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IKEA to design an entire neighborhood

Exciting news for those whose entire house is populated by IKEA furniture (we know you're out there): the Swedish furniture company is going to be building an entire neighborhood in London. We know. It'll be like living in the IKEA store! With a Swedish meatball shop on every corner and 24/7 access to lingonberry jam. (There will also be a floating cocktail bar. That’s not an obscure IKEA store joke. There will just be a floating cocktail bar.) IKEA is planning some smart features for the 26-acre, 1,200-home neighborhood. It'll be mixed-use and feature underground parking. The company also says …

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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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Can you say ‘sprawl’? Walmart’s biggest climate impact goes ignored

abandoned Walmart and parking lotMy, that's a big abandoned parking lot you have.Photo: Rob StinnettEarlier this year, the New Jersey Sierra Club and the Pinelands Preservation Alliance tried but failed to block a permit for a new Walmart supercenter in the small coastal town of Toms River. The development, now moving forward, will destroy habitat for the threatened northern pine snake. What's especially frustrating about the project, local environmentalists say, is that Walmart already has a store in Toms River. It's just a mile down the road and will be shuttered when the new supercenter opens.

The Toms River site is one of several environmentally sensitive areas Walmart aims to pave over in the coming months. Many follow a similar pattern. In Copley, Ohio, Walmart wants to develop 40 acres of fields and wetlands, and then close another store a mile away. In Davie, Fla., the chain is seeking permission to destroy 17 acres of wetlands to build in a location that's just a 15-minute drive from six other Walmart stores.

Even as Walmart has been hyping its supposed environmental epiphany, it has continued to unroll vast, low-rise supercenters at breakneck speed. Since launching its sustainability campaign in 2005, Walmart has expanded the amount of store space it operates in the U.S. by 32 percent. It's added more than 1,100 new supercenters, almost all built on land that hadn't been developed before Walmart showed up. The chain now has 698 million square feet of store space in the U.S., up from 530 million in 2005, plus another 287 million around the globe. Its U.S. stores and parking lots cover roughly 60,000 acres.

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How Baby Boomers doomed the exurbs

Homes and strip malls in America's outer-ring suburbs, which contained most of the country's most expensive homes in the 1990s, are now worth less than what it cost to build them. And the land beneath them is worth effectively zero, says Brookings Institution senior fellow Christopher B. Leinberger, in a powerful op-ed arguing that the future of the country is urban and walkable. Simply put, there has been a profound structural shift — a reversal of what took place in the 1950s, when drivable suburbs boomed and flourished as center cities emptied and withered. What's driving this transition? The two …

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Report: Homeownership is keeping unemployment high

The U.S. is suffering crushing unemployment, yet workers can't move to where the jobs are because they are trapped in underwater mortgages, explains a new report from Brookings. This, it turns out, is the ultimate fate of the "ownership society" that our government has been pushing for so long through Fannie, Freddy, and tax policy: People can't migrate to where they're needed most, even if their livelihood depends on it. The new statistics indicate that just 11.6 percent of U.S. residents moved between 2010 and 2011, down from 12.5 percent the previous year, and the lowest rate since 1948. To …

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Critical List: Australia will have a carbon tax; 10 percent of Chinese farmland contaminated

Australia is going to have a carbon tax: The prime minister's plan just passed the country's senate. Not only do cars kill, so do commutes. A man in England dumped more than 1 million tires across the country. Heavy metals have contaminated 10 percent of farmland in China. Shorter Rick Perry: The government should stop picking energy winners and losers, unless the winners are oil and gas companies.

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Incredible shrinking farmland

Photo: Alicia Guy Joel Huesby comes from a long line of conventional farmers, but in 1994, he had what he calls an epiphany that led him to switch to organic farming. He's of the mind that we'll drive ourselves to extinction if we drive our farmlands that way first. "Conventional commodity agriculture, to my way of looking at it, is standing in the boots of a dead man with toothpicks holding his eyes open," he said. "It looks alive but it's not. I don't see that as the future." Through years of trial and error, Huesby and his family found …

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Mexico City’s ‘earthscraper’ would be a 1,000-foot underground building

BNKR Arquitectura wants to build a pyramid that penetrates nearly 1000 feet into the earth below Mexico City's largest and most historic public square. Its upper floors will be illuminated through a glass ceiling that will replace the paving stones of the current square, and its deepest reaches will receive daylight piped in from fiber-optic cables routed to the surface. It's called an "earthscraper," and it's a unique solution to a problem affecting almost every large, historical city on earth. You can't build skyscrapers on what little undeveloped land is left in Mexico City, on account of height restrictions. Historical …

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Stop the ‘man swarm,’ save the wild world

Let's leave some room for everybody else. Photo: Robin PittmanMore of our kind means fewer wild things. A stabilized human population means hope for wild things. A shrinking human population means a better world for wild things -- and for men and women and children. It's that straightforward. The human population grew more in the last 40 years than in the previous 3 million. The population bomb has blown up -- but the shrapnel hasn't yet hit us hard. What it has hit hard are wild things. The outcomes of humanity's growth yesterday, today, and tomorrow are scalped wildlands, endangered …

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Ten years of car commuting could cost you $125,000

A lot of home buyers are pushing out into the exurbs because the houses are cheaper there -- but long commutes come with hidden costs that could seriously dent any money you might save on a mortgage. A personal finance blogger with the trust-inspiring nom de plume of Mr. Money Mustache (okay, so he's a mustache, but it's a MONEY mustache!) has calculated that a two-car commute of 19 miles each way would cost a couple $125,000 over 10 years. That makes a $250,000 home into a $375,000 home, but all you get for your extra money is a tension …

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