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Articles by Andy Brett

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  • Coaxing residents to urban cores

    The flight from the inner city (it may not be happening after all, but there are definitely new incentives for it now) has left urban planners looking for ways to coax residents back to urban cores. Free municipal wi-fi could be just what they need.

    While its effect might not be as direct as some city planners might like, municipal wireless, as proposed in Philadelphia, is worth a shot. It also presents some interesting questions about free goods.

    Somewhat tangential economic discussion below the fold.

  • How do per capita income and per capita pollution relate?

    Kuznet's CurveTim Haab over at Environmental Economics writes about the relationship between environmental degradation and development. Haab mentions, of course, the Environmental Kuznet's Curve (EKC). The Wikipedia article is a little on the sparse side, and while I suppose I could do something about that, for now I'll just point to this summary.

    In short, the EKC says that as per capita income rises, per capita pollution travels along a bell curve: first it goes up, but as people gain the disposable income necessary to value such things as clean air and water, it peaks and heads down. The idea has been around for a while, in blogosphere years anyway. It is not free of empirical shortcomings, and there's much debate about its legitimacy, as Haab mentions.

    The EKC raises some normative questions: If people are just barely able to survive, is it reasonable to expect them to care about environmental degradation? In addition, is it actually necessary for developing nations to go through the environmentally destructive phase of development in order to reach the "other side of the curve"?

    The relationship between development and environmental health that the EKC charts is seen by many politicians as a choice -- either the economy or the environment, as this comment points out. The Apollo Alliance and others have made it their focus to shift the dialogue away from such a dichotomy.

  • They might not be so dangerous

    Linda Marsa chronicles the work of one Bob Derlet in the LA Times outdoor section this morning. Derlet has acted on the fleeting question of every backpacker who's ever filtered or purified water from a pristine-looking mountain stream: "Is this really necessary?"

    In short, Derlet's research (which sounds like a lot of fun) finds that it's not as necessary as people think. Although some disagree with Derlet, and the only way to be 100% sure that you won't get some microscopic friends with your water is to filter or purify it, a surprising number of streams contain drinkably low levels of giardia and cryptosporidium. Knowing where the little buggers are most likely to be found can greatly reduce the chances of contracting the diseases associated with them.

    The article is very well written and a good read. I'm a little wary, however, of the suggestion that "good sanitary habits" means burying feces at least 10 feet away from water. I only hope that's a typo and there should be another zero (or two) thrown in there.

  • Terrorism may drive people away from mass transit.

    Eight bombings in two weeks and the accidental shooting death of a suspect have everyone talking war on terror again. Not to detract from that conversation, but there's a distinctly "green" concern here -- the bombings are serving as a serious deterrent to mass transit use. There are two separate but related deterrents:

    • The fear of being on a bus, subway, or train that is attacked, and
    • the inconvenience of added security to get on said bus, subway, or train (like what New Yorkers are now experiencing).
    Mass transit is essential to creating walkable neighborhoods with clean, efficient, affordable transportation for their denizens. It won't survive if people that would have otherwise used it no longer will because they are afraid of an attack, or they would rather not have their privacy invaded.

    The security measures in New York are ostensibly supposed to deter another attack, but actually only serve to reassure mass transit riders, as many New Yorkers have pointed out. (Here's a question -- if the people who are supposed to be reassured are all pointing out the flaws in the system, is it really reassuring to them?)