Topic: Urbanization


As Himalayan Glaciers Melt, <br />Two Towns Face the Fallout

Report

As Himalayan Glaciers Melt,
Two Towns Face the Fallout

by daniel grossman
For two towns in northern India, melting glaciers have had very different impacts — one town has benefited from flowing streams and bountiful harvests; but the other has seen its water supplies dry up and now is being forced to relocate.
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In Romania, Highway Boom Poses Looming Threat to Bears

Report

In Romania, Highway Boom Poses Looming Threat to Bears

by alastair bland
Romania, one of Europe’s poorest nations, badly needs a modern highway system. But conservationists warn that unless the movements of wildlife are accommodated, a planned boom in road construction could threaten one of the continent’s last large brown bear populations.
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In China’s Heartland, A Toxic Trail <br />Leads from Factories to Fields to Food

Tainted Harvest: An e360 Special Report/Part II

In China’s Heartland, A Toxic Trail
Leads from Factories to Fields to Food

by he guangwei

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Interview

Putting San Francisco
On the Road to Zero Waste

by cheryl katz
For two decades, Jack Macy has spearheaded San Francisco’s efforts to become a global leader in recycling. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he talks about how San Francisco has engaged the public in a recycling crusade that has resulted in the city reusing or composting 80 percent of its garbage.
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In New Delhi, A Rough Road <br />For Bus Rapid Transit Systems

Report

In New Delhi, A Rough Road
For Bus Rapid Transit Systems

by mike ives
High-speed bus systems in crowded urban areas have taken off from Brazil to China, but introducing this form of mass transit to the teeming Indian capital of New Delhi has proven to be a vexing challenge.
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UN Climate Report Is Cautious <br />On Making Specific Predictions

Analysis

UN Climate Report Is Cautious
On Making Specific Predictions

by fred pearce
The draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that the world faces serious risks from warming and that the poor are especially vulnerable. But it avoids the kinds of specific forecasts that have sparked controversy in the past.
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In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an <br />Architect Makes Water His Ally

Photo Essay

In Flood-Prone New Orleans, an
Architect Makes Water His Ally

As these photographs and illustrations show, architect David Waggonner has decided that the best way to protect low-lying New Orleans is to think about water in an entirely different way.
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Indian Microgrids Aim to <br />Bring Millions Out of Darkness

Report

Indian Microgrids Aim to
Bring Millions Out of Darkness

by david ferris
Powered by solar panels and biomass, microgrids are spreading slowly across India, where 300 million people live without electricity. But can these off-grid technologies be scaled-up to bring low-carbon power to tens of millions of people?
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Urban Nature: How to Foster <br />Biodiversity in World’s Cities

Analysis

Urban Nature: How to Foster
Biodiversity in World’s Cities

by richard conniff
As the world becomes more urbanized, researchers and city managers from Baltimore to Britain are recognizing the importance of providing urban habitat that can support biodiversity. It just may be the start of an urban wildlife movement.
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Singapore Takes the Lead <br />In Green Building in Asia

Report

Singapore Takes the Lead
In Green Building in Asia

by mike ives
By encouraging the adoption of innovative architectural design and energy-saving technologies, Singapore has emerged as a model of green building in Asia — an important development in a region that is urbanizing more rapidly than any other in the world.
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A Successful Push to Restore <br />Europe’s Long-Abused Rivers

Analysis

A Successful Push to Restore
Europe’s Long-Abused Rivers

by fred pearce
From Britain to the Czech Republic, European nations have been restoring rivers to their natural state — taking down dams, removing levees, and reviving floodplains. For a continent that long viewed rivers as little more than shipping canals and sewers, it is a striking change.
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Out of India’s Trash Heaps, <br />A Controversy on Incineration

Report

Out of India’s Trash Heaps,
A Controversy on Incineration

by david ferris
India is planning to burn more of its trash to generate badly needed electricity. But as the case of a waste-to-energy plant in New Delhi shows, critics are worried about lax air pollution controls and the impact of incineration on people who eke out a living picking through waste dumps.
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China at Crossroads: Balancing <br />The Economy and Environment

Analysis

China at Crossroads: Balancing
The Economy and Environment

by r. edward grumbine
After three decades of unbridled economic growth and mounting ecological problems, China and its new leadership face a key challenge: cleaning up the dirty air, polluted water, and tainted food supplies that are fueling widespread discontent among the country’s burgeoning middle class.
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People or Parks: The Human<br /> Factor in Protecting Wildlife

