It’s Gettin’ Hot in Here: Putting Climate Change Warning Labels on Gas Pumps (Video)

Here’s an idea whose time has come. 

A proposal to bring climate change home through cigarette style warning labels on gas pumps. Presented by an impressive and well informed 16-year-old in West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 

The non-profit organization promoting the labels explains

We’re running out of time with climate change. We need something to shake us out of our sense of complacency. This is it. The labels create feedback by taking faraway consequences – like famine, the extinction of species and extreme weather – and bringing them into the here and now. Their placement on a gas nozzle reminds us that we each contribute to the problem by locating responsibility right in the palm of your hand. Finally, the idea captures the hidden costs of fossil fuel use in a qualitative way; the labels provide information to the marketplace to engage our sense of humanity in a way that a price increase of a few pennies at the pump never will.

If you think this is a good idea: reblog it and share it with your friends and family. Even better share it with them and your city or town’s elected officials too.

(Photos: Our HorizonVideo: Our Horizon via YouTube)

Michael Pollan Gets Animated: Food Rules for Healthy People and Planet

From Brainpickings:

The fine folks at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, known for their brilliant sketchnote animations of talks by prominent authors and scientists, recently launched a competition, inviting emerging filmmakers to bring RSA talks to life in fresh ways.
This fantastic stop-motion entry by 
Marija Jacimovic and Benoit Detalle, which took more than three weeks to create, is based on Michael Pollan’s iconic Food Rules and is the most refreshing take on the classic since Maira Kalman’s illustrated edition.

Check out the rest of the article here.

Related:

In the last five years, China has built 20,000 miles of expressways, finishing the construction of 12 national highways a whopping 13 years ahead of schedule and at a pace four times faster than the United States built its interstate highway system. Over the last decade, Shanghai alone has built some 1,500 miles of road, the equivalent of three Manhattans. China’s urban population is projected to grow by 350 million people by 2020, effectively adding today’s entire U.S. population to its cities in less than a decade. China has already passed the United States as the world’s largest car market, and by 2025, the country will need to pave up to an estimated 5 billion square meters of road just to keep moving.

China’s love affair with the car has blossomed into a torrid romance. In April, nearly a million people poured into the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition to coo over the latest Audis, BMWs, and Toyotas. But China is in danger of making the same mistakes the United States made on its way to superpower status — mistakes that have left Americans reliant on foreign oil from unstable parts of the world, staggering under the cost of unhealthy patterns of living, and struggling to overcome the urban legacy of decades of inner-city decay.

The choices China makes in the years ahead will have an immense impact not only on the long-term viability, livability, and energy efficiency of its cities, but also on the health of the entire planet. Unfortunately, much of what China is building is based on outdated Western planning ideas that put its cars at the center of urban life, rather than its people. And the bill will be paid in the form of larger waistlines, reduced quality of life, and choking pollution and congestion.

The first three paragraphs of Peter Calthorpe’s recent article for Foreign Policy magazine, 'Weapons of Mass Urban Destruction'. Calthorpe is a renowned San Francisco based urban planner and architect and a founding member of the Congress of New Urbanism. You can check out the rest of the article here.

(Photo source: Inhabitat)

From Greater Greater Washington:

The central fact about cars, from a planner’s perspective, is that they take up space. Lots of space. And this matters because space in cities (a.k.a real estate) is scarce and therefore expensive.

Cars take up space when they’re moving and they take up space when they’re parked, and even though they can’t be simultaneously moving and parked, you have to plan for both states and plan for peak demand; so you have to set aside some multiple of the real estate actually occupied by the car at any given time.

That’s just a practical observation about the spatial geometry of cities that doesn’t bow to my ideology or yours. And it would still remain true even if cars ran on nothing but recycled newspapers and emitted nothing but rainbows and unicorn tears.

In the past, our policy response has been to just set aside more and more space for cars: More freeways, more roads, more lanes on existing roads, more parking garages and surface lots. This approach hasn’t worked, and there are two very practical reasons why:

First, you can never build enough. There’s a phenomenon called "induced demand" that is very well understood by now. A new lane or a new freeway never reduces congestion in the long run: People respond to new capacity by driving more or by living or working in previously remote places, and you’re very quickly back where you started and have to build still more. The same phenomenon applies to increases in the supply of parking. It’s a game you can’t win.

