Society

Cadillac Desert

I just finished reading the environmental classic *Cadillac Desert,* by Marc Reisner. The book tells the story of water policy in the Western United States from the mid-1800s (the time of John Wesley Powell's exploration of the region) to the early 1990s. The strategy of damming and diverting the region's rivers over the past 150 years to encourage settlement has… read more →

Paris to launch innovative car-sharing program

Paris is preparing to unveil a car-sharing program consisting of a 4,000 electric cars and 1,400 rental stations scattered throughout the city and neighboring suburbs. Dubbed Autolib, after the popular Velib bike-sharing program, the car-sharing service will offer far more flexibility than its U.S. counterparts. For example, drivers won't have to make a reservation to use a car. Instead, they… read more →

Crunching numbers on my home energy use

During an attempt to bring order to our household files, my husband and I discovered that we saved enough utility bills to reconstruct a nearly complete record of our household energy and water use since we moved in in 2000. Unable to let such a treasure trove sit idle, I ordered the pile and input everything into a spreadsheet. I… read more →

Sprawl: a problem without a solution?

Dueling headlines cropped up in my newsreader today: > More People, Less Driving: The Imperative of Curbing Sprawl (Smart Growth America) Vs.: > Forget Curbing Suburban Sprawl: Building denser cities would do little to reduce CO2 emissions, a new NAS report concludes (MIT Technology Review) Both articles refer to the same study, conducted by a blue-ribbon panel for the U.S.… read more →

The greenest city in America

I'm not sure what link trail led me to this five-year-old New Yorker piece on the greenest city in America, but it holds up quite well. According to New Yorker magazine, the greenest city in America is: New York. > The average Manhattanite consumes gasoline at a rate that the country as a whole hasn’t matched since the mid-nineteen-twenties, when… read more →

Searching for Impact Man

If you read only one piece of long-form environmental journalism this month, make it Elizabeth Kolbert's New Yorker piece on the uncertain lessons to be learned from "eco-stunts," the tradition of self-promotional experiments in green living that winds from Thoreau right on down through No Impact Man. Colin Beavan, the central figure of the piece, has been successful enough in… read more →

Why did the Reburbia design competition fail?

I had some fun last week with the Reburbia design competition, a contest seeking to "re-invent the suburbs" via "future-proof spaces and systems" -- "the wilder the better!" The judges somehow managed to include a proposal for a perpetual motion machine among the contest's finalists, suggesting either that suburbia is in need of far more radical reinvention that previously thought,… read more →

Couple goes waste-free for a year

Amy and Adam live in a small community in Dallas, Oregon. On July 6, 2009, they began their pledge of living without producing garbage for one year. Like many of us, they believe that collective action is necessary to preserve our environment for future generations. Their chosen focus is waste and recycling. Here's how they plan to get by without… read more →

Bike sharing comes big to Boston

Boston has just announced what is slated to become the largest bike sharing network in the U.S. and I'm awfully jealous. My first experience with bike sharing was love at first sight. It was the summer of 2006, I was in Berlin, and *everything was perfect*. Thronged with international visitors for the World Cup, the city was effortlessly navigable by… read more →

Bits o’ carbon: digital downloads are greener than CDs

This is hardly a shocking result, but it's kind of fun nonetheless: a life cycle analysis reveals that downloading music digitally creates less than one sixth the carbon emissions of buying it from a retail store (pdf). The study compares six scenarios: 1. Music purchased from a traditional retail store 2. Music purchased from an online retailer and delivered by… read more →
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