elbales: (Typewriter keys)
Originally posted by coffeeem at Mayor Nutter's Unexpected Gift to Philadelphia
In which Pope Francis unintentionally reveals the joys of a pedestrian- and bike-friendly city, and Kyle Cassidy muses wisely and asks questions that are worth considering. With pretty photos.

Originally posted by kylecassidy at Mayor Nutter's Unexpected Gift to Philadelphia

Sometimes a disaster produces beneficial side effects that could never be otherwise experienced because of the terrible cost. When the FAA shut down all airline traffic after 9/11 scientists got their first chance to study the effect of airplane contrails on temperature.

This weekend the Pope came to Philly and the city shut down virtually every bus, train, and street for three days -- the bridge between New Jersey and Philadelphia was closed, concrete barricades went up at major intersections, "Walking Dead" jokes abounded on the news media and the city got a chance to see what a life without cars might be like. Runners and cyclists spilled out onto the streets, joyfully running and biking in places that are normally both unsafe and illegal.

Running across the bridge to New Jersey.

When the Pope's visit was announced, Philadelphians were on the whole very happy about the idea. But as plans progressed and the city announced seemingly more and more bizarre security measures people got either outraged or incredulous, depending on the makeup of your Facebook feed. One of the most baffling was the plan to shut down the Benjamin Franklin bridge and have pilgrims park in Camden and walk three miles in to see the Pope and then three miles back. Early plans were to install TSA style screening on the bridge which the city said would be performing more security checks than the airport during that time.

Clever people mocked the city's planning producing things like this map:

Certainly if terrorists had been able to shut down every street in the city, block traffic, and cut it off from New Jersey for three days they'd be pleased with themselves. We got our car free experience at a significant cost to businesses who lost untold amounts of money, some closed because workers couldn't get in to the city and others who did open found that nobody was shopping.

I'd been initially planning on locking myself into my house and watching Netflix for three days, but when initial reports started to come in from runners about the multi-million dollar limited time playground open in center city, I jumped into my shoes with the West Philadelphia Runners and we ran an amazed route through the city, proverbially slack jawed with disbelief at the pedestrian wonderland which had opened up.

No wait at the Genius Bar.
Employees at the completely empty Apple store
stand at the window and wave to people.

The city's newly formed Indego Bike Share shined during this time, setting up permanently open kiosks with people to check in bikes even if all the racks were full. The able bodied rejoiced while the most Catholic people I know stayed home, scared off by the through of trying to push a wheelchair for six miles, navigate closed streets and go through unknown TSA security checkpoints.

Route 76, the normally jam-packed beltway around the city was shut down.

It was a runner's paradise in many ways, one of which was the installation of thousands of portable toilets all throughout the city as well as massive icebergs of free bottled water at strategic locations. These are things that runners want often, people walking miles want eventually and homeless people want constantly. By providing public amenities in vast quantities our eyes were open to how much we were missing constantly. Runners map water fountains and plan their runs around them -- access to public water is a sadly rare thing.

The race course everybody wants.

We saw for the first time how long it actually takes to get places on foot without traffic lights. I'd recently just experienced this in Wyoming, where you can point to a spot three miles away and know pretty much exactly how long it will take you to get there. I discovered that things were much closer to my house than I'd realized, that the density of the city and, especially the impact of cars, stretches miles. That much of our time moving in a city is actually spent standing still in an incredibly inefficient way. Our run to the bridge, which I think of as "There be Dragons" far from me took much less time than I'd expected.

The shutdown brought things closer together, it brought us together, even if as gawkers, to meet one another, we got to see a city as it could be, and as a lot of people have envisioned a city as being -- truly walkable, truly bikeable, uncongested.

You may have seen this photo from the Australia Cycling Promotion Fund showing the amount of space taken up by pedestrians, busses, bicycles, and cars:

This is the world we live in and for a moment, we got the chance to see other options. Years ago, playing Sim City, I designed a city with only public transportation, cars were parked in a ring outside. My city had extremely low pollution levels but the rents skyrocketed and eventually I was hung in effigy, but I do imagine this type of world where streets are limited to mass transit, delivery and emergency vehicles. I've never known though if it would work -- and I still don't. If this persisted would the Mayor become a hero or would the city just die? I don't know.

