow say "eventually reducing the cost of air travel." Man, talk about delusional. (Oh, and I know I'm not supposed to connect things like our craze for jet travel and high temperatures, as if to suggest a connection between another spate of record breaking temperatures in what's shaping up to be a record breaking year ... bad me. I'll report to reprogramming.)

The catch phrase of the millennium

Catchy, catchy!

Someone -- possibly Bart A., who frequents these haunts -- came up with a magnificent line that ought to be widely repeated and put on T-shirts, bike stickers, etc: "The Future Has Pedals." Love it!

Report: Diesels will outsell hybrids in the U.S. by 2012

What next? Socialized medicine?

A new report (PDF) claims that more Americans are likely to opt for diesel vehicles over hybrids in the near future in the quest for fuel economy: total sales of hybrids and diesels will hit 2.7 million annually by 2012, and diesels will account for more than half (1.5 million) of those sales. "A new diesel's cost burden is lower than hybrid's for similar fuel economy -- even with the 'clean' technologies needed to meet tough U.S. emissions regulations (including California)," the report claims. Good or bad, there's little doubt that more diesel vehicles are on the horizon.

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