Cities

An urban denizen beseeches nature writers to focus on cities for a change

A plea to nature writers: Come write about Los Angeles. To all the young aspiring Thoreaus out there: Head to this megalopolis in droves, as if to Mecca. Chicago is also good. New York. Pittsburgh. Atlanta. Reno. Providence. Houston. Indianapolis. Who needs the woods? Photo: iStockphoto Why does the venerable American literary genre of nature writing continue to ignore cities? Sure, a few wonderful writers are traveling the mean streets: very recently, Michael Pollan has rooted urgently through our supermarkets and kitchens. But when I browse the state-of-the-genre bible, the 2002 Norton anthology of nature writing, I can find only …

Happy Feat

GM unveils plug-in hybrid at Detroit car show, sticks out tongue at greens The media got a peek at Detroit’s North American International Auto Show yesterday, and manufacturers had a surprise in store: cars so green they could play hide-and-seek in a cornfield. The biggest buzz surrounded the Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid from General Motors, long vilified for yanking its original electric car in the 1990s. Bob Lutz, GM’s vice chair of global product development, took the opportunity to bridge the chasm between the company and its eco-critics. “Well, here it is … an [electric] car from General Motors. …

Ready Orleans Not

Big Easy residents move back into homes that remain in danger’s path While officials continue to debate the best way to rebuild New Orleans, those who lived there just want to go home. But as residents slowly but surely return, many are reinhabiting houses that may not stand up to severe weather and returning to areas planners think should be abandoned, some of which were submerged in 20 feet of water when Hurricane Katrina hit a year and a half ago. New federal flood guidelines say “substantially damaged” homes must be raised on foundations up to three feet off the …

Move Thyself: A roundup of pedal-powered news in the new year

A pedal-tastic roundup

On a personal new year's note, I can't help but mention the only-months-old but hopelessly addictive new habit I know I'll be nursing throughout the year: mountain biking at night. No idea why I only started doing this recently, and in the winter no less, but there you go. And since I splurged on a set of burly studded mountain-bike tires that should be arriving any day now, snow and ice riding on both trail and street at all hours are up next. That, and on snowmobile trails. Any others out there who want to join the ranks of proud all-weather winter cyclists, check out this excellent website. And for night riders on road or trail, I can't say enough good things about NiteRider Trail Rat headlights. For best results, get at least one extra battery (I have three extras) and maybe a fast recharger. Combine with a $30 LED headlamp for the best night cycling around. Now for the news:

There’s Always the Phone

Norway launches carbon-offset program for officials flying abroad World leaders like to kick off the year with stirring energy-related pronouncements (see: “addicted to oil”). But this New Year’s Day, in a speech peppered with grand statements, Norway Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg made a concrete pledge: the country will begin buying credits to offset the greenhouse-gas emissions of all public employees who fly abroad. Motivated in part by warming trends and the fact that “children are no longer able to make snowmen,” Stoltenberg said the program, which a national news agency estimated would cost about $400,000 a year, could set an …

Taking the long way home: What's wrong with the hydrogen path

Warning: techno-engineering speak ahead

Amory Lovins is rightfully admired by environmentalists. But nobody is right all the time, and the hydrogen path is one of his few mistakes. He summarizes his argument for hydrogen in Twenty Hydrogen Myths (PDF). More extensive discussion is embedded in his book Winning the Oil Endgame (book-length PDF). His basic proposal:

This Rocks Our Sox Off

Boston will require new large buildings to meet green building standards Hooray, Boston: The city is soon expected to require that all new construction projects of 50,000 square feet or more meet green building standards. Projects will be required to follow at least 26 of about 70 suggestions for green design and construction, similar to the U.S. Green Building Council’s minimum LEED standards. Buildings will not be required to be LEED-certified — “The LEED process can be lengthy, onerous in documentation, and costly,” says James W. Hunt III, Boston’s chief of environmental and energy services — but the city will …

How a grassroots biodiesel group can show the way for others

The way that Rob Del Bueno backed into the world of biofuel almost by accident, as told in the article “Small Potatoes,” is emblematic of the way most folks get engaged in grassroots biofuel development. It starts with a desire to use a renewable fuel to power your life long before a GMO-happy megacorporation was going to start reliably supplying you with it, and then it turns into an obsession that alters your whole outlook. Erik Hoffner. At about the same time that Rob was getting started, friends of mine were interested in creating a biodiesel-buying co-op together. Discovering how …

Mileage in Mirror Is Smaller Than It Appears

U.S. EPA revises vehicle mileage formula for 2008 and beyond Wondering why your Escalade gets eight miles to the gallon, not the 11 that was advertised? U.S. EPA to the rescue! In a move reflecting “real-world numbers,” the agency has revised the way it crunches mileage numbers for the first time since 1984. The new formula — ordered by Congress last year and debuting with 2008 models — considers formerly ignored factors like weather, air conditioning, super-speedy acceleration (yeah, we’re looking at you), and stop-and-go traffic. It’s likely to cut current city-mile estimates by 12 percent and highway-mile numbers by …

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