What Do We Want In A City Of The Future?

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We do not normally link to the writing of science fiction authors, nor is the topic of the essay below typical of the themes in our 2011-2018. But it is not unheard of; nor is it too late to add more to this short thread of links to sci-fi authors. If Bruce Sterling catches your attention with these first few paragraphs pasted below, you may want to go to The Atlantic to read the rest:

Stop Saying ‘Smart Cities’

Digital stardust won’t magically make future cities more affordable or resilient.

The term “smart city” is interesting yet not important, because nobody defines it. “Smart” is a snazzy political label used by a modern alliance of leftist urbanites and tech industrialists. To deem yourself “smart” is to make the nimbyites and market-force people look stupid.

Smart-city devotees all over this world will agree that London is particularly smart. Why? London is a huge, ungainly beast whose cartwheeling urban life is in cranky, irrational disarray. London is a god-awful urban mess, but London does have some of the best international smart-city conferences.

London also has a large urban-management bureaucracy who emit the proper smart-city buzzwords and have even invented some themselves.  The language of Smart City is always Global Business English, no matter what town you’re in.

So if grand old London is smart, with its empty skyscrapers, creepy CCTV videocams, and sewers plugged with animal fat, then we probably needn’t fret about the Elon Musk sequins and stardust of digital urbanism. Better to reimagine the forthcoming urban future as a mirror of Rome, that “Eternal City,” where nothing much ever gets tech-fixed, but everything changes constantly so that everything can remain the same. Continue reading

State By State Ranking For USA Bicyclists

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PHOTO COURTESY OF MACHIKO THRELKELD

Thanks to Sierra magazine for bringing this to our attention:

Is Your State Bicycle-Friendly?

A new report ranks the best and worst places to hop on the saddle

Do you live in the safest or the most dangerous state for riding a bike? The 2017 Bicycle Friendly State Report Card has the answer.

Each year, the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group founded in 1880 to improve street conditions for bikers, releases a detailed ranking that cyclists can use to track where it’s safe, and not so safe, to hop on wheels. The group also monitors each state’s progress toward increased bicycle safety. The rankings are derived from a variety of factors, including five key bicycle-friendly actions, federal data on bicycling conditions, and summaries with feedback on how each state can improve the safety and mobility of bicyclists. Continue reading

Bike-Share Good Samaritanism

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Collin Waldoch Illustration by Tom Bachtell

We linked out to stories about bike-sharing when it was relatively new in New York. This week, an enchanting short note on a peddler of angelic behavior, and a couple examples of people who have pedaled accordingly:

Hacking the Citi Bike Points System

A program offers modest benefits to riders who help rebalance the city’s network of bicycles. One man outdid its expectations.

By Ian Parker

On a recent Monday, Glenn Reinhart, a former salesman of chemicals for the cosmetics industry, and now, in his mid-fifties, a freelance karate instructor with a fair amount of leisure time, took twenty-two rides on Citi Bikes, one after another, and then went out to breakfast in Chelsea. He had arranged to meet Collin Waldoch, who runs Bike Angels, the Citi Bike program that awards points, redeemable for extended membership and other modest benefits (a commemorative pin; a white bike key), to riders who help the company rebalance its network of twelve thousand bikes. Angels earn points for taking bikes from full stations and parking them at empty ones. A ride from one to the other might earn two or three points. When the scheme was launched, this spring, Waldoch thought that someone might, in the course of a year, earn five hundred points. By the fall, Glenn Reinhart had earned nearly eight thousand—twice as many as anyone else—and Waldoch sent him an e-mail and invited him to breakfast. Continue reading

How Many Trees On This Planet?

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The scientific journal Nature is not one of our regular sources for stories here, but when the Science section of the Times points out a good story, we listen. To our surprise, even the Real Estate section of the Times can point out must-read stories from Nature (the slide show is worth the click):

Time to Put the Garden to Bed?

There are 422 living trees for every human on Earth — 3.04 trillion overall — and during a couple of weeks each fall, a person can feel plainly outnumbered. Is it possible that a trillion of those trees have deposited their leaves in the front yard? And why are so many of them still green? Continue reading

Birds + Artists + Spraypaint = Audubon Murals

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A swallow-tailed kite and 12 other birds painted by Lunar New Year.