All traffic in and out of the city, shut down.

There's a huge down side to this as well. I don't know if anybody will ever be able to accurately figure out how much this experiment cost the city. I've read that among the hidden costs, 75% of the babies born that weekend weren't able to be born in the hospital of their parents choice because of transportation difficulties.

The West Philly Runners on the Ben Franklin Bridge.

Philadelphia's expanding it's bike and pedestrian trails, we have miles and miles of them along the Schuylkill river, though for the most part, they go to nothing -- they're recreational rather than functional paths. What would it be like to be able to easily and safely bike to center city? Having seen free and open streets, can we now be satisfied without at least protected bicycle lanes? Is it the job of a city to encourage people to adopt healthy lifestyles? There are obvious financial benefits To encourage walking and biking

This thing wasn't the thing that the Mayor thought he was giving us. But having seen it, we want it, I want it anyway. I know that the thing we have now isn't the thing that I want.

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elbales: (Kaylee  :D)
Noyo River stand of old-growth redwoods saved

Peter Fimrite, Chronicle Staff Writer

A San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to the preservation of ancient redwoods announced Thursday that it will exercise its option to buy a huge swath of the lush Noyo River canyon in Mendocino County, the largest old-growth forest still in private hands on the West Coast.

elbales: (Dangerous mermaid)
Gulf Oil Spill: We Said the Night Was Full of Zombies

As an anti-plastics blogger, I should be able to write about the gulf oil spill in my sleep. The connections seem obvious. Plastic comes from oil. Our demand for plastic drives up the demand for oil, as do our demands for all the other products made from oil. I should be able to write about this topic as I would write about anything else related to plastic, things like Bisphenol-A, bottled water, PVC, phthalates, ocean plastic pollution, and yet until now, I couldn’t.

Like the vastness of the ocean itself and the incredible magnitude of the spill, the topic was just too big to wrap my heart around. It hurt too much.

She goes on to do a fantastic roundup of links from all over about ways to deal with the problem. I joined a boycott of BP in the early days of the disaster, but there's a growing body of evidence that a boycott hurts small business owners more than it hurts BP. Even Greenpeace isn't supporting it. So what can we do? We can drive less and use fewer products that depend on petroleum, for starters.

Beth's title comes from a post on Boing Boing:

We wanted that oil. We wanted that oil cheap. In giving us what we wanted, BP and the government made some horrible decisions that we wish they wouldn't have made.

They picked up a gun, loaded it and shot into the dark. But we're the ones who told them that the night was full of zombies. Can we really say we're not responsible when they accidentally kill a healthy toddler?

QOTD, yeah. But seriously, it's true. We wanted cheap oil, and they gave it to us with subsidies and preferential treatment for corporations that were already filthy rich. We've abdicated responsibility for our own democracy and our own environment in exchange for gas-guzzling mega-SUVs that we can fill up for a fraction of what it would cost a European or a Japanese.

We're all responsible, but it's not worth wasting our energy on guilt. Just act. Drive less, and buy less crap. That's it.
elbales: (Can't be serious!Rimmer)
BP boss admits job on the line over Gulf oil spill

Tony Hayward, the beleaguered chief executive of BP, has claimed its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is "relatively tiny" compared with the "very big ocean".

In an bullish interview with the Guardian at BP's crisis centre in Houston, Hayward insisted that the leaked oil and the estimated 400,000 gallons of dispersant that BP has pumped into the sea to try to tackle the slick should be put in context.

"The Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean. The amount of volume of oil and dispersant we are putting into it is tiny in relation to the total water volume," he said.


Shut up.

No, really. For the love of God, SHUT UP. Moron.

I won't be buying BP gas in the future. In fact, I think I'll write them a love letter to let them know that. I've been mulling it over since the spill; after all, Exxon and Chevron are worse in a lot of ways. (Valdez, anyone? How about that wonderful East Bay air?) But the way that BP is actively trying to weasel out of responsibility, and the way that they and Transocean are playing the blame game, has pretty much put it over the line.
elbales: (Kaylee  :D)
Poll: Americans want to break our oil addiction

by Jed Lewison
Mon May 10, 2010 at 02:16:04 PM PDT

Greg Sargent notes a memo summarizing a new poll on energy reform conducted by Obama pollster Joel Benenson for Clean Energy Works, a coalition of clean energy advocates. The poll finds that in the wake of BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico public demand to break our addiction to oil remains strong.

Even when given the argument against moving forward with energy reform, 59% said they wanted to move forward with energy reform immediately as opposed to 31% who preferred to wait.


Seriously, it's always nice when we see evidence that the public is coming around to the realization that our current way of life is just plain unsustainable.
elbales: (Kaylee  :D)
Today's post on The Green Phone Booth made me ridiculously happy. It's on the Transition Town movement, a version of environmentalism that really appeals to me.

This movement is at once more radical and more joyful than traditional environmentalism. It teaches us to respond to fear with not only personal resilience but with community. It is this sense of joy and love and community which has helped me work through some of my own worries about the coming storms.

Go read it. It may just leave you feeling more hopeful about the future of our communities, our nation, and our world. ♥
elbales: (Fantastically stupid!Ten)
From KQED's ClimateWatch blog

Congressman: Delta Fish a "Worthless Little Worm"

April 24, 2009 · Posted By Craig Miller

In hearings by the House Energy & Commerce Subcommitee today, Rep. George Radanovich (R-Fresno) called the Delta smelt "a worthless little worm that needs to go the way of the dinosaur." He made the remark as part of a five-minute attack on "environmental alarmism," in response to testimony from former vice-president Al Gore, founder of the Alliance for Climate Protection.

The only worthless little worm I see in this story is you, Mr. Radanovich. Or, as the kids say these days, Bitch, please.
elbales: (No man is an island - John Donne)


ETA: [livejournal.com profile] psybelle has already linked in her comment to the main site for the Advent Conspiracy; they have links out to a couple of water projects. The ONE Campaign features a few NGOs that do work around clean drinking water as well. It's not an area I'm very familiar with, but I think that's going to change.
elbales: (Old fashioned rose)
Green Bean of Green Bean Dreams has written a beautiful essay about hope.

Yesterday, I wrote about how our food system is broken. And it is! Food safety scares emerge every other month. High fructose corn syrup has slipped into our whole grain bread, our tomato soup. Animal cruelty brutal enough to make even the jaded cringe occurs every day within our polluting factory farms.

And, yet, today I write about hope. Yes. We are grown ups now. Yes. We must open our eyes, look at our problems as they are and make the decision to fix them. And, yet, strength and will alone are not enough. As David Wann noted in Simple Prosperity, "we are wasting our time if we expel hope from our everyday lives, because without it, we can’t win."

Her blog is worth a read. What are you waiting for?
elbales: (Typewriter keys)
There's this blog I read called Green Bean Dreams. (Look, see? It's on my links list.) Today she wrote an amazing essay called "Affluents Anonymous" that talks about coming to terms with our global responsibilities as members of the most affluent society on earth. It's not judgmental; it's inspiring, and well worth a read.
elbales: (Old fashioned rose)
I recently downloaded a news reader to subscribe to a few RSS feeds from sites that interest me. One of them led to WeBuyItGreen Blog, a blog dedicated to fair trade and sustainable commerce. Yesterday's entry really touched me. The author talked about an interview that the mayor of Newark, NJ did on Bill Moyers. He's got a quote from it in his sidebar.
"And if everybody stopped talking and started focusing on doing something more than I did yesterday in order to change tomorrow, then we're gonna have the America of our dreams." --Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark, New Jersey

This is the cornerstone of my belief in individual action. I cannot make other people do things; I can only act and hope that my actions inspire others to act. "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."

So this is my challenge to you: Be the change.

elbales: (Old fashioned rose)
Growing Green in the City looks at the state of agriculture in American cities.

Improving learning: Greening Schools, the real payoff looks at immediate and long-term effects of schools' going green.



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