Second, when you do make more space for cars you quickly start to crowd out any other potential mode of transportation, especially walking. All those parking lots and freeways and roads spread everything else out so that the distances become too great for walking. And the more you optimize any given space for cars the more hostile that space is for pedestrians. Very quickly you get to the point where it becomes impossible—or prohibitively depressing—to get things done on foot.

And this last fact has huge quality-of-life implications for human beings—not just because driving to a distant strip mall for a gallon of milk is less pleasant than walking to a corner store, but also because for many people driving simply isn’t an option.

Check out the rest of the article here

(Infographic source: Muenster Planning Office)

Getting Around, Safely: ‘Share the Road’ (PSA)

An encouraging sign of the times from the Canadian Automobile Association via their YouTube page. Who knows? Maybe one day they’ll just be known as the Canadian Mobility Association.

Related:

From CBC:

The average gas mileage of new cars and trucks in the U.S. will have to nearly double by 2025 under regulations that were finalized Tuesday by the Obama administration.

The new rules will require the fleet of new cars and trucks to average 54.5 miles per U.S. gallon (4.3 litres/100 km) in 13 years, up from 28.6 mpg (8.22 l/100 km) at the end of last year.

The regulations will bring dramatic changes to the cars and trucks in U.S. showrooms and drive automakers to introduce new technology to make vehicles cleaner and more efficient.

The Obama administration says the changes will save families more than $1.7 trillion US in fuel costs and bring an average savings of $8,000 over the lifetime of a new vehicle sold in 2025. The standards also are the biggest step the U.S. government has ever taken toward cutting greenhouse gas emissions, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said.

The 54.5 mpg standard came from the Obama administration’s quest to cut carbon dioxide emissions nearly in half by 2025. The gas mileage is what’s needed to make that cut.

Check out the rest of the article here.

(Infographic source: NRDC)

My two bits: Building cities and towns where getting around by foot, bike, and transit is both easy and enjoyable is obviously a big piece of the puzzle. But, given that tens of millions of people currently depend on cars for transport this is a significant development. It’s also encouraging to see Obama putting forward an firm, demand-side solution to reduce both fossil fuel energy consumption and climate change pollution.

Getting Around: 'What on Earth' (Animated Short) 

From The NFB:

This animated short proposes what many earthlings have long feared – that the automobile has inherited the planet. When life on Earth is portrayed as one long, unending conga-line of cars, a crew of extra-terrestrial visitors understandably assume they are the dominant race. While humans, on the other hand, are merely parasites. An Oscar® nominee, this film serves as an entertaining case study.

Related:

The single most important issue facing cyclists today is the absence of proper infrastructure to allow cycling to prosper, as it should, as it must, in a civilized community. If we accept as a general proposition that our societies would be healthier if they had fewer cars and more cyclists, then it follows we need to dedicate our resources to infrastructure, change and development.

Accidents do not happen because cyclists were not wearing a helmet. Accidents happen because there is an unacceptable proximity between automobiles and cyclists. Until this changes, and our particularly North American consciousness evolves so that our minds can better anticipate the presence of a cyclist on a roadway, we will continue to see an unacceptably high level of cycling casualties.

We need to embrace physically separated bike lanes designated bikeways with traffic diversion, bike paths not shared with pedestrians and reduced speed limits on residential streets. These are but a few examples of progress achieved in jurisdictions with much lower rates of cycling casualties and fatalities

Above are few paragraphs from bike injury lawyer David Hay’s recent op-ed in the Vancouver Sun, 'The great debate over bike helmet laws'. There’s been quite a controversy stirred up over recent months here following news from that Vancouver will be joining more than 165 cities worldwide in getting a bike sharing system in 2013. The concern on the part of a lot of people here is that we have a provincial mandatory bike helmet law and in the two cities with bike shares and mandatory helmet use, Melbourne and Brisbane in Australia, the systems have not been very successful. Mexico City had a mandatory helmet law, but provided an exemption after the first year of their bike share system. There have been some workarounds proposed here in Vancouver, but nothing that seems like a sure thing at this point. That said, I think Hay makes a good point that the critical factors for improving safety for cyclists and making cycling a more mainstream way to get around is through better infrastructure and a change in thinking on part of drivers and cyclists alike. 

(Photo source: Open File)