Report

People or Parks: The Human
Factor in Protecting Wildlife

by richard conniff
Recent studies in Asia and Australia found that community-managed areas can sometimes do better than traditional parks at preserving habitat and biodiversity. When it comes to conservation, maybe local people are not the problem, but the solution.
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Bringing Back the Night: <br /> A Fight Against Light Pollution

Report

Bringing Back the Night:
A Fight Against Light Pollution

by paul bogard
As evidence mounts that excessive use of light is harming wildlife and adversely affecting human health, new initiatives in France and elsewhere are seeking to turn down the lights that flood an ever-growing part of the planet.
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Scientists and Aid Experts<br /> Plan for a Warmer Future

Interview

Scientists and Aid Experts
Plan for a Warmer Future

by diane toomey
Climate scientists and humanitarian relief workers need to collaborate far more closely to prepare for a future of increased extreme weather events. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Harvard University public health expert Jennifer Leaning analyszes the results of a meeting between these two very different factions.
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Recycling’s ‘Final Frontier’:<br /> The Composting of Food Waste

Report

Recycling’s ‘Final Frontier’:
The Composting of Food Waste

by dave levitan
A move by New York City to begin collecting food scraps and other organic waste is just the latest example of expanding efforts by municipalities worldwide to recycle large quantities of unused food and slash the amount of material sent to landfills.
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With Tar Sands Development,<br /> Growing Concern on Water Use

Report

With Tar Sands Development,
Growing Concern on Water Use

by ed struzik
Environmental questions about Canada’s massive tar sands development have long centered on greenhouse gas emissions. Now there are mounting concerns about the huge volumes of water used by the oil industry and the impact on the vast Mackenzie River Basin.
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In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom<br /> Has Steep Environmental Cost

Report

In Mekong Delta, Rice Boom
Has Steep Environmental Cost

by mike ives
Vietnam has become one of the world’s leading rice producers, thanks to the construction of an elaborate network of dikes and irrigation canals. But these extensive infrastructure projects in the storied Mekong Delta have come at a high ecological price.
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Our Overcrowded Planet:<br /> A Failure of Family Planning

Opinion

Our Overcrowded Planet:
A Failure of Family Planning

by robert engelman
New UN projections forecast that world population will hit nearly 11 billion people by 2100, an unsettling prospect that reflects a collective failure to provide women around the world with safe, effective ways to avoid pregnancies they don't intend or want.
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Coal Pollution and the Fight<br /> For Environmental Justice

Interview

Coal Pollution and the Fight
For Environmental Justice

by diane toomey
As its director of "climate justice," Jacqueline Patterson is leading the NAACP’s campaign to shut down coal-burning power plants in minority communities. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, she talks about the skepticism she faces from her own constituents.
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For Africa’s Solar Sisters,<br /> Off-Grid Electricity is Power

Interview

For Africa’s Solar Sisters,
Off-Grid Electricity is Power

by diane toomey
U.S. businesswoman Katherine Lucey is working with a network of women entrepreneurs in sub-Saharan Africa to sell inexpensive, household solar energy systems. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Lucey explains how solar electricity can transform lives, particularly those of rural women and girls.
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In Post-Tsunami Japan, A Push<br /> To Rebuild Coast in Concrete

Report

In Post-Tsunami Japan, A Push
To Rebuild Coast in Concrete

by winifred bird
In the wake of the 2011 tsunami, the Japanese government is forgoing an opportunity to sustainably protect its coastline and is instead building towering concrete seawalls and other defenses that environmentalists say will inflict serious damage on coastal ecosystems.
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Will Electric Bicycles Get<br /> Americans to Start Pedaling?

