Brit's Eye View: The future becomes us

Envisioning possible green futures helps create a greener future

Peter Madden, chief executive of Forum for the Future, writes a monthly column for Gristmill on sustainability in the U.K. and Europe. There has been much discussion lately of the need to turn the green agenda from a negative to a positive one. I think that an important part of this is developing some more positive visions of what living in a sustainable future might be like. My organization, Forum for the Future, has set itself this task. Partly because we think the green movement needs more credible and aspirational stories of the future if we are to take people with us. And partly because we become the future that we imagine -- it is to an extent a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, we are trying to take different parts of the future and imagine what they might look like. We now have a series of projects looking at different aspects of future living. Our recent report, "Low Carbon Living 2022," asks how might our lives be better if we get the response to climate change right. A low-carbon Britain doesn't have to mean cutbacks and sacrifice. Low Carbon Living 2022 looks forward 15 years and shows ways in which a low-carbon future could deliver: stronger communities, a cleaner local environment, more money, better transport, a healthier lifestyle, and a thriving economy.

Along the Mississippi: Quote of the day

Granted, it’s early yet

Just met with Laura Carstens, planning services manager for Dubuque. The money quote: “For years, we turned our back on the river. Now we’re making it our front door.” Later today, Sarah and I will …

Along the Mississippi: We're not in Seattle anymore

… or Kansas, for that matter

Here’s what the sign says on the back of the bathroom door in our hotel: Hotel Laws of Iowa Fixing, Limiting, and Determining the Liability of Keepers of Hotels, Inns, Eating-Houses, and Steamboat Owners to …

Along the Mississippi: America's river

Exploring Dubuque’s riverwalk, tourist-style

While Katharine spent the day getting free lunch and talking to city planners, I spent my day exploring what, exactly, all those city planners have spent all their time planning. Namely, the America’s River project …

Along the Mississippi: SDAT thing you do

A meeting of the minds in the Masterpiece on the Mississippi

There’s no free lunch — unless you happen to be a Grist reporter crashing a sustainability conference in Dubuque. I showed up, hungry, for a 12 p.m. presentation by City Manager Mike Van Milligen that …

Along the Mississippi: Buol market

A morning meeting with the mayor of Dubuque

I wish I could tell you I wrote this from atop a log raft while floating down the Mighty Mississippi, but sadly the wifi access out there ain’t so mighty. Instead, I’m sitting at a …

Along the Mississippi: Rollin' on the river

Grist pulls a Huck Finn

Grist is rollin’ (rollin’!) on the river this week, and we’re taking you with us. We’re bound for the Mississippi — the legendary waterway recently deemed an “orphan” of the federal government. Just call us …

This urban life

Even the greenest suburbs can’t touch low urban emission rates

Last Sunday, the Washington Post published a piece by Joel Kotkin and Ali Modarres which sought to debunk the ideas that dense urban areas are greener than their suburban counterparts and that encouraging dense growth …

Wheels of fortune

Bikeways pay for themselves

A decade ago, we wrote that the bicycle is one of the world's seven everyday wonders because it's so simple, effective, affordable, and pollution-free. To that list, we might have added "enriching." Bicycling for transportation pumps money into local economies. Bikes are wheels of fortune. (Thanks to Flickr photographer hanbyholems for the picture to the right.) If your community spends money building bikeways, you and your neighbors will cycle more. Your cycling will put extra money in the local economy. (I'll explain how in a moment.) The extra money will make the community rich enough to pay for more bikeways. More bikeways will induce more cycling, and the virtuous circle will continue. Let's break the process into steps. Building bikeways costs money. Bikeways are cheap, especially compared to roads and trains, but they're not free. In the Puget Sound area, construction can easily cost more than $1 million per mile for a new trail or lane -- not counting land. Seattle's 10-year Bicycle Master Plan sketches a citywide network of cycling routes estimated to cost about $240 million. Retrofitting all of Cascadia's communities for Bicycle Respect -- integrated systems of separate, signaled bikeways as found in parts of northern Europe -- would cost billions of dollars. (Sort of like RTID/ST and Pacific Gateway.)

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