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Tricolored Heron by Federico Massa a.k.a. iena cruz. Photo: Mila Tenaglia

Murals with birds always capture our attention; we cannot resist linking to such initiatives when they are cleverly conceived, elegantly executed, and perfectly placed. Enjoy this epic series, a fitting tribute to the National Audubon Society:

Where Birds Meet Art . . . After Dark

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Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon

The Audubon Mural Project is a collaboration between the National Audubon Society and Gitler & Gallery to create murals of climate-threatened birds throughout John James Audubon’s old Harlem‐based neighborhood in New York City. The project is inspired by the legacy of the great American bird artist and pioneering ornithologist and is energized by Audubon’s groundbreaking Birds and Climate Change Report, which reveals at least half of all North American birds are threatened by a warming climate. The project commissions artists to paint murals of each of the report’s 314 species, and has been widely covered in the media, including most recently by The New York Times.

Thanks to the Editorial Board of the New York Times for reminding us of this:

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Louise Jones, with her husband, Gabe, working on a mural of an evening grosbeak. Credit Photographs by Karsten Moran for The New York Times

In his final years, John James Audubon, the celebrated 19th-century painter of bird life, lived in rustic uptown Manhattan in a house by the Hudson where some of his final paintings were of urban rats that caught his eye. Continue reading

The Largest Underground Bicycle Parking Garage In The World

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A special section in Utrecht’s new underground bike parking garage is for bigger bikes, which usually have children’s seats attached. Credit Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

If You Build It, the Dutch Will Pedal

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As fast as Utrecht can build underground bike parking garages, most spots are taken. Credit Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times

The city recently surpassed Amsterdam in a widely respected ranking of bike-friendly cities and is now second only to Copenhagen, which is more than twice its size. Continue reading

Biomimetic Yarn-Bombing

Image © 2016 CHOI+SHINE

I’ve long been fascinated with urban space art installations in general, and fibre based pieces in particular. Somehow I missed hearing about the Singapore based i Light Marina Bay Light Art Festival in March, but I’m happy to have discovered it now.

The festival is an annual event, and this year’s theme of Biomimicry and Sustainability strike multiple chords. London/Seoul based architectural firm Choi+Shine created The Urchins for this site specific installation. 

This project is inspired by sea urchin shells, which are enclosed yet light weight, delicate and open.  Their textured and permeable surface interacting with light creates openness, while the pattern’s mathematical repetition brings visual rhythm and harmony.  Against light, the sea urchin natural form reveals one of the most spectacular patterns found in nature. Continue reading

Rome Rewilded

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Image: Planet World / Flickr

Thanks again to one of our most reliable sources for the summary of conservation-oriented science, and specifically to Brandon Keim for this one:

An Anthropocene wildness grows in Rome

Even in one of the most densely urbanized places on Earth, wildness and natural abundance may yet flourish again, sustained by both neglect and stewardship. Continue reading

Democratizing Coffee Consumption

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Tony Konecny, the head of coffee operations at Locol, outside the branch in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. CreditEmily Berl for The New York Times

We have no reason to debate the logic of a more reasonably priced cup of quality coffee:

Has Coffee Gotten Too Fancy?

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LOS ANGELES — The $1 cup of coffee is divisive, as drinks go.

For some, it’s a staple of the American morning: a comforting routine, a good deal. Anything that costs more than $1 is needlessly expensive, a waste of money — the coffee from a deli, diner or doughnut cart is all you need to start the day. For others, the $1 cup is suspiciously cheap. Maybe it tastes bad, or its production does harm to the land and is unfair to laborers. If you have to pay more, then that is probably a reflection of a drink’s true cost. Continue reading

Gangsta Garden’s Gentle Giant

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Ron Finley in a garden outside his home in Los Angeles. Credit Emily Berl for The New York Times

When Amie passed along a link to him way back when, it was all fresh news about an amazing challenge set up by an urban charismatic. Now that challenge has been turned around and amped up and we link again to Ron to help him gets what he needs:

Fighting Eviction, a Gardener Turns to Organic Industry Giants for Help

Lion Lost, Los Angeles

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In case you did not see it yesterday, take a look at this when you have the time to read it in full. For now, over a quick coffee, click the image above to go to a video, 5:30 minutes long, to understand what the National Park Service is doing on behalf of this majestic lost cat:

