Cities

CO2's lowest hanging fruit?

We’re inside it

We all know buildings are part of the global warming problem, but many people don't recognize how central they are to the solution. A recent UNEP report -- "Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities" -- shines light on how relevant and accessible building-related climate change solutions are. Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said: By some conservative estimates, the building sector world-wide could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol. The International Energy Agency estimates that a total global switch to compact fluorescent bulbs would in 2010 deliver C02 savings of 470 million tonnes or slightly over half of the Kyoto reductions. We have to ask what the hurdles are -- if any -- to achieving such positive low cost change and set about decisively and swiftly to overcome them, if they exist at all. I realize Kyoto is not our final goal, but the point here is the potential for harvesting carbon reductions from buildings is immense, and most of solutions are 1) with us already and 2) relatively low-cost to deploy. The challenge is largely changing practices. But as Achim notes, the hurdles in the building sector, unlike some other sectors, may not be very substantial.

What's wrong with sprawl

Ten things

I doubt we have many sprawl-lovers in the audience, but just in case you need the comprehensive case against sprawl in one convenient location, check out “Ten Things Wrong with Sprawl” by James M. McElfish, Jr., director of the Sustainable Use of Land Program at the Environmental Law Institute. Here are the ten things, in highly condensed form: Sprawl development contributes to a loss of support for public facilities and public amenities. Sprawl undermines effective maintenance of existing infrastructure. Sprawl increases societal costs for transportation. Sprawl consumes more resources than other development patterns. Sprawl separates urban poor people from jobs. …

The adults in my community

Americans spend 95 percent of their lives indoors

I was recently working in the front yard on one of those warm days that sporadically appear in March and April. Patricia came by, walking her bike up the hill and still wearing her bike helmet. She has watched my daughters grow up and always asks about them. Patricia is a thinking person and I always enjoy chatting with her. The topics included status seeking (my favorite), electric bikes, her present job, an article in The New York Times about global warming, and her ninety-something year-old multimillionaire mom. Patricia signed off when the neighborhood drunk bellied up. What village or town would be complete without one? Turns out he's on the wagon and I wished him luck. My family has watched him stagger back and forth to the liquor store for almost two decades and he has taken way too much interest in my oldest daughter lately, who made the mistake of washing a car out front in a bikini last summer.

The children in my community

Tips for reliving your childhood

I recently removed the play structure I'd built 16 years ago in our backyard. I remember wondering as I built it, "What will it feel like when I tear it down?" Well, it was kind of sad. Memories washed over me as I worked. Time perception isn't linear. I also tore down the tree house I'd built for my kids. Not only have they outgrown it, but it also wasn't in our tree. Our neighbors had graciously given us permission to use their tree because we didn't have one of our own. Luckily, Seattle's building department has standing orders to ignore kid's tree houses.

Sonoma Mountain Village

Green urban development, in just 12 years!

If you can ignore the egregious lede — did green building really come from hippies? — there’s much to celebrate in this article on Sonoma Mountain Village, “a community of about 2,000 homes and businesses, centered around a town square, using the latest principles of sustainability, green technology and new urbanism.” It’ll be about 175 acres, done in about 12 years, and muy verde: To make the plan work, Codding [Enterprises] spent $7.5 million to create the largest privately owned solar power installation in Northern California — 90,000 square feet of solar panels capable of generating 1.14 megawatts to power …

See me in Seattle

I'm giving a presentation Wed., Mar 28 to the Green Builders Guild on Solutions to climate chaos for Green builders, homeowners, and citizens. Location below the fold.

Is the government a criminal syndicate?

The Supreme Court considers an extortion suit against federal land managers

The Supreme Court heard argument in a curious case this week. No, I'm not talking about the celebrated "Bong Hits for Jesus" case. The second case on Monday's docket involved an Alabaman turned Wyoming rancher claiming that government bureaucrats had engaged in extortion by enforcing the letter of the law. An appellate court in Denver, Colo., ruled that Harvey Frank Robbins (the rancher) could sue Charles Wilkie and other Bureau of Land Management employees under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (also known as RICO) -- a law used to prosecute mobsters involved in organized crime. Now the chance for the Supremes to weigh in, and maybe hint at what they're thinking ...

Next Stop, Wonderment

Last year, U.S. saw highest public-transit ridership since 1957 Hooray for sky-high gas prices! Thanks to the manipulative maneuverings of Big Oil, public transit ridership in the U.S. is on the rise too. A report from the American Public Transportation Association says miffed tank-fillers and others took 10 billion mass-transit trips last year — 2.9 percent more than in 2005, 28 percent more than in 1996, and the most since 1957. Cities including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, and Tulsa have seen a spike in riders, and are adding buses and trains to meet growing demand. Besides outlandish fuel …

Seattle's difficult decision: Cary Moon

She prefers a ‘people’s waterfront’

Seattle is facing a difficult decision: what to do with a crumbling highway that serves as a major north-south corridor through the city? Below, we hear from Cary Moon. Cary is a landscape and urban designer and co-founder of the People’s Waterfront Coalition. The PWC’s No-Highway option won second prize in a national design competition sponsored by Metropolis magazine, called “Next Generation: Big Idea.” —– Faced with a maddening choice between two miserable highway options to blight our downtown shore for another century, Seattleites are wondering how in the heck we got here. How did our beautiful green city end …