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C1ty By NuMb3r5: A formula for growing better cities

Photo: Steve JurvetsonThis story is excerpted form a longer piece in Urbanite. Imagine if someone concocted a method for turning cities inside out, so we could view their inner workings -- their strengths and shortcomings, how they grow and thrive and die -- at an almost cellular level. By analyzing a vast sweep of data, everything from how much money the city's residents make to the numbers of miles in its sewer lines, this system could tell us just how successful a city has been, where it falls flat, and how it stacks up to other cities of its size. …

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Baby boomers are the worst for the climate

At what age does a person do the most damage to the climate? According to a new study, between about 45 and 80. Starting at birth, a person’s carbon dioxide emissions sprint up and up and up, until they hit their peak at age 65. But by 80, a person's emissions are down to 13.1 metric tons. That's about the same amount of emissions they were creating at age 45. Another way of looking at this is that as people get older (and, presumably, make more money) they just keep consuming more stuff. But then they retire and have less …

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Franzen on love, sex, population, birds, and making the world less toxic

If you've read the bestseller Freedom, you won't be surprised to hear that novelist Jonathan Franzen describes himself as "a long-time green." One of the book's main characters, Walter Berglund, is "greener than Greenpeace," Franzen tells us on the first page. Walter throws himself into campaigns to fight population growth and save birds, ultimately leading him to make a Faustian bargain involving mountaintop-removal coal mining and natural-gas drilling West Virginia. Franzen's own environmentalism is less obsessive, but, as he told Grist fans at a recent event in New York City, he's still passionate about the issues. Watch highlights from Franzen's …

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How to feed 7 billion of us without ruining the planet

bulldozerIt turns out converted rainforest land is neither particularly productive as farmland nor climate smart, since creating it releases huge amounts of carbon sequestered in trees. (Photo by Lawrence Baulc.)

Now that we're surrounded by 7 billion of our closest friends, it's probably a good time to talk about how we're going to feed them. The government, along with corporations like Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, and others who are part of our current industrial agriculture system, will tell you that feeding the world is all about more. More yield from crops, more chemicals, more fertilizer, more genetically engineered seeds. More, more, more!

Of course, it's easy to say that when you're willing, as they are, to ignore the health effects, climate and environmental impacts, resource constraints, and every other real world consequence of large-scale industrial agriculture.

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Critical List: 7 billionth baby born; OWS to use green generators

The world's 7 billionth baby has been born in the Philippines. (How do U.N. arbiters know she's the seven billionth? They don't: it’s just symbolic.) It snowed on the East Coast, and "virtually every site north of Maryland to Maine … recorded their greatest October snowfall on record." An energy storage company that received a loan from the government filed for bankruptcy; fingers crossed that we can all talk about Herman Cain's (real, problematic) sex scandal instead of this. Occupy Wall Street could switch over to bike-powered generators. One's already running. Wind power wants its production tax credit extended. The …

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Climate change is our biggest challenge, says McKibben — but we need to keep working on population

Photo: TakverIn the late '90s, environmental activist and author Bill McKibben wrote a book about his and his wife's decision to have only one child, connecting their personal choice to global issues of population growth and sustainability. These days, McKibben is intently focused on fighting climate change, kick-starting a clean energy revolution, and, as a means to both ends, stopping the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar-sands crude 1,700 miles down the middle of the U.S. In an interview earlier this month, Leo Hickman of The Guardian asked him about all of these issues. Here's what McKibben had …

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This is the weekend we hit 7 billion

Well, the 7 billionth baby is expected to arrive around Halloween. Spooky! Here's what you should read to prepare. "I am the population problem." It's easy to blame developing countries, but if you want to find the source of the population problem, check the mirror. Population isn't just about counting heads. The impact of humanity on the environment is not determined solely by how many of us are around, but by how much stuff we use and how much room we take up. And as a financially comfortable American, I use a lot of stuff and take up a lot …

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Live chat on population 7 billion — ask your questions and have your say-so

Sandeep Bathala and Carmen BarrosoJoin a Grist live chat on population issues on Monday, Oct. 31, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern / 10:00 a.m. Pacific, marking the occasion of the world population hitting 7 billion. We'll have two experts on hand to answer your questions: Sandeep Bathala of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, formerly director of the Sierra Club's population program; and Carmen Barroso, director of International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region. The chat will be moderated by Grist Senior Editor and Queen of Pop(ulation) Lisa Hymas. Ask questions in the box below, or tweet your questions to …

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Three’s a crowd: Is it unethical to have more than two kids?

Two kids: good. Dog and cat: fine. But Range Rover? That's a real no-no. In the U.S., many population groups try to smooth over controversy, preferring to highlight areas of broad agreement, such as making birth control universally accessible, educating girls, and empowering women. By contrast, the British group Population Matters (formerly Optimum Population Trust) tries to stir up controversy. It recently chided David and Victoria Beckham for adding a fourth child to their jet-setting brood, and the group has rankled some in the population movement by promoting PopOffsets, a program that lets you "offset" your family's carbon footprint by …

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Is the environmental crisis caused by the 7 billion or the 1%?

The United Nations says that the world's population will reach 7 billion people this month. The approach of that milestone has produced a wave of articles and opinion pieces blaming the world's environmental crises on overpopulation. In New York's Times Square, a huge and expensive video declares that "human overpopulation is driving species extinct." In London's busiest Underground stations, electronic poster boards warn that 7 billion is ecologically unsustainable. In 1968, Paul Ehrlich's bestseller The Population Bomb declared that as a result of overpopulation, "the battle to feed humanity is over," and the 1970s would be a time of global …

Read more: Living, Population