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In Madrid, a highway becomes a park

Smart cities all around the world are getting rid of highways, and in Madrid, not only has the city built a tunnel to drive a urban-fabric-ripping highway underground, it has turned the reclaimed land into a park. In the New York Times, critic Michael Kimmelman tours the park and reports that, while "still a work in progress," it's connecting neighborhoods once cut off from each other. The idea to bury the highway came before the move to transform the land into a park, but the redesign is also part of a build-out of public transit that connects the outer boroughs …

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Will nature always be the last book on the shelf?

Photo: Martin DeutschCross-posted from Cool Green Science. Driving with my kids the other day, I saw a sign announcing: "Borders Books Going Out of Business: 90% Off!" We headed in with great enthusiasm, thoughts of nearly free books dancing in our heads. The place was swarming with bargain hunters. The remaining inventory had been moved to the front; the rest of the cavernous box store was gloomily empty behind movable partitions. Though there were still thousands of books, I quickly realized the store had been picked clean, like a carcass where all the soft parts were long gone and just …

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Infographic: World’s tallest buildings OF THE FUTURE

(click to embiggen) Buildings are getting to be so tall that the Council on Tall Buildings came up with a new name for their most extreme versions: Megatall. This is density taken to an extreme that may not be all that helpful. For one thing, people, goods, and water have to be moved all the way to the top of these things, and that requires a lot of energy. In addition, above a certain height, structural elements take up more and more of a building's interior space, reports Sun Joo Kim at SmartPlanet. Here's the full list of the world's …

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Cities: Not quite as awesome as we like to think

Photo: David Graham If you Google the term "a scholar and a gentleman," the first result to pop up is a picture of Witold Rybczynski -- or it would be if there were any justice in the world. Rybczynski is an architect, author, and professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He has written a dozen or so books on technology, architecture, real estate -- even a natural history of the screwdriver. He knows The City like it's nobody's business. So it was notable when, in a blog post a few weeks back, Rybczynski opened a can of Jedi-style …

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Karen Luken: A one-woman waste management authority

Grist is proud to present the Change Gang -- profiles of people who are leading change on the ground toward a more sustainable society and a greener planet. Some we've written about before; some are new to our pages. Some you'll have heard of; most you probably won't. Know someone we should add to the Change Gang? Tell us why. When Karen Luken says she feels "blessed" to have had a career in solid waste management, she isn't joking, even if you can hear the lilt of a laugh behind her words. For 25 years, Luken -- currently the global  …

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Germany is building a park on top of a highway

Germany's A7 Autobahn is like a highway on steroids. The 500-mile, six-lane road runs the length of the country and handles 150,000 bat-out-of-hell drivers a day. That might improve life for traffic fetishists or people who regularly need to get from Denmark to Austria at 100 miles per hour, but people who live alongside the A7 have noticed that it's super noisy and kind of hard to cross. So they're putting a three-mile lid over the part of the A7 that runs through the city of Hamburg, and turning it into a public park. The cars will still run underneath, …

Read more: Cities, Infrastructure

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Has dense living gotten too dense?

Thinkers like Ed Glaeser, whose ideas have been discussed frequently on Grist, assert that density is an unalloyed good, and even Manhattan isn't dense enough. But there is another strand of thought about cities, which is that they are neither green nor sustainable, and it's exemplified by everyone's favorite foul-mouthed catastrophist, James Howard Kunstler. In a new piece in Orion magazine, helpfully summarized by Treehugger's Lloyd Alter, Kunstler asserts that even the reviving urban cores of our cities are doomed. DOOOOMED!!! I see our cities getting smaller and denser, with fewer people. Skyscrapers will be obsolete, travel greatly reduced, and …

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video

Adorable video defends public transportation

Here's a sweet 30-second plea for the improvement of the public transportation used by 35 million Americans every day. Because there should be many tens or hundreds of millions more of them, but at the rate we’re going now, that’s not looking likely. Eighty-four percent of transit systems have raised rates or cut service. Is this any way to handle the inexorably increasing price and environmental consequences of our ever more desperate quest for oil?

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Once more, from the top: Shutting down dirty coal plants won’t cause blackouts

Don't believe the scaremongers.Photo: The League of Moveable TypeCould Americans soon be forced to suffer through rolling blackouts and power shortages because of a heartless, hapless, tyrannical EPA, as conservatives and dirty utilities are suggesting? The short answer is, no. The long answer is, no. But the long one requires a bit of explanation. A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) conference on electrical-system reliability, along with the release of a couple new reports, has revived a simmering dispute over the effects of upcoming EPA regulations. (Did you nod off just now? Nothing to be ashamed of, it's a perfectly human …

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The next small thing: How sustainable neighborhoods could reshape cities

Lower Downtown Denver has become the city's night life hub -- and a laboratory for community-level sustainability.Photo: Wally GobetzI once worked for a New Yorker who loved to wisecrack that the only difference between Denver and yogurt was that "yogurt's got culture." Looking at the Mile High City's endless sprawl of lookalike, Anywhere, U.S.A. subdivisions, it's easy to understand where he was coming from. But in a former warehouse district just off of downtown, an innovative experiment in neighborhood-level sustainability is underway that could show New York and the rest of the country what really rocks the house when it …