Report

Will Electric Bicycles Get
Americans to Start Pedaling?

by marc gunther
Electric bicycles are already popular in Europe and in China, which has more e-bikes than cars on its roads. Now, manufacturers are marketing e-bikes in the U.S., promoting them as a "green" alternative to driving.
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Copenhagen’s Ambitious Push<br /> To Be Carbon Neutral by 2025

Report

Copenhagen’s Ambitious Push
To Be Carbon Neutral by 2025

by justin gerdes
The Danish capital is moving rapidly toward a zero-carbon future, as it erects wind farms, transforms its citywide heating systems, promotes energy efficiency, and lures more people out of their cars and onto public transportation and bikes.
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Into the Heart of Ecuador’s Yasuni

e360 Video

Into the Heart of Ecuador’s Yasuni

Few places on earth harbor as much biodiversity as Ecuador’s Yasuni Biosphere Reserve, which sits atop vast deposits of oil and now faces intense development pressure. In a Yale Environment 360 video, filmmaker Ryan Killackey travels to the heart of Yasuni with scientists inventorying its stunning wildlife and plants. The researchers hope their work will bolster initiatives to preserve this threatened land.
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Why a Highly Promising<br /> Electric Car Start-Up Is Failing

Report

Why a Highly Promising
Electric Car Start-Up Is Failing

by marc gunther
Better Place was touted as one of the world’s most innovative electric vehicle start-ups when it launched six years ago. But after selling fewer than 750 cars in a major initiative in Israel and losing more than $500 million, the company’s experience shows that EVs are still not ready for primetime.
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In Tibet, Change Comes to the<br /> Once-Pristine Roof of the World

Report

In Tibet, Change Comes to the
Once-Pristine Roof of the World

by george schaller
Renowned biologist George Schaller has been traveling to the Tibetan Plateau for nearly three decades, studying its unique wildlife. But with climate change and overgrazing taking a toll on the landscape, he reports, scientists and the Chinese government are working to preserve one of the planet’s wildest places.
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To Tackle Runoff, Cities<br /> Turn to Green Initiatives

Report

To Tackle Runoff, Cities
Turn to Green Initiatives

by dave levitan
Urban stormwater runoff is a serious problem, overloading sewage treatment plants and polluting waterways. Now, various U.S. cities are creating innovative green infrastructure — such as rain gardens and roadside plantings — that mimics the way nature collects and cleanses water.
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Black Carbon and Warming:<br /> It’s Worse than We Thought

Analysis

Black Carbon and Warming:
It’s Worse than We Thought

by carl zimmer
A new study indicates soot, known as black carbon, plays a far greater role in global warming than previously believed and is second only to CO2 in the amount of heat it traps in the atmosphere. Reducing some forms of soot emissions — such as from diesel fuel and coal burning — could prove effective in slowing down the planet’s warming.
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Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill<br /> Fails to Face Coastal Realities

Opinion

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bill
Fails to Face Coastal Realities

by rob young
As part of the sorely-needed aid package to help victims of Hurricane Sandy, Congress is also considering spending billions on ill-advised and environmentally damaging beach and coastal rebuilding projects that ignore the looming threats of rising seas and intensifying storms.
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Designing the Urban Landscape<br /> To Meet 21st Century Challenges

Interview

Designing the Urban Landscape
To Meet 21st Century Challenges

by diane toomey
Martha Schwartz, a professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, explains in a Yale Environment 360 interview how creative landscape architecture can help cities become models of sustainability in a world facing daunting environmental challenges.
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A Global Treaty on Rivers:<br /> Key to True Water Security

Analysis

A Global Treaty on Rivers:
Key to True Water Security

by fred pearce
No broad-based international agreement on sharing rivers currently exists, even though much of the world depends on water from rivers that flow through more than one nation. But that may be about to change, as two separate global river treaties are close to being approved.
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 Battered New York City Looks<br /> For Ways to Hold Back the Sea

Report

Battered New York City Looks
For Ways to Hold Back the Sea

by bruce stutz
New York City had been gradually preparing for a world of rising seas and more powerful storms. But the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy is now forcing officials to consider spending billions of dollars on storm protection, including a network of surge barriers.
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Cooling a Warming Planet:<br /> A Global Air Conditioning Surge

Analysis

Cooling a Warming Planet:
A Global Air Conditioning Surge

by stan cox
The U.S. has long used more energy for air conditioning than all other nations combined. But as demand increases in the world’s warmer regions, global energy consumption for air conditioning is expected to continue to rise dramatically and could have a major impact on climate change.
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Can Smarter Growth Guide<br /> China’s Urban Building Boom?

