Here's a short essay I wrote last year on the state of the environmentalist movement. Original post is here
Being a professional who has worked and lived in different regions of the Midwest and
east coast over the past few years, I've had opportunities to meet more people in the
fields of environment protection and planning. I've been able to gain more insight
about myself as well as about Americans of various races, creeds, and nationalities.
As an African American, an environmentalist and as planner, I am
consistently reminded of how few minorities there are in these fields. There's been
significant talk and writing recently about the state of the environmental movement.
Some have even gone so far as to call the movement "dead". (Nordhaus, 2004) Is this
true? Have we seen the best of what environmentalism, smart growth and other
movements has to offer?
My answer to these questions is no. I would argue that the very best of
environmentalism and regionalism is still yet to come. The ideals
that environmentalism and smart growth are founded on, are a great starting point.
But, if they are to survive, grow and continue to make positive progress, the concepts
of diversity and inclusion has to move to the front of the line. They need to be fully
integrated into our visions, missions and so forth. The face and make up of what
might be called traditional environmentalism has to change or else the movement
"will" die. I don't mean to say that it will disappear but, I think that it could lose its
relevance perhaps even its credibility in America.
In about fifty years, half of America's population will be non-white. (Rast, 2006)
Finally, a whole new population and generation is saying, "Hey, what about us?". The
impoverished, lower income and many members of minority groups biggest
issues, traditionally, were about income, getting food on the table, keeping the lights
on, and getting the rent paid. Anything beyond this was luxury. But things are
changing. Today and into the future, the threats of global warming,
diminishing natural resources and the increased frequency and/or intensity of natural
disasters, are powerful indicators things to come. (Enderle, 2007)
Environmentalism and the planning community has to broaden our view and act to
help the those who are most vulnerable to changing conditions. The white-bread,
privileged image of traditional environmentalism has got to change to show the
realities of America. The real America is in our communities, in our neighborhoods and the neighborhoods that you drive past on your way home to the suburbs.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Here's a short essay I wrote last year on the state of the environmentalist movement. Original post is here
Monday, July 21, 2008
The Detroit News
Light Rail Proposal Moves Forward
July 16, 2008 Plans for a light rail system in Detroit progressed this week when a regional planning group green-lighted the proposed development. Officials with the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments approved a Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) plan to construct and operate light rail service on Woodward Avenue between downtown and Eight Mile.
"This is an important step toward the establishment of a reliable rail transportation system that will assist Detroiters in getting to and from their destinations," Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said in a statement. "This approval of DDOT's rail project will also multiply economical opportunities for business growth." Check out Detroit Light Rail for the rest of the story.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Press Release from Trust for Public Land
For Immediate Release
July 8, 2008
Contact:Peter Harnik, 202-543-7552
Tim Ahern, 415-495-4014, ext. 425
Note: Complete list of city parkland, facilities,and budgets at TPL.org/cityparkfacts<http://www.tpl.org/cityparkfacts>
Cities Getting Greener, But Not Fast Enough to Keep Up, New Report Reveals Population growth surpasses urban park acreage and spending gains; Crown for largest city park moves from El Paso to Anchorage
WASHINGTON, D. C. - The nation's big cities added 5,375 new acres of parkland in 2007, bringing the total of public urban green space serving an ever-more-urban America to over 1.3 million acres. The total is larger than Yosemite, Rocky Mountain, Mesa Verde, and Shenandoah National Parks combined.Big-city park departments last year also provided their citizens with 9,945 playgrounds, 1,283 swimming pools, 379 golf courses, and 353 dog parks, while spending a record $5 billion on their park and recreation systems.But it wasn't enough to keep up with population growth.
These and many other urban park statistics were released today by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit that works to create parks and protect open space. The report is released annually by TPL's Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), the nation's leading source of data about urban park systems. CCPE statistics are posted at TPL.org/cityparkfacts<http://www.tpl.org/cityparkfacts>."
The numbers reflect the increasing value of city parks to better quality of urban life," said Peter Harnik, director of the Center. "Acreage and spending in bellwether places like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix, and San Francisco increased, while the quality of many city parks is improving."
