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Jane Jacobs and the book that inspired a revolution

If cities are the greenest form of human settlement that we could possibly aspire to, Jane Jacobs left us the owner's manual for how to build them. Fifty years ago this month, Random House published The Death and Life of Great American Cities, an extraordinary book in which Jacobs laid out the principles for creating a healthy city. The blocks must be at a human scale, she said. There must be a diversity of activities to keep eyes on the street. The focus of the economy -- of everything -- should be local, typified by Greenwich Village, the Manhattan neighborhood …

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Thailand’s DIY climate adaptation solutions

It's more likely than not at this point that climate change will substantially alter the world we live in, and humans will have to adapt. Climate adaption plans usually invoke big ideas, like sea walls and dykes and drought-resistant crops. But the response to the floods (likely due to climate change) that have devastated Thailand shows how varied and inventive local-level adaptation to adverse climate conditions can be. There are the swimming vests for cats and dogs that depend on water bottles for buoyancy, the flood bicycles that ride above the water, and the boats made entirely of water bottles. …

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Instead of buying kitchen gadgets, why not share?

If you’ve ever looked at a wedding registry, you might have a sense of how many uni-tasking kitchen appliances there are on the market. Most kitchens have more gadgets than they can hold, and most people aren't using their canning equipment/bread machine/cider press very often. So wouldn't it make more sense to share? In Portland, a couple of collaborative consumption centers are working off of that idea. In north and now southeastern Portland, residents can borrow kitchen tools from a lending library of gadgets. North Portland Preserve and Serve is donation-based: just schedule some quality time with that steam juicer …

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Putting the wilderness back in our cities

Neil Chambers' new book, Urban Green: Architecture for the Future, is a study in imprecision. Ankle deep and a mile wide, the book reads like a half-baked primer in green design and conservation science. It could have used another year or two in the oven. It's too bad. At the heart of this book -- the end, actually -- there's an interesting idea. And while he only brushes past it in the book, Chambers, a design consultant and blogger for Treehugger.com, has an interesting story to tell. Urban Green opens with Chambers' epiphany that in our quest to save the …

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People love smart cities, as long as you don't call them smart cities

The vast majority of Americans -- almost 80 percent -- are totally on board with living somewhere that's close to jobs and schools, where the environment is clean and you don't have to spend much money on gas. They just don't want to live in places that are "sustainable" or involve "smart growth," because that shit is for hippies. Messaging is crucial when it comes to community planning, according to a panel at the SXSW Eco conference. Suburban and rural dwellers don't care about things like climate change, transportation, and land use, but those factors have serious impact on their …

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Critical List: EPA’s greenhouse report comes in for criticism; motorcycles are gross

The EPA and its inspector general disagree over what qualifies as a "scientific assessment." The EPA has concluded that greenhouse gases are dangerous; the IG now says that the assessment didn’t go through sufficient peer review. This is actually about the review of the relevant “technical support document,” not about the scientific findings, but tell that to Republicans. The DOE gave a $737 million loan guarantee to a solar-tower project in Nevada, which had better the hell not fail now. Motorcycles are more fuel efficient, but their tailpipe emissions contain nasty stuff. Do China's solar subsidies violate global trade rules? …

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Red means stop, except for bikers in Kansas

Elly Blue is on a monthlong Dinner & Bikes tour around the western U.S., along with Portland bike filmmaker Joe Biel and traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg. This is one of her thrice-weekly dispatches from the road about bicycle culture and economy. Read them all here. Topeka, Kan.: "It's OK to just go here," said Meredith Fry as we pedaled up to a red light near Washburn University. She slowed down, looked both ways, and rode right through the red signal. I put my foot down and looked around nervously before following her. We had just passed three police officers on …

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Better bus lines follow worker bees

Image: Erich FerdinandIf you're like most people, you navigate to work in the hazy fog of your early morning stupor. Autopilot. Imagine if one day your normal bus route was taken away and replaced with something utterly different. You'd probably be baffled, or pissed, or both. Well, that's exactly what the brave folks at Tallahassee's StarMetro did to surly commuters one morning this summer. After decades of buses tracing the same routes from the outskirts to downtown and back, planners took the old map, threw it in the garbage, and replaced it with something they thought would more efficiently connect …

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Blogs put bikes on a path to world domination

Boulder blogger Sarai Snyder is the force behind Girl Bike Love.Photo: Michele ZebrowitzElly Blue is on a monthlong Dinner & Bikes tour around the western U.S., along with Portland bike filmmaker Joe Biel and traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg. This is one of her thrice-weekly dispatches from the road about bicycle culture and economy. Read them all here.   Boulder, Colo.: Sarai Snyder comes up to me after our recent Dinner & Bikes event and introduces herself as the proprietor of Girl Bike Love, a blog that covers bike news, culture, and gear with women in mind. We chat for a …

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In Utah, cyclists on a mission

Bike polo in Provo, Utah.Photo: Elly BlueElly Blue is on a monthlong Dinner & Bikes tour around the western U.S., along with Portland bike filmmaker Joe Biel and traveling vegan chef Joshua Ploeg. This is one of her thrice-weekly dispatches from the road about bicycle culture and economy. Read them all here.   Provo, Utah: As is the case at most bike polo matches, the sidelines at this game in a bank parking lot are marked by clusters of cans and bottles. But in this town, where dozens of players and spectators meet two or three times a week, they're not …