Report

Can Smarter Growth Guide
China’s Urban Building Boom?

by david biello
The world has never seen anything like China’s dizzying urbanization boom, which has taken a heavy environmental toll. But efforts are now underway to start using principles of green design and smart growth to guide the nation’s future development.
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Building Retrofits: Tapping<br /> The Energy-Saving Potential

Report

Building Retrofits: Tapping
The Energy-Saving Potential

by david biello
No more cost-effective way to make major cuts in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions exists than retrofitting buildings. Now, from New York to Mumbai to Melbourne, a push is on to overhaul older buildings to make them more energy efficient.
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A Once-Polluted Chinese City<br /> Is Turning from Gray to Green

Report

A Once-Polluted Chinese City
Is Turning from Gray to Green

by christina larson
Shenyang — once a key in Mao Zedong’s push to industrialize China — has begun to emerge from its smoggy past, cleaning up its factories and expanding its green spaces. In doing so, this city of 8 million people has been in the forefront of a growing environmental consciousness in urban China.
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On Biking, Why Can’t the U.S.<br /> Learn Lessons from Europe?

Opinion

On Biking, Why Can’t the U.S.
Learn Lessons from Europe?

by elisabeth rosenthal
Building bike paths alone will not get people out of their cars in the U.S. and onto bicycles. To create a thriving bike culture in America’s cities, people must begin to view bicycling as Europeans do — not just as a way of exercising, but as a serious form of urban mass transportation.
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U.S. High-Speed Rail: Time to<br /> Hop Aboard or Be Left Behind

Opinion

U.S. High-Speed Rail: Time to
Hop Aboard or Be Left Behind

by andy kunz
In recent months, several conservative governors have rejected federal funds to begin constructing high-speed rail lines in their states. But a high-speed rail advocate argues that such ideologically driven actions are folly, as other U.S. states and countries around the world are moving swiftly to embrace a technology that is essential for competitive 21st-century economies.
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Green Roofs are Starting<br /> To Sprout in American Cities

Report

Green Roofs are Starting
To Sprout in American Cities

by bruce stutz
Long a proven technology in Europe, green roofs are becoming increasingly common in U.S. cities, with major initiatives in Chicago, Portland, and Washington, D.C. While initially more expensive than standard coverings, green roofs offer some major environmental — and economic — benefits.
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How One Small Business<br /> Cut Its Energy Use and Costs

Opinion

How One Small Business
Cut Its Energy Use and Costs

by tom bowman
How significant would it be if America’s 29 million small businesses increased their energy efficiency and reduced their emissions? Judging from the example of one California entrepreneur, the impact could be far greater than you might expect.
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LEED Building Standards<br /> Fail to Protect Human Health

Opinion

LEED Building Standards
Fail to Protect Human Health

by john wargo
LEED certification has emerged as the green standard of approval for new buildings in the United States. But the criteria used for determining the ratings largely ignore factors relating to human health, particularly the use of potentially toxic building materials.
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Toward Sustainable Travel:<br /> Breaking the Flying Addiction

Opinion

Toward Sustainable Travel:
Breaking the Flying Addiction

by elisabeth rosenthal
Flying dwarfs any other individual activity in terms of carbon emissions, yet more and more people are traveling by air. With no quick technological fix on the horizon, what alternatives — from high-speed trains to advanced videoconferencing — can cut back the amount we fly?
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The Greenest Place in the U.S.<br /> May Not Be Where You Think

Opinion

The Greenest Place in the U.S.
May Not Be Where You Think

by david owen
Green rankings in the U.S. don’t tell the full story about the places where the human footprint is lightest. If you really want the best environmental model, you need to look at the nation’s biggest — and greenest — metropolis: New York City.
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What Makes Europe<br /> Greener than the U.S.?

Opinion

What Makes Europe
Greener than the U.S.?

by elisabeth rosenthal
The average American produces three times the amount of CO2 emissions as a person in France. A U.S. journalist now living in Europe explains how she learned to love her clothesline and sweating in summer.
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Reconnecting with Nature<br /> Through Green Architecture

Interview

Reconnecting with Nature
Through Green Architecture

by richard conniff
Stephen Kellert, a social ecologist, is a passionate advocate for the need to incorporate aspects of the natural world into our built environment. In an interview with Yale Environment 360, he explains what we can learn from cathedrals, why flowers in a hospital can heal, and how green design can boost a business’s bottom line.audio
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China’s Grand Plans for <br/>Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned

