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Think globally, eat locally

Melinda Tuhus, New Haven Independent
This woman told a crowd in New Haven Tuesday to think about what they had for lunch — and told them how that will change as oil production peaks.

…Stoner is an entomologist (she studies bugs) who’s also been a leader in the organic farming movement in Connecticut, through the Northeast Organic Farming Association and other efforts. She presented data from within and outside the U.S. government that predict oil production will peak and then decrease any time between now and 2037.

…If Connecticut residents are going to get more of their food locally, it must be grown on nearby farms or gardens. But Connecticut is losing the most farmland, proportionally, of any state in the country. More bad news: The average age of the state’s farmers is 55, with a third over 65. And property taxes on farmland rose 44 percent on average between 1997 and 2002, forcing many farm families to sell out to developers.

The good news, Stoner said, is the growth of farmers’ markets, community gardens and community supported agriculture, in which where consumers in the spring purchase shares of the produce grown on a farm – whether the harvest turns out to be good or bad, thus reducing a farmer’s economic risk. She also said she knows quite a few young people who would love to farm but need access to land; some creative plans are afoot to help connect these potential farmers to available farms.

Connecticut residents must experience a change in consciousness about the need to buy local food – which includes eating a more seasonal diet with more limited offerings in cold weather, Stoner said. That change has not yet come even to those, like herself, who foresee the end of oil as we know it.
(4 April 2006)

A ‘green’ building rises amid Beijing smog

Robert Marquand, Christian Science Monitor
The new structure is China’s first to pass the stringent, globally recognized LEED certification.
BEIJING – The gray eight-story squeezed into a row of sedate official buildings seems innocuous. But from its radically efficient basement generator to the light volcanic ash soil on the garden roof deck, this is one of the cleanest and most energy efficient structures in China.

In a country both energy-starved and cash-conscious, the new ministry of science building is a small wonder. It uses 70 percent less energy than similar federal buildings, and saves 10,000 tons of water a year through rainwater collection. Wise use of quality materials inside a simple, plain design also make it far cheaper to build and maintain than comparable Beijing buildings.

Last week, this building became the first in China to pass the stringent, internationally recognized Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

…But the actual record on energy- and resource-friendly construction in China remains mixed at best. The green visions of ecology-minded policymakers vie with the realities of a nation rebuilding its urban centers day and night, with aggressive developers, impatient construction firms, quick money, and a floating population of as many as 400 million workers needing housing in coming decades. Few Chinese developers or experts feel the nation will match the March 7 edict for energy efficiency. “We can’t enforce it,” explains a knowledgeable government source in Beijing.

China has 11 “green city” projects under construction and 140 building projects. But few foreign experts feel those projects could pass a genuine international green test – involving low energy use, low cost, recycling water systems, and “intelligent” integrated design and materials.

…Moreover, green concepts, quite unknown outside elite circles, and not broadly promoted in the rough and tumble world of Chinese builders, must compete against the kind of eye-catching and unorthodox signature projects now under construction downtown, like the new Central Chinese Television [CCTV] tower.

…”The national government has incredible intentions for a green future.” says Mr. Mars. “Really mind-boggling. But we are in an interesting paradox, and I am asking, ‘Is it better to have high ambitions, or to be realistic?’ “
(3 April 2006)
Related: Religious congregations going green in Northwest.

Green building: sustainability is good business

Annie Reid, The Age (Australia)
SUSTAINABILITY is not just about being green, it will help the bottom line for owners and occupiers ready to embrace the technology.

That’s one of the key results of the white paper Assessing the Value of Sustainability, presented at a sustainability forum in Melbourne by Jones Lang LaSalle national director of sustainability and engineering services, Chris Wallbank.

“Commercial outcomes are beginning to drive the ‘greening’ of Australian office property as building owners seek to drive higher levels of efficiency from their property portfolios,” he said.

“They are starting to come to the realisation that sustainability features can reduce outgoings and increase property values by boosting the bottom line.”
(5 April 2006)

America’s greenest cities

Robert Malone, Forbes
New York – Being green (or clean) can have substantial benefits. Transportation, logistics and the supply chain are best practiced where they do not have to fight traffic jams, pollution and a tattered infrastructure. That goes for people’s health as well.