"But as a whole we're still losing ground," Harnik noted.
Factoring in growth, the amount of parkland in the 60 biggest cities declined during the past year, from 18.88 acres per 1,000 residents to 18.72 acres. Cities that lost the most ground include Louisville, El Paso, Las Vegas, Charlotte, and Raleigh.
More than 51 million Americans live in our largest 60 cities.
The single largest urban park in the U.S. - by far - is Chugach State Park in Anchorage, Alaska. At 490,125 acres, it is about the size of New York City and Los Angeles combined.
"Chugach isn't the typical park for an outing with your child or mother-in-law," said Harnik. "It's a huge mountain wilderness. But it is a beloved retreat for its citizens and it is all within the city limits of Anchorage, so it counts as the champion.
"This year TPL added 15 cities to its list for parkland analysis.
"That's how we learned about Chugach," Harnik said. "Anchorage hadn't been in our previous studies. Until then we believed that the biggest park was Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso.
"Harnik noted that city park systems contain numerous different kinds of facilities, from remote natural areas to playgrounds, flower gardens to paved plazas, sports fields to bike trails.In its annual survey, TPL counts every kind of park within the municipal boundary, including national, state, county, regional, and municipal.
There are nearly 20,000 individual parks in the biggest cities. For dog parks look to Portland, Ore., Las Vegas, and San Francisco. For swimming pools per capita turn to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, and Pittsburgh. For recreation centers head for Chicago and Honolulu.
Aside from Anchorage, cities that provide particularly large amounts of parkland per 1,000 residents include Jacksonville, Albuquerque, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Va., and Kansas City, Mo. Older, more densely-populated cities that provide residents with big swaths of green space include St. Paul, Minn., Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and Seattle.
Among cities that provide lots of parkland as a percent of the city's area are New York, San Francisco, Boston, San Diego, Raleigh, and Austin.
Cities which gained significant amounts of new parkland between 2006 and 2007 included San Antonio, Pittsburgh, Wichita, El Paso, and Denver.
Based on data from 2006, the best-funded major city park and recreation departments were in Seattle (which spent $242 per resident), St. Paul ($224), Las Vegas ($192), Virginia Beach ($158), and Sacramento ($156). The lowest-funded departments were in Houston ($31), Tulsa ($35), Memphis ($39), Louisville ($40), and Toledo ($40).
"Spending in many respects is the most important measure," said Harnik. "A great park system requires ongoing investment, and it also needs quality programming for citizens and visitors."
Of 123 park agencies studied for operations (many cities have more than one agency handling parks), 62 spent more, 22 spent less and 39 remained constant between 2005 and 2006, according to TPL. Harnik cautioned that spending levels can change significantly from year to year. "Keeping up a great park system needs the constant attention of the city and the constant vigilance of its park users and advocates," he said. "Parks need to be nurtured even in times of tight budgets."
The 15 cities added by TPL this year are: Anchorage; Buffalo, N.Y.; Corpus Christi, Tex.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Glendale, Ariz.; Henderson, Nev.; Jersey City, N.J.; Lexington, Ky.; Lincoln, Neb.; Newark, N.J.; Plano, Tex.; Riverside, Calif.; St. Paul, Minn.; St. Petersburg, Fla.; and Stockton, Calif.
TPL's Center for City Park Excellence, begun in 1994, supports the creation and rehabilitation of city park systems through research, data collection, evaluation, skill building, fundraising, garden and playground construction, and land purchase. For more information, visit the Center on the web at TPL.org/ccpe<http://www.tpl.org/ccpe>.The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. With offices in more than 30 cities, TPL works to increase the number and quality of urban parks and reduce the distance city residents must travel to reach open spaces. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations. For more information, visit TPL on the Web at TPL.org<http://www.tpl.org/>.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
thought this was really interesting - an article in the Daily Green on Green Insurance for Homeowners Nationwide - Fireman's Fund Insurance Company Stimulates Green Building.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
The world had long assumed that Americans were just unrepentant energy pigs (well, we still are).