Report

China’s Grand Plans for
Eco-Cities Now Lie Abandoned

by christina larson
Mostly conceived by international architects, China’s eco-cities were intended to be models of green urban design. But the planning was done with little awareness of how local people lived, and the much-touted projects have largely been scrapped.
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Pursuing the Elusive Goal<br />  of a Carbon-Neutral Building

Analysis

Pursuing the Elusive Goal
of a Carbon-Neutral Building

by richard conniff
Yale University’s recently opened Kroon Hall is a state-of-the-art model of where the green building movement is headed. Yet even this showcase for renewable energy highlights the difficulties of creating a building that is 100 percent carbon neutral.
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The New Urbanists: <br />Tackling Europe’s Sprawl

Analysis

The New Urbanists:
Tackling Europe’s Sprawl

by bruce stutz
In the last few decades, urban sprawl, once regarded as largely a U.S. phenomenon, has spread across Europe. Now an emerging group of planners is promoting a new kind of development — mixed-use, low-carbon communities that are pedestrian-friendly and mass-transit-oriented.
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Green Strategies Spur <br />Rebirth of American Cities

Analysis

Green Strategies Spur
Rebirth of American Cities

by keith schneider
U.S. cities have been using green planning to spark economic development, helping create a real urban renaissance in America. With a new administration soon to arrive in Washington, these same approaches may finally start being used on a national scale.
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RELATED e360 DIGEST ITEMS


13 May 2015: Car Travel Is Six Times
More Expensive Than Bicycling, Study Finds

Traveling by car costs society and individuals six times more than traveling by bicycle, according to a study of
bicycles in Copenhagen

Bicycles parked in downtown Copenhagen
transportation trends in Copenhagen, one of the planet's most heavily bicycled cities. The analysis considered how much cars cost society and how they compare to bicycles in terms of air pollution, climate change, noise, road wear, public health, and congestion in Copenhagen. If the costs to society and the costs to private individuals are added together, the study found, the economic impact of a car is 0.50 euros per kilometer, whereas the cost of a bicycle is 0.08 euros per kilometer. Looking only at costs and benefits to society, one kilometer by car costs 0.15 euros, whereas society earns 0.16 euros on every kilometer cycled because of improvements in the public's health.
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06 May 2015: Backyard Bird Feeders May Put
Native Species at a Disadvantage, Study Says

Backyard bird feeders tend to attract aggressive, introduced bird species while discouraging native species that eat
bird feeder

A sparrow eats at a backyard bird feeder.
insects and nectar, essentially restructuring urban bird communities and skewing them toward non-native species, a new study says. Data based on nearly 600 surveys of 18,000 birds from 33 species in New Zealand show that yards with bird feeders tended to attract non-native omnivores such as house sparrows, spotted doves, and blackbirds. Outdoor areas without bird feeders had significantly more native bird species such as the grey warbler, whose diet consists mainly of insects. Although the population trends reversed when feeders were removed, the researchers say that over time bird feeders in urban areas likely give non-native bird species a competitive and reproductive edge over native species.
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13 Apr 2015: Public Transportation Spending
Varies With Income and Geography in the U.S.

Households in different regions of the United States spend similar amounts on transportation, but how those costs break down

Enlarge
transportation spending trends

Transportation spending trends in the U.S.
between gasoline and public transportation varies widely, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the South, where the average household owns 2.1 vehicles, spending on gasoline is higher and public transportation spending is lower than in any other region. In contrast, households in the Northeast — which own an average of 1.6 vehicles per household — spend the least on gasoline and the most on public transportation of any region in the U.S. The spending breakdown also varies with income. Households in the highest income bracket spend more than $1,400 annually on public transportation — nearly three times the national average of $537 and eight times the $163 spent by lowest-income households.
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07 Apr 2015: Nationwide Vehicle Emissions
Database Could Help Cities Curb CO2

Researchers at Boston University have created a nationwide database for determining how much carbon dioxide

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on-road vehicle CO2 emissions

Nationwide CO2 emissions from vehicle travel
is produced by vehicle travel in U.S. cities and suburbs — an essential part of greenhouse gas reduction efforts, they say. Encompassing 33 years of data, the system provides kilometer-by-kilometer views of vehicle emission trends from roads across the country. Those emissions account for 28 percent of all fossil fuel CO2 emissions in the U.S., the researchers note. The data highlight the ongoing shift in the U.S. toward urban traffic and emissions. For example, cities have been responsible for 80 percent of the growth in vehicle CO2 emissions since 1980 and for 63 percent of total vehicle CO2 in 2012. Emission levels and trends can vary dramatically across different cities, however. Population density hasn't changed much in Salt Lake City since the 1980s, but the per-capita emissions have soared because the suburb and exurb populations are growing, the data indicate.
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24 Mar 2015: Extreme Forest Fragmentation
Documented in Comprehensive New Study