Air pollution in California’s San Joaquin Valley has very recently been evaluated. This is the valley that runs from the vicinity of Bakersfield in the south to Merced in the north. The air in this valley stagnates between Interstate 5 and Route 99 and the two north/south mountain chains (the Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada). This area has, outside of Los Angeles, the worst air pollution in the United States.

A study conducted by the California State University at Fullerton states that air pollution costs the San Joaquin Valley $3 billion a year–a husky average of $1,000 per person per year by the university’s calculation.
Click here for a slide show of the cleanest cities in America.

Pollution costs dearly in health and life, and it pays (in terms of business) to be clean, according to the study.
(3 April 2006)
Welcome aboard the green bandwagon, Forbes magazine!

U.S. cities’ preparedness for an oil crisis

This is a Tale of Two Types of Cities.

One type of city has a dense, walkable center with cultural attractions, jobs, farmers markets, and residential neighborhoods easily accessible by foot, bike, or public transit. The other type has lower density, a poorly or undefined center, separate centers of business and residential life, and is generally only accessible by car.

We compared these two fundamental types of cities’ underlying infrastructure, food and mobility as part of an economic competitiveness analysis. With gas prices on the rise and $3 or $4 a gallon gas on the horizon, took a close look at the 50 largest U.S. cities to see which are most prepared and which are most vulnerable to an extended gas price shock in the $3 to $8 dollar a gallon range. Those cities that can reduce or stabilize their spending on gasoline will keep substantially more money in their state’s economy, rather than siphoning it overseas.

…It’s not impossible for cities that are now the most vulnerable to an oil crisis to become more prepared.

One city that is taking comprehensive actions to lessen its economic and physical dependence on the automobile is Denver. Ranked #15 on our oil crisis preparedness index, Denver has bet its future on new multi-modal public transportation as part of an economic strategy known as Transit Oriented Development.

The city passed the largest regional transportation funding measure in America’s history in 2003.
(4 April 2006)
SustainLane published a related article a few weeks ago: Ten U.S. Cities Best Prepared for an Oil Crisis.

The Oil Drum has a post on the article with many comments

L.A. urban farmers fight for community garden

Jessica Hoffmann, The New Standard
Los Angeles; Apr. 5 – Los Angeles authorities are threatening a community farm with imminent destruction in a local struggle between social and environmental values and individual property rights.

Last month, a representative from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department placed an eviction notice on the gate of the approximately 14-acre South Central Farm in Los Angeles, presumed to be the largest urban community garden in the United States. While the last thread of their legal case lingers in court, keeping eviction at bay, farmer-organizers and their supporters are engaged in round-the-clock political organizing to save the farm’s 300-plus survival gardens from replacement by a private warehouse.
(5 April 2006)
The original article has links to more resources.

Live uncomfortably, live long
(original “Awakening Discomforts”)

Regine Debatty, WorldChanging
If you want to live to be 100, there are volumes of book and scads of websites that will give you hints on how to do it. Alternatively, you can move to Japan (whose population is of course well known for their longevity), and into the Reversible Destiny Lofts.

Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins, whose motto is Architecture Against Death, unveiled a few months ago a small apartment complex in the Tokyo suburb of Mitaka that is anything but comfortable and calming. “People, particularly old people, shouldn’t relax and sit back to help them decline,” Arakawa insists. “They should be in an environment that stimulates their senses and invigorates their lives.”

Inside the apartments, known as Reversible Destiny Lofts, the floor of the dining room slopes erratically, the one in the kitchen is sunken and the study features a concave floor. Electric switches are located in unexpected places so you have to feel around for the right one. A glass door to the veranda is so small you have to bend to crawl out. You constantly lose balance, gather yourself up, and occasionally trip and fall. There’s no closet space; residents will have to find a way to live there. “[The apartment] makes you alert and awakens instincts, so you’ll live better, longer and even forever,” says Arakawa.

Completed last October, the apartments are selling for $763,000 each-about twice as much as a normal apartment in that neighborhood.

10 years ago the pair opened the Site of Reversible Destiny-Yoro Park in Gifu. The theme park consists of attractions designed to throw people off balance, made up of warped surfaces and confusing directions. Visitors often fall-but so far nobody has sued.
(5 April 2006)