If gas prices went up, well, we kept our Explorers aimed at the horizon, and little changed. We truthfully didn't have lots of options. Unlike Europeans, we didn't have jobs we could bike to or convenient public transit. Gasoline prices never stayed high enough long enough to force those kinds of shifts in how we lived.
Now here we are. Gas prices are at $4 a gallon, as no one needs to tell you, and they are likely to stay that way. Most of us still don't have the alternatives we need to adapt with grace, which means that many will adapt just by suffering. We will run out of gas on the Interstate, ease our minivans over to the shoulder and tell the kids everything is O.K. We'll fall behind on Visa bills to pay for gas so we can buy food made ever more expensive by energy costs.
But it's also true that Americans are finding options where there seemed to be none. They're ready to change — just waiting for their infrastructure to catch up. They are driving to commuter-rail lines only to find there are no parking spots left. They are running fewer errands and dumping their SUVs. Public-transit use is at a 50-year high. Gas purchases are down 2% to 3%. And all those changes bring secondary, hard-earned benefits.
"You suddenly are reminded how the economy works," says Eric Roston, author of a new book about energy, The Carbon Age. "Nobody wants high prices for oil. But there's also no faster mechanism to change behavior." The suffering will go on. But the story, like any good tragedy, is not without redemption.
1. Globalized Jobs Return Home
The world suddenly seems big again. A family of four can't fly cross-country for much less than $2,000. The cost of shipping a standard 40-ft. (12 m) container of couches from Shanghai to New Jersey has tripled since 2000. Trucking carrots from Mexico to Georgia makes less and less economic sense.
When John Smith started a high-end furniture company in Washington in 2003, he couldn't make everything in the U.S. and stay competitive. So his company, Willem Smith, started operations in Vietnam and Ecuador. He found himself visiting factories 11 time zones away from his four small daughters.
By last year, the cost of making and importing one of his favorite pieces, the Caballero Chair, was ballooning. He was shipping Italian leather to Vietnam and then shipping the large chair back to the States. There were other problems too, like inflation in Vietnam. So last January, Willem Smith "repatriated" the Caballero to Hickory, N.C. That shift helps contain shipping costs and has other perks. "People are happy to buy American," Smith says. "And it felt kind of nice to bring this one home."
In more industries, such as steel, lawn-mower batteries and upscale furniture, doing business in the U.S. is starting to look slightly more feasible.
2. Sprawl Stalls
Across the country, real estate agents are reporting that many home buyers are looking to move closer to cities. Gas prices are shaping their decisions. A May study that examined housing values in five cities found prices had fared worse in the more distant neighborhoods. "The collapse of America's housing bubble — and its reverberations in financial markets — has obscured a tectonic shift in housing demand," wrote economist Joe Cortright in the study, sponsored by CEOs for Cities, a nonprofit group that promotes cities. "Housing in cities and neighborhoods that require lengthy commutes and provide few transportation alternatives to the private vehicle are falling in value more precipitously than in more central, compact and accessible places."
3. Four-Day Workweeks
Companies, colleges and governments are moving to four-day weeks. Brevard Community College in Cocoa, Fla., went to four days for the 2007 summer session and saved $268,000 in energy costs. There were unforeseen benefits too. Over the year, sick leave fell 50%, and turnover among the 1,500-person staff dropped 44%. "We thought the energy savings would be a plus. But the reaction was about what it meant to people's family lives and their ability to take care of themselves," says college president Jim Drake. Brevard is doing four-day weeks again this summer and may make the change year-round.
4. Less Pollution
As people consume less fuel in America, vehicle emissions should drop. Less pollution means bluer skies and longer lives — and the potential to slow global warming, albeit slightly. Lower energy demand means the air will contain fewer toxic agents, like particle pollution, which can get deep into your lungs and cause serious health problems. Bottom line? About 2,220 lives have already been saved over the past year because of higher gas prices and less pollution, according to an estimate calculated for TIME by J. Paul Leigh, a University of California at Davis health-economics professor who co-wrote a study on the topic in the March 2008 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. If prices remain high, we can expect some 2,000 people to avoid dying from pollution in the next 12 months.