Fragmentation of the world’s forests has become so severe that 70 percent of remaining woodlands are now within 1 kilometer of a road or other form of development, according to a new study. Using the world’s first high-resolution satellite map of tree cover, as well as an analysis of seven long-term fragmentation studies, researchers showed that the ongoing destruction of global forests is decreasing biodiversity by as much as 75 percent in some areas and adversely affecting the ability of forests to store carbon and produce clean water. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, found that 20 percent of the world’s forests are just 100 meters from a human-created “edge.” Even many parks and protected areas have undergone fragmentation, the study said. The few remaining large, virgin tracts of forest are found in parts of the Amazon, Siberia, Congo, and Papua New Guinea.
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19 Mar 2015: Electric Vehicles Keep Cities
Cooler than Gas-Powered Cars, Study Says

Electric vehicles emit 20 percent less heat than gas-powered cars, which helps mitigate the urban heat island effect and
electric car

An electric car recharges its battery.
could lead to lower air conditioner use in major cities, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports. Heat emanating from vehicles is an important contributor to the heat island effect — the difference between temperatures in heavily urbanized areas and cooler rural regions — and a shift toward electric vehicles could help, the researchers say. They used data from Beijing in the summer of 2012 to calculate that switching vehicles from gas to electricity could reduce the heat island effect by nearly 1 degree C. That would have saved Beijing 14.4 million kilowatt hours of electricity from air conditioning and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 11,779 tons per day, the study says.
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17 Mar 2015: California Could Install Ample
Solar Power Without Damaging Habitats

California could generate enough electricity from solar power to exceed the state's energy demand five times over, even if solar equipment were only to be installed on and near existing infrastructure, a report in Nature Climate Change says. The report shows it is possible to substantially boost California's solar energy production without converting natural habitat, harming the environment, or moving solar installations to remote areas far from consumers. Roughly eight percent California's land area has been developed by humans, the study says, and residential and commercial rooftops provide ample opportunity for generating electricity through small- and utility-scale solar power installations. Additional solar facilities could be constructed in undeveloped areas that are not ecologically sensitive, such as degraded lands, the report notes. "Integrating solar facilities into the urban and suburban environment causes the least amount of land-cover change and the lowest environmental impact," says lead researcher Rebecca R. Hernandez.
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06 Mar 2015: Los Angeles City Council Says
Vegetables Can Be Grown Along Sidewalks

The Los Angeles, California, City Council voted this week to allow residents to grow fruits
lionfish

Planting in a parkway in Los Angeles, Calif.
and vegetables in the small strips of city-owned land between the sidewalk and street. Doing so used to require a $400 permit, essentially preventing lower-income residents from using the green spaces, which are also known as parkways. Community groups have been pushing for many years to do away with the permit fee in hopes of improving low-income communities' access to healthy foods, and the council has been working on the ordinance change for almost two years. The mayor is expected to approve the change next week, and if he does, the ordinance will go into effect in 30 days.
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24 Feb 2015: New Map Shows Background
Noise Levels Across the United States

A new map by the U.S. National Park Service (NPS) shows America's quietest and noisiest places. The park service

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U.S. background noise levels

Background noise levels
mapped background noise levels across the country on an average summer day using 1.5 million hours of acoustical data. The quietest areas of the country, such as Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, are shown in deep blue on this map and are likely as quiet now as they were before European colonization, NPS researchers say. They are collecting the data as part of an effort to determine whether and how wild animals are affected by anthropogenic noise pollution. Owls and bats, for example, rely on hearing faint rustles from insects and rodents, and scientists think human-driven noise could be drowning out those subtle signals in many areas of the country.
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19 Feb 2015: New York City Set for Major
Sea Level Rise By 2050, Report Concludes

The waters surrounding New York City are on track to rise 11 to 21 inches by the 2050s, according to an analysis based on

