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Edible Bus Stop turns London transit routes into a network of community gardens

Obviously your first thought when you hear “edible bus stop” is “Stay away! It was built by witches!” (No? Just me?) But shockingly, the Edible Bus Stop project is not about luring children to bus stops by building them out of gingerbread. Instead, it’s about providing food to the community by turning bus stops into public gardens.

The Edible Bus Stop began as "a guerrilla garden project" alongside a South London bus stop. A small strip of land was being offered up for sale, and a group of locals started growing things in it. The group's founder, Mark Gilchrist, told The Guardian:

The space was humble and neglected by the council, but rather than see it sold, I rallied the neighbourhood into taking it over and guerrilla gardening it as a community garden for all to share and enjoy.

Now there's a second Edible Bus Stop going, and three more in the works. The goal is to have a network of community gardens that parallels the bus network. Here's a lovely little video explaining the concept:


Visualize a shorter commute — or a better job

If you lived at the Watergate, this is how long your commute would be around the city by car. Good news is that should you be heading to, say, the White House, you can get there in about 10 minutes. (Probably faster under cover of darkness.)

Should you choose instead to travel by public transit, the trip takes slightly longer, but it's easier to blend in with crowds.

These images were generated by Trulia's awkwardly named "Visual analysis of local data" tool, henceforth known as the Commute-o-matic.™ It's less complicated than it seems. The tool looks at known public transit routes (bus stops, train stations) and the travel times between them. What makes it look magical is the speed with which it makes the calculations.

In most cities, you can almost always get more places in less time by car. That revelation won't shock you, though the extent of the problem might. Compare San Jose with San Francisco. Huge difference in what public transit allows.


Colorado Springs probably didn’t need to worry about demand for wind power

On June 4, the city of Colorado Springs' electrical utility signed a two-year contract for 108,000 megawatt-hours of wind power in a new effort partly aimed at gauging demand.

As of yesterday, 96.5 percent of that power has been claimed by customers.

From the Colorado Springs Gazette:

Large customers such as military bases and universities have tentatively agreed to take 102,730 megawatt-hours, and Utilities’ existing Green Power customers will take another 1,578 megawatt-hours of the pool, leaving 3,800 megawatt-hours up for grabs. ...

Council members said they were concerned that Utilities wouldn’t find enough customers willing to pay a premium for renewable energy, leaving other ratepayers to foot the bill, which would have increased bills by as much as 2 percent. The short-term contract with Xcel will be cost-neutral to average ratepayers, Romero said.

The city considered a 20-year contract for a large amount of power, but worried that a lack of demand would commit all of their costumers to higher rates over the long-term. Based on initial response, that concern seems to have been unfounded. A 20-year contract would have had additional benefits, as noted by the Sierra Club's Bryce Carter: locking in a cost that, while higher now, promises to become cheaper than fossil fuel-based power as extraction costs of the latter climb. If the federal production tax credit for wind is renewed, the utility will consider a longer contract next year.


NYC’s first day of summer: White hot, hungry for power

Photograph of the author, taken today.

It's hot on the East Coast today. Very hot. To the extent that I'm fairly confident that my brain isn't working properly. The first day of summer is saying, "Hey, everyone! I'm here! Look at me!" Yeah, we see you, summer.

Temperatures in New York and Washington, D.C., are still over 90 degrees F. A local station in Baltimore reported that it was 775 degrees there, but that seems a little high. These are the days when we look wistfully at our air conditioners, appreciating all that they do for us even as we know that we shouldn't use them, but we use them anyway. (Love you, air conditioner!) (Need tips on buying one? Voila.)

Here's how the temperatures in New York between yesterday and today compare. (The gap is missing data, probably obviously.)

Here's a chart of the average temperature for June 20 in New York.

Image courtesy of

Today's temperature is somewhere above and outside the graph.


EPA to consider whether Alabama landfill violates community’s civil rights

Coal ash from the Tennessee spill.

One of the core tenets of the environmental justice movement is that poorer communities and communities of color disproportionately bear the negative impacts of a pollution-rife economy. Power plants and water treatment centers aren't built in affluent areas.

Now, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being asked to decide if the location of a landfill is a violation of a predominantly black community's civil rights.

