Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday Hope Blogging

Lots of interesting community redevelopment stories this week. For starters, Youngstown, Ohio has come up with an interesting plan for smart shrinkage:

Youngstown, a former steel-producing hub, has been losing residents for years as a result of the closing of most of its steel mills. But rather than struggle to regain its former glory or population, it has adopted an economic-development plan that boils down to controlled shrinkage. By accepting the inevitable, the city says it can reduce its housing stock, infrastructure and services accordingly.

Neighborhoods that are "emptying out" will eventually be converted to greenspace through mass demolitoin of decaying housing and commercial structures. The city estimates it will take about four years to bulldoze the biggest eyesores, including about 1,000 abandoned homes and several hundred old stores, schools and other structures.
WorldChanging has a great article on the Harlem Children’s Zone:
It costs $3,500 per child per year to educate a kid in a Harlem Children's Zone school. In return, it's been shown, those kids are much more likely to be well educated, have better job prospects, live healthier, contribute more to their communities and in general contribute to the general good. Early investment in kids shows a solid ROI.
An urban planner whose family formerly lived in St. Louis’ ghastly Pruitt-Igoe projects is helping to revitalize this blighted area:
To date, more than 200 apartments and homes in the neighborhood have been renovated, and new restaurants and shops have opened, many along the Manchester Avenue business district.
There are interesting efforts afoot to increase land-ownership among denizens of “manufactured housing” (e.g., trailer parks), through such mechanisms as resident-owned communities:
The New Hampshire model of resident-ownership is a cooperative one. To acquire a community, homeowners first form a nonprofit co-op in which each household has one share and one vote. The co-op finances the purchase by borrowing money from local banks and the loan fund. This means that homeowners do not have to take out individual loans to buy in. Public subsidies are used for fixing unhealthy and unsafe water and septic systems and deteriorating roads.
The Los Angeles City Council has agreed unanimously to restore the LA River:
It took five years to frame the details, but the roots of the proposed river restoration go back to a fledgling group of environmentalists who in the late 1980s began insisting that the river could be much more than a concrete-lined flood control channel.

"This is a great step," said Lewis MacAdams, founder of the activist group Friends of the Los Angeles River. "One of our first slogans was when the steelhead trout returns to the Los Angeles River, then our work is done, and to see an acknowledgment of steelhead in the plan -- well, I like that."
A new bill would dramatically expand cleanup of the Everglades:
The measure...includes new restrictions on polluted stormwater runoff from new developments, and on the dumping of sewage sludge into the Lake Okeechobee watershed, which environmentalists say is a major victory.
In other news, scientists are creating an “Encyclopedia of Life” that will catalog and track every species on earth:
The ambitious electronic encyclopedia will catalogue the details of every species thus far identified and put all this information on the Internet so anyone can access it.

"This will be a fantastic resource for the developing world," said James Edwards, the new executive director of the Encyclopedia of Life project headquartered in Washington at the Smithsonian Institution. Until now, researchers and students from the South had to travel to the big 10 natural history museums located in the North to learn about species in their own countries, Edwards told IPS.
A speculative project called seedPOD would offer similar benefits to farmers:
seedPOD will host an open archive of resources which can be augmented and developed through the discoveries made by citizens and farmers. We call it Wikiseedia -- a collaborative, free online agricultural encyclopedia.
Speaking of which, eight South African plants allegedly hold potential for treating hypertension. It’s amazing what you can find, when you bother to look.

South Pacific nations have joined together to ban bottom-trawling:
The landmark deal will restrict bottom-trawling, which experts say destroys coral reefs and stirs up clouds of sediment that suffocate marine life.
There’s been yet another resignation at the Department of the Interior, which BushCo stacked with a gaggle of pro-extraction industry, anti-environment zealots:
Burton’s tenure at the agency was fraught with decisions and policies which impaired the government’s ability to collect oil and gas drilling fees owed to the federal government and Native Americans.
Glenn Beck has one of the least popular shows on TV, but his “expose” on global warming didn’t even manage to meet his conservatarian paymasters’ sadly diminished expectations:
Beck's special, "Exposed: Climate of Fear," was a commercial flop, finishing dead last in total viewers among CNN, Headline News, Fox News, and MSNBC programs that night.
Next stop, Palookaville! It’s also interesting that Rupert Murdoch claims to have gotten religion on climate change; time will tell whether this is sincere, or an attempt to promote industry-approved “solutions” from a standpoint of faux-centrism. Ditto for GM's decision to join the Climate Action Partnership.