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New York sea level rise

Future NYC flood zones
NASA climate change models. The city's average temperature, which has increased by 3.4 degrees F since 1900, is set to rise another 5 degrees F by the 2050s, the report says, and annual precipitation is also likely to rise significantly over that period. New York City has already seen sea levels rise by over 1 foot since 1900 — nearly twice the average global rate, according to the report, which was published by the New York City Panel on Climate Change. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the report highlights the urgency of mitigating climate change and adapting to its risks, and he announced a commitment to cut the city's emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
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03 Feb 2015: Nine of 10 Cities in China Failed
Air Quality Standards, Government Says

Roughly 90 percent of China's large cities did not meet national air quality standards last year, according to the country's

Smog over the Forbidden City in Beijing, China.
environment ministry. Only eight of the 74 cities monitored by the ministry met standards for pollution metrics such as ozone, carbon monoxide, and fine particle concentrations, according to a report published on the ministry's website. The poor results actually represent an improvement over 2013, when only three of the 74 cities met air quality standards, Reuters reports. Last year, after residents grew increasingly alarmed about air quality in metropolitan areas, China promised to "declare war on pollution" by slashing coal use and closing heavily polluting factories. Still, the government does not expect the national average for fine particle pollution to reach official standards until 2030 or later.
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21 Jan 2015: Filtering Polluted Stormwater
Through Soil Can Protect Salmon, Study Says

Filtering polluted runoff from urban areas through a simple soil mixture dramatically reduced the water's toxic metal and

A pair of coho salmon.
hydrocarbon content and made it safe for coho salmon and the insects they eat, according to new research. Scientists collected polluted runoff from a four-lane highway in Seattle, then filtered part of the water through a mixture of sand, compost, and shredded bark. Coho salmon and aquatic insects thrived in the filtered stormwater, but they quickly died in the unfiltered water, researchers reported in the journal Chemosphere. Chemical analyses showed that filtering the water through the soil mixture reduced toxic metals by 30 to 99 percent, polyaromatic hydrocarbons to levels at or below detection, and organic matter by more than 40 percent. The research supports the use of rain gardens and other natural stormwater filtration systems, the authors say.
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05 Jan 2015: U.S. Cities Are Significantly
Brighter than German Cities, Scientists Say

German cities emit several times less light per capita than similarly sized American cities, according to new research published in the journal Remote Sensing.

Berlin, Germany, at night
Moreover, the differences in light emission become more dramatic as city size increases: Light per capita increases with city size in the U.S. but decreases in Germany. Factors such as the type of lamps used and architectural elements like the width of the streets and the amount of trees are likely behind the differences, the researchers say. Energy-efficient LED street lighting is currently being installed in many cities worldwide, and the researchers expect this to change the nighttime environment in many ways — for example, by reducing the amount of light that shines upward. The study also found that, in major cities in developing countries, the brightest light sources were typically airports or harbors, whereas the brightest areas in large European cities are often stadiums and city centers.
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23 Dec 2014: Madrid Announces Largest
Energy-Efficient Street Lighting Project

The city of Madrid has announced plans to renew its entire street lighting system with 225,000 new energy-efficient

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Madrid announces energy efficient street lighting project

New energy-efficient street lighting in Madrid, Spain.
bulbs, the world’s largest street-lighting upgrade to date. The new lights, which will afford the city a 44-percent reduction in energy costs, will pay for themselves, according to Philips, the company supplying the new system. In addition to drawing less overall power, the bulbs’ intensity will be controlled from a central command panel, resulting in less wasted energy. Of the 225,000 new lights, 84,000 will be locally manufactured LEDs, and the city is taking measures to ensure the safe recycling of heavy metals found in the old lamps. Similar, though smaller, projects have been undertaken in Argentina, Sweden, and the Netherlands. 