The carnivore biologist Jeff Sikich captures and examines a mountain lion in the Santa Monica Mountains. Courtesy National Park Service

Urban Shape & Ecoefficiency

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Thanks to Anthropocene for this summary of a counterintuitive finding:

To save energy on heating and cooling, look at the shape of cities, not just their buildings

Urban Tracking And Other Soft Local Adventures

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Raccoon track in mud along stream. Sarpy County, Nebraska. October 1996. Central Tallgrass Prairie Ecoregion. Photo © The Nature Conservancy (Chris Helzer)

It seems to go hand in hand with today’s other post, so thanks to The Nature Conservancy as always for this one:

A Field Guide to Tracking in Your Neighborhood

By Matt Miller

Tracking is one of the most family-friendly wildlife activities; you can enjoy it anywhere there is a patch of open ground. As I’ve written previously, kids love deciphering the mysteries of animal tracks. Even my two-year-old son loves checking out the tracks in our yard.

Continue reading

Urban Environments & Evolution

 

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Header image: Street art in London by Aida. Credit: Maureen Barlin via Flickr.

Anthropocene is back, after a brief holiday break, with a good summary of findings on urban-influenced evolution:

Cities are the new laboratories of evolution

Anthropocene Urban Wonder

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Central Park, New York City. Credit: Anthony Quintano via Flickr.

Thanks to Anthropocene:

Looking for the next miracle drug? Try searching city soils

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Many drugs are based on molecules produced by bacteria. Previously, the search for such drugs has mostly focused on “pristine” environments in far-flung locales. But a new study shows that many useful molecules could already be, quite literally, at our feet. Continue reading

New Directions In Art

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Flexn artists, photo by Sodium for MIF 2015

We had not heard of Flexn until this week, when they were mentioned in a podcast with the phenomenal Peter Sellars (alluded to once previously in these pages, and linked to another time directly). Now we want to know more. And it looks like one way to learn more will happen at The Shed. Back in August, when we first heard about The Shed, it was a quick glance at the future. Now we have more detail, thanks to this early release of a profile in next week’s New Yorker:

ALEX POOTS, PERFORMANCE ART IMPRESARIO

How will the director of New York’s ambitious experimental cultural center change the city?

By Calvin Tomkins

Every so often, it seems, visual artists are stricken by the urge to perform. The “happenings” movement in the nineteen-sixties—young painters and sculptors doing nonverbal theatre—was explained as a response to Pollock, de Kooning, and other gestural Abstract Expressionists: it was the gesture without the painting. Continue reading

Living Walls

As Kochi is awash with participating artists putting finishing touches on their Kochi-Muziris Biennale works, it’s exciting to see art flourishing in other cities on a regular basis.

Atlanta’s Living Walls seeks to promote, educate and change perspectives about public space in local communities via street art.  Dozens of international artists participate in an annual conference on street art and urbanism that began in August 2010 in the city of Atlanta. Continue reading

Trees Cooling Urban Jungles

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Thanks to Cool Green Science:

Using Cloud Computing to Untangle How Trees Can Cool Cities

BY TIMOTHY BOUCHER

We’ve all used Google Earth — to explore remote destinations around the world or to check out our house from above. But Google Earth Engine is a valuable tool for conservationists and geographers like myself that allows us to tackle some tricky remote-sensing analysis.

After having completed a few smaller spatial science projects in the cloud (mostly on the Google Earth Engine, or GEE, platform), I decided to give it a real workout — by analyzing more than 300 gigabytes of data across 28 United States and seven Chinese cities. Continue reading

Paris Gardens

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By the year 2020, the City of Paris wants to add 100 hectares of vertical gardens and roofs, with a third dedicated to urban agriculture.The Vertical Gardens by Patric Blanc / Flickr

Greening La Ville Lumière is as good a new objective as we can think of for a city that already has alot going for it (thanks to EcoWatch for the story):

Paris Becomes One of the Most Garden-Friendly Cities in the World

Earlier this summer, Paris quietly passed a new law encouraging residents to help green the City of Light by planting their own urban gardens. Continue reading