Despite geologic barriers and in the face of scientific advice, huge infrastructure projects of the 20th century brought water to the arid Southwest and fueled the growth of a megaregion. But now that era of infrastructure-enabled growth is over, leaving planners, developers and policymakers looking for new ways to sustain growth and rising demand amid diminishing resources.
With the one arm he had left after fighting for the Union during the Civil War, John Wesley Powell led a team of 10 men and four boats on what was likely the most extreme and adventurous fact-finding mission since Lewis and Clark stumbled upon the West Coast of North America. It was 1869, and this was neither the first nor the last river voyage Powell would command.
Of all the ways that California is attempting to reduce its carbon footprint, perhaps none will have a more dramatic, or immediate, impact than that of solar power.
Up to 200 solar energy projects, are seeking, or have received, approval to be developed in California. Most notable of these are nine large-scale projects in the state’s own Empty Quarter – the Mojave and Colorado -- where state and federal officials are on the verge of inking approvals on more than 4,100 megawatts worth of solar thermal farms. Collectively, they represent nearly ten times the amount of solar capacity installed in 2009, and enough energy to power roughly 2 million homes.
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Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is both a local challenge and a global imperative, says Rohit Aggarwala, the director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability for New York City. Nate Berg caught up with Aggarwala to talk about his office's sustainability plans and the possible dangers posed by federal intervention.
New York City is America's most iconic metropolis. It's the biggest, the most famous and in many ways the most exciting. Beyond the glitz, New York is also exciting because it is instituting some very forward thinking programs and policies like the city's long-term sustainability plan, PlaNYC. New York's leadership on environmental sustainability has been a model for the nation.
Green alley projects are popping up in cities all over the U.S. and Canada in an effort to make the concrete jungle a little better at absorbing rainwater. A new alley program in Los Angeles goes beyond the runoff to actively integrate these unique spaces into the urban fold.
They're all over the city, but you'd hardly know it.
Across Los Angeles, the city's alleyways account for more than 900 linear miles of pavement. If you put them all together, the city's alleys would make up about 3 square miles – about half the size of L.A.'s Griffith Park, twice the size of New York's Central Park, or the equivalent of about 400 Wal-Marts (not including parking). They're peppered throughout the city, in neighborhoods, commercial zones, downtown, and L.A.'s industrial areas. But for the most part, these alleys are ignored.
Protecting the poor and protecting the environment are two areas we haven’t quite figured out yet. Put them together, and we’re really up a creek. And we are, because these two silos are actually linked very closely. The relationship between poverty and environmental degradation is incredibly complex, but you wouldn’t guess it by looking at some recent policies gathering support out there in the world.
Solutions, it would seem, are incredibly simple. But most of these ideas, though well-intentioned, address only one side of the poverty-environment relationship -- and really hurt the other.
Long seen as an affluent concern, environmentalism is largely a movement of the rich, but the problems the rich are fighting against are caused by everyone, rich and poor (though, of course, in varying degrees). Poor people, it’s often argued are too poor to worry about protecting the environment, leading to degradation like raw sewage in rivers and slum housing on clearcut rainforests.
Adaptation is a way of life. But we humans have been building our habitats and cities in pursuit of permanence. This is an unreachable goal. Making our cities and communities and lifestyles adapt to outside influences is typically an afterthought. We do tend to react, and we often react very effectively. But solving problems before they happen has never been a strong suit when it comes to urban development. This is especially true with regard to our impacts on the environment. A recent and bizarre example illustrates this point.
The example revolves around water, and takes place in Los Angeles. The city is geographically a desert where water is naturally in low supply -- but because of the marvels of modern engineering and science it is now plentiful enough to meet the staggering demand of 4 million residents.
The green building standard LEED is moving beyond the structure and into the neighborhood. With the pilot phase of LEED for Neighborhood Development now underway, its organizers hope to establish a new way to create and evaluate environmental sustainability in urban design and development.
Environmental concerns have flooded into the public consciousness recently, and addressing these concerns is the new frontier of political correctness. With movies, television, and the popular media at-large increasingly tapping into the drama of climate change and environmental degradation, the past few years have brought about a widespread resurgence of the environmental movement. With that resurgence has come a boom in the green market: organic foods, hybrid cars, energy-efficient appliances, and on and on.
As part of monthly series, we present a summary and analysis of some of the most interesting news to appear on Planetizen over the month of September 2006. This is the transcript of an audio segment that originally aired on the nationally syndicated radio program "Smart City".
Can cities get back in touch with nature? Planners, developers, architects, and policy makers convened in Los Angeles June 7 to face the challenge and develop a plan of action to help bring life onto the rooftops of L.A.'s downtown.
"Nature" is increasingly represented in the urban world as an incidental garnish -- a potted shrub at the door of a towering high-rise; a bush inside the loop of a freeway onramp.
These greening gestures calmly try to suggest a connection between the urban environment and the natural one. Yet other than providing window dressing, they contribute little to counter the harm that cities inflict on the natural ecology.
So what is a densely developed and thoroughly paved American downtown to do? ...