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My top recommendation this week goes to James Wells’ righteous rant at Daily Kos, “Pretty Much the Dumbest Idea Ever.” Wells unleashes a real fire-breather on the Northwest coal export plans:
The plan is to dig up two trillion pounds of rocks and ship them 6,000 miles to China. There they will light those rocks on fire, so they can make more pieces of cheap plastic crap that we will buy and then owe them even more money, while we choke on their pollution. What could possibly go wrong?
In the year 2012, if this is the best new project we can think of to improve our livelihood, we are in serious trouble.
Considerably more measured in tone, I also recommend the Economist on the inevitable decline of American coal.
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I also appreciated Judy Lightfoot’s Crosscut piece on Seattle’s new “safe parking” program. It’s an issue that’s literally close to home for me. A surprising number of individuals and families in my neighborhood live a precarious existence out of their vehicles, always at risk of running afoul of parking enforcement or more serious safety problems. Kudos to Councilmember Mike O’Brien for shepherding through the city’s new program that will provide a measure of relief for those folks.
In the New Yorker, Ryan Lizza gets a deep, inside look at the Obama presidency. Lesson: Sure, he and his team made some misjudgments, but mostly, the US Congress is broken. (It’s the best thing I’ve read in the New Yorker since Lizza’s 2010 piece on how the White House missed its chance to pass a climate law.)
Here’s a fascinating article on the work of “free” parking critic Donald Shoup. Some key quotes:
“Shoup’s writings…can be reduced to a single question: What if the free and abundant parking drivers crave is about the worst thing for the life of cities?”
“L.A. wasn’t built around the car. It was built around the parking lot.”
There’s a description of a 1975 study of the effect of free parking on commuting:
“[C]ounty workers were offered free parking downtown when federal workers had to pay…72 percent of county workers drove to work alone…but 60 percent of federal employees carpooled, took public transportation, or even walked. These were workers in the same professions, driving to the same location.” When forced to pay a practical value for their parking, drivers were twice as likely to carpool—traffic congestion was halved, carbon emissions were halved.
The proprietor of Café Solstice, one of my favorite Seattle coffee shops, turned me on to this alternative wind energy harvesting technology. Stalks! Gigantic cattails that sway in the breeze! Wind power without the blades. They’re quite stunning, IMO, and they have the potential to collect abundant clean energy without some of the pitfalls of wind turbines (noise, bird kills, friction loss).
The designers, Atelier DNA, came up with the idea for the planned city Masdar, a 2.3-square-mile, automobile-free area being built outside of Abu Dhabi. The wind park becomes a pleasant public space, designed to encourage plants and places to sit and walk. I don’t know how feasible any of this is or how efficient it is at capturing wind energy. But it looks cool.
What’s that? Seattle crept into the #1 spot for most philanthropic city in the country (with Bellevue also cracking the top 10?). We feel the love on a regular basis, thanks to our supporters. (H/t to Sightliner Migee Han.)
Here’s a video explaining 10 common misconceptions. E.g. Great Wall of China—not the only thing visible from space (or really that visible, in fact).
We’ll end with some bad news for Sightline: the word “sustainable” is unsustainable. We’re looking at putting an economy wide cap on the word to help extend our time: