I’ve only got one this week, but it’s a doozy. At the Missoula Independent, Matthew Frank’s “Orient Express: Will Montana become a coal colony?” is a first-rate piece about the very real and very localized dangers of a globalizing coal trade. If you care about coal, the West, or climate change, it’s a must read.
A tragic story of a four-year-old’s death shows the flaws in how we build roads: “Nelson was found guilty of killing her son by crossing the road in the ‘wrong’ place. But what about the highway designers, traffic engineers, transit planners and land-use regulators who placed a bus stop across from apartments but made no provision whatsoever for a safe crossing? Those who ignored the fact that pedestrians always take the shortest possible route but somehow expected them to walk six-tenths of a mile out of their way to cross the street?”
From Eugene, OR: Super-cool neighborhood sustainability maps, tracking local transportation, services, parks, and other good stuff to have nearby.
Via Sightline pal Callie Jordan, a nifty idea from Bend, OR: adding a power-generating turbine to a gravity-fed municipal water supply line. “The Bend City Council approved plans…to incorporate a hydroelectric facility in the City’s Surface Water Improvement Project…The City expects to gain $580,000 from electricity revenues in the first year alone.”
Does this show that Vancouver, BC housing is expensive, or simply that people are weird?
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Impressive research design of the week: French fries, potato chips, soda, and unprocessed red meat, in that order, are the foods that most contribute to obesity, according to a massive new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and summarized in Science News. The study tracked the actual diets and body weights of more than 120,000 men and women for as much as a decade. French fries in the diet regularly were the biggest single contributor to weight gain.
Grand strategy insight of the week: Political consultant Stanley Greenberg describes the profound distrust of government that is driving the rightward lurch in US (and, to a lesser extent, Canadian) politics. This New York Times piece is worth reading twice, it’s so important. From green jobs to climate policy, transit investment to wildlife conservation, we need functioning and decisive governing institutions. Public distrust of those institutions prevents progress, even where the public agrees with the policy goals that we espouse. Greenberg lays out a tactical approach to this problem. I’ve been thinking about this challenge a lot.
Writing award of the week: Julie Otsuka for “Whites” in the current Harper’s (sub. req’d.) It describes the experience of Japanese brides freshly arrived to Japanese husbands they had never met. It’s set in California, but the same patterns played out in Cascadia. The article has an understated precision that is both vivid and devastating. The third person plural pronoun is defined only in the title:
Some of us moved out of the countryside and into their suburbs and got to know them well. We lived in the servants’ quarters of the big houses in Atherton and Berkeley, above Telegraph, up high in the hills. Or we worked for a man like Dr. Giordano, who was a prominent thoracic surgeon on Alameda’s gold coast. And while our husband mowed Dr. Giordano’s lawn and pruned Dr. Giordano’s shrubs and raked Dr. Giordano’s leaves we stayed inside with Mrs. Giordano, who had wavy brown hair and a kind manner and asked us to please call her Rose, and we polished Rose’s silver and we swept Rose’s floors and we tended to Rose’s three young children, Richard, Jim, and Theo, whom we sang to sleep every night in a language not their own. Nemure, nemure.
Viral video of the week: A mayor in Lithuania stages a war on cars, crushing one with a troop carrier to remind citizens not to park in bike lanes.