Society

Comprehending the Pacific Garbage Patch

Chris Jordan uses his photographs to illustrate the complexities and enormities of the problem with have with our consumption and its impact on the environment. Until recently his work focused on a series called “Running the numbers” which attempts to give some meaning to all the huge statistics we hear about our environmental problem. Such as... > Two million plastic… read more →

Cities: still greener than small villages

The review of Green Metropolis kicked off a discussion that illustrates some of the confusion that crops up in discussions of density. Hoisting a representative snippet up from comments: > I think people can be extremely green in either rural or urban settings, it's a matter of intent. Hard to measure the difference in impact - an urban setting allows… read more →

Parking done right

Let's talk parking. Recently I suggested that building new parking garages isn't an environmentally friendly thing to do, even if such garages are nicely landscaped and have energy-efficient lighting systems. The environmental impact of the structures themselves is minuscule in comparison to the impact of the transportation system they are part of, and the green flourishes do nothing to change… read more →

It’s not where you are going, it’s how you get there

Over the past month or so I’ve been rethinking how I get to work. My routine has been shifting as my son sleeps in a bit later at times (thank goodness), and as his activities and naps tend to take place in the early evening more often. My comfortable routine of getting dropped off and picked up at the local… read more →

The cost of inaction

We're in the middle of the first storm of the season on the West Coast. As I write this I'm looking at a pile of industrial hairdryers that are going to be used to deal with our soggy office: a couple of blocked drains on a patio at the top of the building caused a pretty severe flood in the… read more →

Sleeping with your values

Mattress shopping may be the single most unpleasant purchasing experience one can voluntarily undertake. Even Consumer Reports throws up its hands, saying that comparing mattress makes and models is too difficult for sound recommendations. It has been almost 15 years since I last set foot in a mattress store. Back then, my selection was driven by whichever retailer could have… read more →

Native woodlands razed; native people left jobless

The recent financial collapse of a forestry plantation on an island in Northern Australia moved me for a number of reasons. For starters, the story, beautifully told by Verlyn Klinkenborg in the New York Times, serves as a timely reminder of the long-term loss that follows land cover change. More personally, the topic is close to my heart because my… read more →

Retrofitting suburbia for the elderly

I do understand the appeal of the suburbs -- the privacy, the open space -- but one thing has long seemed pretty clear: suburbs are a difficult place to grow old. I've certainly seen this with my own aging relatives. Especially after one spouse dies, big houses become empty and difficult to maintain. Yards are an expensive and unused amenity.… read more →

Light rail notches a success in the West

Any proposed new mass transit system inevitably touches off a religious war between those who see light rail as the saving grace of car-choked, sprawling metropolitan areas, and those who view it as an expensive boondoggle. Unsurprisingly, my sympathies lie with mass transit advocates, but of course it's important that expensive public works projects actually serve the taxpayers that foot… read more →

Defusing the population bomb

People may be the problem, but what's the solution? Although energy use is driven by demographic trends, we don't seem to have many tools readily at hand for addressing population as a root cause of climate change. But a new study suggests that a simple investment in family planning services might save an enormous amount of carbon emissions at very… read more →
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