In 2011, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (DEM) renewed the permit for a landfill in Uniontown, Ala. The Arrowhead landfill is authorized to receive more solid waste per day than any other landfill in the state -- waste that includes coal ash, toxic residue from coal-burning power plants. Four million tons of ash from Tennessee's 2008 Kingston power plant spill ended up at Arrowhead.

This January, residents filed a complaint with the EPA, arguing that the renewal of the permit was a discriminatory violation of the Civil Rights Act. From a report at the Huffington Post:

The Uniontown facility has been the focus of a long and contentious battle between the mostly black residents living nearby and the developers of the landfill, which opened for receipt of municipal waste and other trash in 2007. The facility is currently permitted to receive up to 15,000 daily tons of municipal, industrial, commercial and construction waste -- as well as "special waste" like coal ash -- from nearly three dozen states.

Taken in aggregate, the civil rights complaint argues, the population of that expansive service area is predominantly white, while the population bordering the landfill is nearly 100 percent African American.

Read more: Coal, Infrastructure


These elderly fatality statistics may spoil your affection for big-box stores

Photo by Trevor Stoddart.

Obviously, everyone loves a nice strip mall. The parking lot, the low-slung, cheap-looking buildings, the pedestrian walkways that no drivers pay attention to.

And big-box stores! The lots! The long walks down busy parking lanes! The Brutalism-meets-Brady-Bunch aesthetic! What's not to like?

So it pains me, truly,  to be the bearer of this bad news. There's a slight (actually, not-so-slight) correlation between strip malls and big-box stores and increased deaths among the elderly.

A recently released report [PDF] from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M is the bearer of this bad news. Anticipating that some 10 percent of the population would be 75 or older by 2050, they set out to study how the design of traffic flow within a community related to accidents involving pedestrians and drivers at that advanced age.


2,500-mph train could get you from New York to London in an hour

Nature abhors a vacuum, but transit nerds and people eager to see a science fiction future LOVE IT. That's because a vacuum is the secret ingredient for this (theoretical, but plausible) superfast train, which could speed under the ocean to get you from New York to London in one hour, or New York to Beijing in two.


Why the rumors about the iPhone ditching walking, public transit are wrong

Image by Zoli Erdos.

Okay, everyone. Take a deep breath. The new Apple operating system didn't kill walking and public transit directions, as some have feared.

Feeling better? Good. Here are the details.

I happen to be a registered Apple developer. I'd like to pretend that it's because I'm constantly creating new, lucrative iPhone apps, but it's actually because I accidentally screwed up my phone last year and had to register as a developer in order to unbreak it. The plus side: I get to download beta versions of the Apple iPhone software, iOS. In order to test the validity of claims that Apple was planning to ship without walking or public transit directions, I downloaded iOS 6.

Here's what I found.


Getting used to being in charge of the planet

Last week's news about the tipping-point study in Nature ought to prompt some serious thinking. It is becoming increasingly clear that the decisions made by people alive today will determine the fate of life on Earth for centuries to come.

When stated plainly, that sounds almost absurd, like a science fiction premise: "They held the power to control the wooorld!" But it's true nonetheless. After a multi-century explosion in number, power, and impact, homo sapiens is now the dominant force on the planet, reshaping its biophysical systems through land-use changes, resource depletion, and climate change. We live in the Anthropocene, a geologic era shaped by humans.

We have not yet begun to grapple with that realization. In time, I believe it will rank alongside evolution by natural selection among ideas that have fundamentally transformed our understanding of ourselves and our world. Like Darwin’s dangerous idea, it will ripple its way through the physical and social sciences. Hell, some day even economists might get it! (I kid. Kind of.)


California celebrities are wasting electricity moving water around

UPDATE: Sometimes, America, sometimes in the heat of our excitement about coming up with a lot of California jokes, we read things wrong. In this case: the diagram below. So, basically the whole post. I've corrected it below. Credit to commenter Maylward who was able to both read properly, unlike me, and graciously note my error.

The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) runs the state's electrical grid. They're responsible for making sure the state has enough electricity to do the things it needs to do: making movies, fermenting wines, playing air hockey at Google, slouching around Golden Gate Park, etc.

But in what mix? How much of the electricity was going to ensure that Tom Cruise had the proper lighting and how much was going to display Albert Pujols' name on a scoreboard? They did the math to figure it out. And the answer was: not a whole lot went to either of those things probably still a decent amount! (Especially Cruise.)