Meanwhile, 31 states are working together to track greenhouse gases:
"This includes a lot of deeply conservative states who have signed on that we weren't expecting," said Nancy Whalen, spokeswoman for the California Climate Action Registry, the only current statewide emissions tracking system, which helped develop the multistate program.
A coal-fired plant in upstate New York is being shut down, which is good news for Thers and Molly, their 257+ children, and their ducks.
The emissions from the 350-megawatt Lovett plant are linked to acid rain and smog. At the time of the settlement, state environmental officials said the emissions from Lovett alone, which looms over the west bank of the Hudson River, represented a quarter of the sulfur dioxide and almost a third of the nitrogen oxide released by electric generators in seven counties in the Hudson Valley.
And Wal-Mart is apparently taking steps to reduce the amount of mercury in its compact fluorescent bulbs:
Wal-Mart said it estimates a third less mercury will be used in the production process of the bulbs it buys, effectively removing an average of 360 pounds of mercury per 100 million CFLs sold in its stores.
Not bad. But as David Roberts notes, LEDs are a better bet:
The cost of LED lighting should be coming down quickly. Polybrite founder Carl Scianna said the cost of individual white-light diodes, several of which go into an LED bulb and make up much of the cost, have come down in price from about $8 to $1.50 in a year.

“They're going to keep going down,” Scianna said. “By the middle of next year, they'll be priced for consumers.”
A Swiss-built ship has completed the first solar-powered Atlantic crossing:
According to the organisation, the 14m-boat produced 2,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy during its voyage thanks to a roof of photovoltaic panels mounted above the twin-hulled design.

The solar energy was used to power the boat's electric motors and any surplus was stored in batteries, allowing it to travel at a constant speed of 56 knots day or night, the group's website said.
Meanwhile, affordable solar-power systems are making a big difference in rural India:
Jyoti Painuly, senior energy planner for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), lists examples of people who have profited from the scheme: "There is the food vendor who told us 'Now my food doesn't smell of kerosene, so I sell more of it,' and the tailor who said that he can work a few extra hours during the day, bringing in more money."
There’s talk of using the jet stream as an energy source:
"My calculations show that if we could just tap into 1 percent of the energy in high-altitude winds, it would be enough to power all civilization. The whole planet!" said atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University.
Make of that what you will.

Argonne National Lab claims to have found a way to improve rechargeable lithium-ion batteries:
In recent tests, the new materials yielded exceptionally high charge-storage capacities, greater than 250 mAh/g, or more than twice the capacity of materials in conventional rechargeable lithium batteries….In addition, by focusing on manganese-rich systems, instead of the more expensive cobalt and nickel versions of lithium batteries, overall battery cost is reduced.
And there’s some interesting work being done on engine redesign:
The new method would eliminate the mechanism linking the crankshaft to the camshaft, providing an independent control system for the valves.

Because the valves' timing would no longer be restricted by the pistons' movement, they could be more finely tuned to allow more efficient combustion of diesel, gasoline and alternative fuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel….
And an initial conference on agrichar brought experts together to discuss the potential of carbon-negative biofuels:
n simple terms, the agrichar process takes dry biomass of any kind and bakes it in a kiln to produce charcoal. The process is called pyrolysis. Various gases and bio-oils are driven off the material and collected to use in heat or power generation. The charcoal is buried in the ground, sequestering the carbon that the growing plants had pulled out of the atmosphere. The end result is increased soil fertility and an energy source with negative carbon emissions.
As some of you may recall, Engineer-Poet has discussed this process at exhaustive length.

The New Yorker has a fascinating article on the Antikythera Mechanism, a mysterious device that was recovered in 1900, after spending roughly 2,000 years in the Aegean Sea.

I also recommend Country and Landscape, a gorgeous online exhibition comprising early images of Australia. And the magnificient pinhole photography of Bill DeLanney

Via Things comes Catalog Tree, your source for Broxomatic tachographs, and mental maps of Werkplaats Typografie.

If that's too much for you, you can calm yourself with Bert Teunissen's Domestic Landscapes (via Coudal). Or the Expériences amusantes unearthed by Agence Eureka. Or NASA's amazing panoramic view of "A Dark Sky Over Death Valley." (Click the link, or the photo, to see an enlarged version.)

Last, here's a time-lapse film of an auroral display from British Columbia:

(Photo at top: "The Downs by Moonlight" [1870], via Luminous Lint.)

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