From Inter Press Service

Berlin is a big capital city of a country famed for making excellent automobiles, but it can no longer afford roads and is now moving people by transit, bike and especially through walking.

Berlin is not alone. Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogotá, New York City and other major cities simply cannot afford the cost, the pollution, the noise and the congestion of more cars. They are embracing a new concept called EcoMobility - mobility without private cars. 

EcoMobility is defined as moving people and goods in urban areas using combinations of walking, cycling (including electric bikes) and wheeling (roller blades), public transport, and light electric vehicles. 

The concept is being widely embraced by cities looking for affordable and effective forms of sustainable transport. 

"Cities should focus more on moving people rather than moving vehicles," said Stephen Yarwood, mayor of Adelaide, Australia. 

The fact is, cars are not very good at moving people. A standard 3.5-meter-wide city street has a maximum capacity of 2,000 people in cars per hour. The same road can carry 14,000 cyclists or 19,000 pedestrians each hour. 

Light rail in the same space can move 22,000 people, and a double lane of bus rapid transit will move 43,000 people, said Manfred Breithaupt, director of the GIZ Sustainable Urban Transport Project, a German NGO. 

The transportation sector is one of biggest contributors of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, responsible for 25 to 30 percent of the emissions causing climate change. 

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Infographic credit: City of Münster via Lunchover IP)

From The Los Angeles Times:

Los Angeles held its first CicLAvia in October 2010, when 7.5 miles of streets were blocked off to motor vehicles from East Hollywood to Boyle Heights. Sunday, which marked the fourth version of the event, tested the city’s flexibility as cyclists invaded downtown, Dodgers fans attended a home game up the hill and the Lakers faithful poured into L.A. Live — all at roughly the same time. And somehow the city still seemed to function.

The idea of booting cars off the roads and turning the asphalt over to cyclists and pedestriansfirst took hold as a weekly ciclovía in Colombia more than 30 years ago and was later adopted by cities elsewhere in Latin America and in the United States.

The festival was an immediate hit in L.A. and quickly became the city’s marquee event for pedestrians and cyclists.

"Angelenos are aching for a day without a car. CicLAvia provides us one of those days," Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Sunday before joining in the ride.

"But the change doesn’t have to be temporary, so we are taking steps to make it easier for Angelenos to get from point A to point B — with or without a car," he said.

Villaraigosa used the platform Sunday to unveil a privately funded $16-million bike-share program that aims to put 4,000 rental bicycles at 400 kiosks across the city.

Check out the rest of the article and news video of the event here.

(Photo credit: Los Angeles Times)

Media coverage about climate change frequently focuses on extreme weather events (e.g. here, here, here and here). However, in the last couple of years there has been growing attention to its impacts on key resources like food and water. Coffee is certainly not vital in the sense that food and water are but it is an extremely popular drink that gets many of us going in the morning, employs hundreds of thousands of people and counts as one of the most valuable primary products in world trade. So, it was with a bitter taste in my mouth that I read Peak coffee: A cup of trouble in the Globe & Mail this morning. Here’s a taste:

On a mountaintop estate in the rugged coffee-making region of Quindio, Colombia, Juan Pablo Villota is at war with the weather.

For three years, abnormally wet conditions have caused massive flooding in the county’s flatlands and damage to his crops. Even the road to his 40-hectare plantation gives testament to his fight: The swollen La Vieja river is a muddy torrent that has forced lane closings along the twisting two-lane highway.

For coffee producers like Mr. Villota, those three years have been a constant battle. Without enough sun, coffee plants don’t grow the berries that are harvested for their beans. And too much humidity creates ideal conditions for coffee rust, a disease that stunts berry production. Some farmers have seen a 70-per-cent drop in yield, although his San Alberto estate has limited the damage to a 20-per-cent decline.

“It has been a disaster,” said Mr. Villota, whose grandfather bought the picturesque estate in 1972. “Three years of heavy rains with very low quantity of sun hours has decreased Colombian production … All the growers have been suffering.”

The painful struggle of Colombia’s coffee producers is part of a growing global challenge for the industry.

Changing weather patterns have wreaked havoc on coffee supply, particularly the Arabica strain, which is grown in the Americas and Africa and which makes the best coffee. Brazil and Colombia are the top two producers of Arabica, but experts say the crops are not keeping up with skyrocketing demand in emerging markets like China, India and South America, as well as among consumers in Europe and North America.

In the face of strong demand, coffee inventories have fallen to their lowest levels on record. A decade ago, coffee-making countries had stored some 55.1 million 60-kilogram bags. Last year, stocks fell to 13 million bags. The industry’s supply-demand balance is so bleak, in fact, that a scientist rocked trade forums last year by warning that the world is veering toward “peak coffee” – the point at which producers can no longer increase production to meet the world’s rising taste for the drink.

The squeeze is already being felt in grocery stores and cafés around the world. In North America this week, Starbucks Corp. raised the price of a one-pound bag of beans by 17 per cent at its U.S. stores and 6 per cent in Canada. And J.M. Smucker Co., which sells the Folgers and Dunkin’ Donuts brands, announced its fourth increase in a year for a total hike of 38 per cent.

Check out the rest of the article, including climate adaptation efforts and other factors influencing coffee prices, here.