5. More Frugality
Trucking companies are using software to help identify optimal places for drivers to refuel and the most efficient delivery routes. Waste haulers are checking tire pressure twice a day instead of every couple of days. We're all wasting less. Vespa scooter sales increased 106% in May compared with the same time last year; Ford SUV sales dropped 55% in June. Columbia, Md., resident Glenn Conrad, 58, bought a Honda Insight a few years ago and like many so-called hypermilers became obsessed with his miles-per-gallon gauge. "That thing is really addictive," he says. Although a police officer recently gave him a warning for going too slowly, he is undeterred. "If I roll both of my windows up," he says, "I instantly get about two more miles per gallon."
6. Fewer Traffic Deaths
Every year, about 40,000 people die in traffic accidents in the U.S. If you are age 5 through 34, you are more likely to die this way than any other way. Ordinary things we do — or don't do — have extraordinary consequences. We know that higher gas prices cause many of us to slow down and drive less — which means fewer people die. Early research into 2006 accident data suggests many lives have already been spared. If gas remains at $4 a gallon for a year or more, expect as many as 1,000 fewer fatalities a month, according to professor Michael Morrisey at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and associate professor David Grabowski at Harvard Medical School, who calculated that estimate for TIME. That means annual deaths could be cut by almost a third — a public-health triumph.
7. Cheaper Insurance
If you are driving less, you could qualify for lower car-insurance rates. For example, if you have stopped driving to work, your classification has changed to "pleasure driver," and you could save 10% to 15% (or $94 to $142 on an average premium), according to the Consumer Federation of America. So if you're parked more, call your insurer.
8. Less Traffic
Travel on all roads dropped 2.1% in the first four months of 2008, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Wherever people can take public transit, they are. Even before the biggest gas-price hikes, a Congressional Budget Office study of California freeways from 2003 to 2006 showed that the number of freeway trips went down 0.7% for every 50� increase in gas prices — but only in areas near public transit. Cities are struggling to keep up. BART, the San Francisco Bay Area rail system, removed seats to open up more standing room. In Boston, where turnpike use declined by 600,000 cars in May, officials are pleading with public-transit passengers to travel at non peak times.
9. More Cops on the Beat
Across the country, police bike and foot patrols are up, and cops are being told to cut down on idling their cruisers — which is sort of like telling a teenager to stop using his cell phone. Georgia state police have been told to cut driving time 25%. In Shelby, N.C., police officers have been ordered to park their cars for 15 min. every 2 hours and to stop taking patrol cars out for lunch. In May the city government's fuel consumption decreased. The longer-term effects may include better community relations — and slimmer police.
10. Less Obesity
People walk more, bike more and eat out less when gas is pricey. A permanent $1 hike in prices may cut obesity 10%, saving thousands of lives and billions of dollars a year, estimates Charles Courtemanche, an assistant professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. At Orange Cycle, the largest bike store in Orlando, Fla., sales of upright urban bikes from March to June rose 57% compared with the same period last year. The shop was around for the 1970s gas crisis too, but this feels different, says co-owner Deena Breed. "I don't think it's just gas," she says. "It has to do with weight, exercise, community — a general sense of not being so wasteful."
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
When the ink finally dries on the largest conservation land purchase in the history of the United States - 320,000 Montana forest acres for $510 million - nearly nothing will have changed. And that, of course, is exactly the point.
The deal between Plum Creek Timber Co. and conservation buyers is designed to maintain the status quo; the real change would come if those western Montana acres were sold instead to real estate developers. Plum Creek lands to be purchased under the deal announced Monday include forests surrounding the Missoula Valley, on up the Swan and even into the Yaak, and all “are worth more as house lots than as board feet,” said Eric Love, regional director for conservation buyer Trust for Public Lands. “It just would be tragic to lose it all to backcountry sprawl.”
HARRISBURG - The tentative budget deal between Gov. Ed Rendell and state lawmakers calls for borrowing about $2.5 billion for water and sewer projects, bridge repairs and other infrastructure projects.