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25 Nov 2014: China’s Lake Ebinur Has Been
Shrinking Dramatically, NASA Image Shows

As this NASA satellite image shows, Lake Ebinur, located in northwestern China near the border of

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China's Lake Ebinur
Kazakhstan, has shrunk by 50 percent since 1955 as a result of development, agriculture, and natural fluctuations in precipitation. The lake’s saline water is light blue, and the dried lake bed appears white due to salts and other minerals that have been left behind as the water evaporates. The lake’s size fluctuates from year to year due to natural variations in snowmelt and rainfall, and human activity also plays a key role, Chinese researchers say. The nearby city of Bole, with a population of 425,000, consumes significant amounts of water, and farmers irrigate their crops — especially cotton — with water that would otherwise flow into the lake, researchers say. Frequent saline dust storms contribute to desertification, damage soils, harm wetlands, and may be hastening the melting of snow and glaciers downwind, researchers say.
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06 Oct 2014: Number of Megacities Has
Nearly Tripled Since 1990, UN Report Says

The number of urban areas with more than 10 million inhabitants — sometimes called "megacities" — has

Enlarge

Urban footprint of Tokyo
nearly tripled in the last 24 years, jumping from 10 in 1990 to 28 in 2014, according to the latest UN report on world urbanization. The total number of people living in megacities has grown from 153 million to 453 million during that period, the report says, and such areas now account for 15 percent of global GDP. Although densely populated urban areas can be environmental blights, innovations in efficient transportation have arisen from some major cities in Asia and Lagos, Nigeria, because those cities have invested heavily in public transit infrastructure, researchers say.
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15 Sep 2014: Urban Air Pollution May
Affect Brains of Young Children, Study Says

Children living in areas with high air pollution are at increased risk for brain inflammation and for developing
Smog over Mexico City

Smog over Mexico City
neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, according to a study by researchers at the University of Montana. The scientists compared brain and spinal fluids of children living in low-pollution areas to those of children living in Mexico City, an area notorious for its poor air quality. They found that children living in the city had significantly increased levels of combustion-related metals in their systems, as well as higher levels of antibodies related to inflammation. The antibodies are an indicator of autoimmune response and are possibly tied to higher risks for neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, according to the researchers. They say that a study following the Mexico City children as they age is needed to determine whether there is a relationship between their autoimmune responses and documented brain and cognition changes.
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05 Sep 2014: Smog in India Damaged
Enough Crops to Feed 94 Million, Study Says

Ground-level ozone, the main component of smog, damaged 6.7 million tons of Indian crops worth an
Smog in India

Smog in Delhi, India
estimated $1.3 billion in a single year, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters. That's enough wheat, rice and other staple crops to feed 94 million people — roughly one-third of the country's impoverished population. Arising from a combination of vehicle emissions, cooking stoves, and industrial sources, plant-damaging ozone has left many of India's fast-developing cities among the most polluted in the world, according to the country's Air Monitoring Center. The number of vehicles there has nearly tripled in the past 10 years, rising from 50 million in 2003 to 130 million in 2013, and the country currently has no air quality standards to protect crops from ozone pollution. The researchers say the findings should be used to guide new ozone emission standards for the country.
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26 Aug 2014: Meat Production, Especially
Beef, Strains Land and Water, Study Says

Global meat production has expanded more than four-fold over the last 50 years — and 25-fold since

Beef cattle graze in Colombia
1800 — due to growing purchasing power, urbanization, and changing diets, according to a new report from the Worldwatch Institute. Consumers in industrial countries still eat much larger quantities of meat (75.9 kilograms per person) than those in developing nations (33.7 kilograms), though that gap is beginning to close, the report says. Nearly 70 percent of the planet's agricultural land and freshwater is used for livestock, with additional land and water used to grow grains for livestock feed. Beef production alone uses about three-fifths of global farmland and yields less than 5 percent of the world's protein, according to the report. Sustainable agricultural practices such as feeding livestock with grasses instead of grains and using natural fertilizers could reduce these impacts, the report notes, but alternative dietary choices hold the most immediate promise for reducing the environmental footprint of meat production.
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04 Aug 2014: California Takes Steps to
Curb Lawn Watering During Severe Drought

In the midst of a severe, long-term drought, California is taking unprecedented steps to discourage watering of

A drought-resistant yard
residential lawns, with some areas offering residents substantial cash incentives for installing water-saving landscaping, AFP reports. The "Cash in Your Lawn" program in Los Angeles offers residents up to $6,000 ($3 per square foot) for replacing their lawns with drought-tolerant plants, rocks, and pebbles. Throughout the state, Governor Jerry Brown recently prohibited lawn watering more than two times per week and banned fines for brown lawns, which homeowner associations sometimes impose with the intent of improving a neighborhood's appearance. The drought, currently in its third year, threatens the water supply of California's 38 million residents. Agricultural regions have already seen severe water reductions, placing extra pressure on the state's groundwater reserves.
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