Envisioning Light Rail in Kansas City
You know you're a nerd when an animation of parking lots being replaced with sweet, well-designed density gives you goosebumps. And I, my friends, am a nerd. This video created by ArnoldImaging for Kansas City Public Television asks how, within a decade, alternative transit would change life in Kansas City, where the average resident currently spends the equivalent of six work weeks per year in a car. Although I'm not totally convinced that light rail equals solar panels and romance, I know it brings walkable transit-oriented development and sidewalk cafes. Awesome. (JL)
The Little Lifeboat That Couldn't
SEED asks experts, "Will the Future Be Geo-Engineered?" Read Alex Steffen's response, alongside those from Stanford scientist Ken Caldeira, University of Colorado professor Roger Pielke Jr., College of William and Mary professor Maria Ivanova, and Columbia University scientist Robin Bell. Want to arm yourself against geoengineering spin? Check out our recent feature, Geoengineering and the New Climate Denialism. (JL)
Hero Retrofit: The Joseph Vance Building, Seattle
I saw a lot of beautiful buildings at the AIA Seattle What Makes It Green? awards on Tuesday (held at Seattle's innovative FareStart Restaurant). But my favorite of all wasn't any of the glittering brand-new construction; instead, it was the retrofit of the 80-year-old Joseph Vance Building by Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects (ZGF). Part of the Jonathan Rose Companies’ smart growth investment fund, which is committed to preserving and updating historic buildings around the country, the retrofit focused on simple, low-cost measures like fixing all the steam leaks -- a repair that single-handedly cut the energy use by 60 percent. The cost-conservative renovation allowed rents to stay low, and so the Vance continues to house a huge number of local non-profit tenants (in fact, occupancy rose to about 95 percent). The judging panel called it a "massive, replicable idea" and a "huge financial success." We hope it turns the heads of developers nationwide. (JL)
The Last 200 Years
I am a huge fan of Hans Rosling and Gapminder. He simply does what may be the best job of anyone, anywhere, explaining our planet's big macrotrends in health, wealth and well-being. Gapminder is crack for big-picture addicts: Rosling can sum up in a few minutes points that you'll think about for weeks. Even by his standard of awesomeness, though, this video rocks, explaining in simple terms the utter transformation of the human condition that we've witnessed over the last 200 years, and what we might really mean when we say the world is flat:
Everything we call the Industrial Revolution, from fossil fuels to imperialism, happened in a brief blip of time. Recognizing how fleeting a phenomenon it has been may well help us understand the degree to which something new and strange is rising to take its place. (AS)
Smart Grid 101
Now that the White House is finally talking seriously about rebuilding the U.S. energy infrastructure, do you have any question about the smart grid? Want to know what it is? If we need it? How we'll build it? How much it'll cost? See NPR's "Power Hungry" series which is chock full of maps, charts and clear explanations. (Terrapass did their own version of this earlier this year.)
More about smart grids in the Worldchanging archives here, here, here and here... (JL)
LEED-ND: Round Two
Earlier today, developers at the United States Green Building Council opened up the second public comment period on their new LEED for Neighborhood Development rating system. Visit their site to view the latest draft of LEED-ND, and weigh in with your comments and suggestions to help improve this influential tool. (JL)
Can car parking spots double as whimsical public art?
Because bike parking spots can. (JL)
China's Charter 08
We've written before about how the prospects of a bright green China are minimal without the reality of a much more transparent and democratic China:
Transparency, accountability, clear market standards and the rule of law are all needed if those who benefit from environmentally catastrophic practices are going to be forced to stop employing them. Put another way, solar economies need sunlight to prevail.
Some people find hope in the idea that because the PRC is an authoritarian state, the state can force the country to go green more rapidly than would perhaps be politically acceptable in, say, the U.S. Others, though, point out that the Party and the government of the PRC is less a monolithic structure than a network of leaders with competing power bases, each most interested (whatever they say in public) in serving and enriching themselves. These critics say that about the only thing that network is wholly agreed upon is that any threat to the political status quo should be squashed like a bug.
But there is real hope that a democratic China is struggling to emerge. The most encouraging sign is the degree to which Charter 08, a manifesto for a free and transparent China, has become a rallying point in China even as the authorities try to crack down on its spread:
Our political system continues to produce human rights disasters and social crises, thereby not only constricting China's own development but also limiting the progress of all of human civilization. This must change, truly it must. The democratization of Chinese politics can be put off no longer.
Accordingly, we dare to put civic spirit into practice by announcing Charter 08. We hope that our fellow citizens who feel a similar sense of crisis, responsibility, and mission, whether they are inside the government or not, and regardless of their social status, will set aside small differences to embrace the broad goals of this citizens' movement. Together we can work for major changes in Chinese society and for the rapid establishment of a free, democratic, and constitutional country. We can bring to reality the goals and ideals that our people have incessantly been seeking for more than a hundred years, and can bring a brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization.
A brilliant new chapter to Chinese civilization is exactly what we need.
The Girl Effect
This beautiful video elaborates on the one solution that could turn our sinking ship around.