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We’re used to the notion of sharing libraries, public parks, and train cars. But in many ways, American culture in particular drifted away from sharing as a value when we spread out from city centers and into the suburbs. Molly Turner, the director of public policy for short-term rental lodging website Airbnb, evokes the iconic image of Richard Nixon, in Moscow, introducing Nikita Khrushchev to the modern marvel of the state-of-the-art washing machine, available for private consumption in every American home. Beginning with the era of that washing machine, Turner argues, we forgot how to share.

We came to prize instead personal ownership – of multiple cars, of large homes with private backyards and space inside for appliances that would never fit in a modest city walk-up. Today, this kind of bald consumerism is considered almost tacky. But the reasons underlying that cultural shift reveal why we’re witnessing a true change in paradigm. Much has transformed in the last few years alone: the economy, technology, and the allure of cities themselves.

“What’s really going on here is the urbanization of the world and the reurbanization of American cities,” Turner says. “Either consciously or subconsciously, [people] are realizing that that involves the public realm, the commons, sharing goods and services and infrastructure. And I think that kind of bleeds into your personal life.” In other words, if you’ll share a subway car, why not a kitchen?

This move back into city centers also coincided with the Great Recession. Those big houses and multiple cars, it turns out, were beyond many of our means. And it’s no coincidence, Turner says, that Airbnb – a company founded around shared housing – was born in 2008, just as the U.S. was entering a recession built on a housing crisis. For many Airbnb members, the spare rooms they were able to rent through the service helped them keep their homes. City living, for all its allure, is expensive, but the sharing economy makes it possible for more people, whether they’re sharing a car because they can’t afford to own one, or sharing a bike because they’ve got nowhere to store it.

A quote from The Atlantic Cities article, 'Share Everything:Why the Way We Consume Has Changed Forever'. Check out the rest of the article here.

Image source: Collaborative Consumption

The US wind energy industry is now providing enough capacity to power 13 million homes, equivalent to all of Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Virginia, Alabama, and Connecticut combined.

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The opening paragraph of The Guardian article, 'US wind energy industry breezes past 50GW milestone'.

Related:

(Photo source: Clean Technica)

That moment of realizing that you’re a grown-up - for my generation, that was when you got your driver’s license or car. For young people now, that moment comes when you get your first cellphone.

A quote from Tony Dudzik, senior policy analyst at a California-based think tank, in the recent Reuters article, 'America's Generation Y not driven to drive'. The article explores the story behind an important emerging trend:

From 2001 to 2009, the average annual number of vehicle-miles traveled by people ages 16-34 dropped 23 percent, from 10,300 to 7,900, the survey found. Gen Y-ers, also known as Millennials, tend to ride bicycles, take public transit and rely on virtual media.

More than a quarter of Millennials - 26 percent - lacked a driver’s license in 2010, up 5 percentage points from 2000, the Federal Highway Administration reported.

And, it’s not just about cellphones. Check out the rest of the article here.

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(Photo source: Reuters

For walking is the ultimate “mobile app.” Here are just some of the benefits, physical, cognitive and otherwise, that it bestows: Walking six miles a week was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s (and I’m not just talking about walking in the “Walk to End Alzheimers”); walking can help improve your child’s academic performance; make you smarter; reduce depression; lower blood pressure; even raise one’s self-esteem.” And, most important, though perhaps least appreciated in the modern age, walking is the only travel mode that gets you from Point A to Point B on your own steam, with no additional equipment or fuel required, from the wobbly threshold of toddlerhood to the wobbly cusp of senility.

If walking is a casualty of modern life the world over—the historian Joe Moran estimates, for instance, that in the last quarter century in the U.K., the amount of walking has declined by 25 percent—why then do Americans walk even less than people in other countries? Here we need to look not at pedometers, but at the odometer: We drive more than anyone else in the world. (Hence a joke: In America a pedestrian is someone who has just parked their car.) Statistics on walking are more elusive than those on driving, but from the latter one might infer the former: The National Household Travel Survey shows that the number of vehicle trips a person took and the miles they traveled per day rose from 2.32 trips and 20.64 miles in 1969 to 3.35 and 32.73 in 2001. More time spent driving means less time spent on other activities, including walking. And part of the reason we are driving more is that we are living farther from the places we need to go; to take just one measure, in 1969, roughly half of all children lived a mile or more from their school; by 2001 three out of four did. During that same period, unsurprisingly, the rates of children walking to school dropped from roughly half to approximately 13 percent.

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Three paragraphs from writer Tom Vanderbilt’s first article ('The Crisis in American Walking') in a great four-part series for Slate magazine, 'Walking: America's Pedestrian Problem

(Photo credit: The Washington Post via Slate)

Climate Change: US Carbon Emissions Down 7% in 4 Years 

From Link TV:

With US carbon emissions down 7% in four years and bigger drops coming, the United States may emerge as a global leader in cutting carbon and stabilizing climate.

Lester Brown, President of the Earth Policy Institute, tells Earth Focus that new forces including life style and demographic changes are reducing the use of both coal and oil in the United States. He expects that carbon emissions could decline by as much as 20% in the United States by 2020.


“The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.” 
“The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change.”

  - Two quotes from global insurer Munich Re in their 2010 press release, 'Large number of weather extremes as strong indication of climate change'. I found the quotes in Joe Romm’s new ClimateProgress post, 'A New Record: 14 U.S. Billion-Dollar Disasters in 2011'.
(Chart credit: Munich Re via CP)

The only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.” 

The high number of weather-related natural catastrophes and record temperatures both globally and in different regions of the world provide further indications of advancing climate change.”

 - Two quotes from global insurer Munich Re in their 2010 press release, 'Large number of weather extremes as strong indication of climate change'. I found the quotes in Joe Romm’s new ClimateProgress post, 'A New Record: 14 U.S. Billion-Dollar Disasters in 2011'.

(Chart credit: Munich Re via CP)