Wayne Curtis is a freelance writer who’s written for The New York Times, Atlantic Monthly, American Scholar, Preservation, and American Heritage, and is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. He recently traded Maine winters for New Orleans summers. Thursday, 24 May 2007 NEW ORLEANS, La Someone once wrote that eating a tomato grown on a fire escape demonstrated the highest order of faith in civilization and technology. To hell with the tomato. If you really want to show your faith, move to New Orleans. The city that always seeps. …
The Bike-To-Work-Week gods had plans for me ... even though I don't actually work. On Mother's Day, May 13, a wheel fell off my stroller. Walking is my main mode of transportation, and I love it. Even with its distance limitations, pushing a stroller felt like a safe alternative to driving and less annoying than taking the bus. My daughters, 18 months and 3, are too old for us to justify buying another stroller and too young to walk the two-mile roundtrip to downtown, the playground, or the library. Since I gave up driving almost a year ago, I've ignored the advice of cycling advocates, both on the web and in real life, because I thought walking served my family just fine. Now, without a stroller, it was time to buy a bike. And a trailer that hooks onto the back. And helmets. And test drive it to the downtown vegetarian coffee shop for a breakfast sandwich. And finally this week, I strapped in the girls for a ride to the playground -- and they loved it. Why, I think, did I wait so long?
Starting in 2008, every new yellow taxi purchased by the city of New York will be a hybrid vehicle, according to an announcement yesterday by Mayor Bloomberg. By 2012, the entire fleet -- some 13,000 cabs -- will have been replaced with a mixture of Toyota Priuses, Highlander Hybrids, Lexus RX 400h's, and Ford Escapes. Thirteen thousand may sound like a drop in the ocean, given that 232 million cars are currently registered in the U.S. alone. Still, cabs are a great target for greening, both because of their high public profile and because of their disproportionately large carbon expenditure. New York City never sleeps, and neither do its taxis, ever spewing their emissions, even while they mostly idle in traffic. Bloomberg certainly is the consummate businessman, as you can see in this Today Show clip -- adept at rubbing shoulders with corporate execs from Yahoo!(which donated 10 hybrid vehicles to one of the major cab fleet operators) to the American Lung Association. One gets rolling advertisements, the other gets less asthma ... and we all get slightly cleaner Big Apple air.
New York City will convert entire taxi fleet to hybrids The big yellow taxis of the Big Apple will all be hybrids by 2012 under a plan announced yesterday by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The city has been testing 375 hybrid cabs for 18 months, and will soon begin converting its 13,000-vehicle fleet. “It will be the largest, cleanest fleet of taxis anywhere on the planet,” Bloomberg said, adding that the switch would be the equivalent of taking 30,000 individually owned, gasoline-powered vehicles off the streets. “These [cabs] just sit there in traffic sometimes, belching fumes,” he said. “This does a …
Global warming activists have often advocated policies based on numerical goals or painted scary scenarios of the future. But there is a third way to advocate for long-term policies: propose solutions that contain a positive vision of a fossil fuel-free society. The importance of this approach was underlined to me when I heard Betsy Rosenberg of the radio show Ecotalk interview Chip Heath, an author of the business-oriented book, Made to Stick. She asked Heath what he thought of the phrase "20% by 2020," that is, reducing carbon emissions by 20% by 2020. She thought it had a nice ring to it ... until Heath responded, well, no, nothing turns people off like a bunch of numbers. Instead, the author advised environmentalists to use "concrete images." Therefore, instead of talking about numeric targets for carbon emissions reductions in order to avoid hell on earth, I'd like to try to paint a picture of how to create a society that might be better than the one we live in now. In that spirit, let me propose the following scenario:
New York Times Magazine manages the somewhat astounding feat of conducting a thoroughly boring interview with Bill McDonough, one of the most interesting people on the planet.
What if cities had no sidewalks and everyone walked on the road? Or, for urban recreation, they walked on a few scenic trails? What if the occasional street had a three-foot-wide "walking lane" painted on the asphalt, between the moving cars and the parked ones? Well, for starters, no one would walk much. A hardy few might brave the streets, but most would stop at "walk?! in traffic?!" Fortunately, this car-head vision is fiction for most pedestrians, but it's not far from nonfiction for bicyclists. Regular bikers are those too brave or foolish to be dissuaded by the prospect of playing chicken with two-ton behemoths. Other, less-ardent cyclists stick to bike paths; they ride for exercise, not transportation. Bike lanes, in communities where they exist, are simply painted beside the horsepower lanes. People react reasonably: "bike?! in traffic?!" And they don't. "It's not safe" is what the overwhelming majority say when asked why they bike so little. (As it turns out, it's safer than most assume -- on which, more another day.) So what would cities look like if we provided the infrastructure for safe cycling? What does "bike friendly" actually look like?
Despite record-setting gas prices, U.S. drivers haven't changed their gas-guzzling habits, says AP. Not only are we consuming as much as we always have, new vehicle sales seem to be tilting even more in favor of trucks than cars. But wait, USA Today disagrees. They say that drivers are, in fact, starting to cut back on how much they drive -- a clear sign that higher gas prices are starting to bite. Who's right? Who cares! Either way, the consumer response to massive increases in gas prices over the last five years has been teensy-tiny.
A while back I mentioned a McKinsey Global Institute report showing that efficiency is the fastest, cheapest way to cut global GHG emissions. Now McKinsey’s got a new report out, making a heretical claim: even though homeowners could vastly improve energy efficiency and save tons of money over the long term with current technologies, there won’t be widespread adoption of those technologies without market intervention — i.e., stronger regulations. Whatever will the market fundies think? Speaking of efficiency, Joel Makower’s got a good roundup of recent efficiency news.