By the year 2050, 9.2 billion people with robust personal and communal energy needs will inhabit the globe. Such extreme population growth demands an honest conversation on energy consumption and sustainability. Nuclear energy will inevitably remain at the forefront of the debate. However, the scourge of recent natural disasters, particularly the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, also call for not just an increase in alternative energy production but an evaluation of each method’s safety. The American government simply cannot allow the lessons of Japan and Fukushima to drift away as it has the ramifications of the BP Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
When Earth Day was created in 1970, it was considered to be the birth of the modern environmental movement. April 22 of each year, and often the entire week, is devoted to celebrating environmental service and advocacy. University functions, citywide festivals, tree planting and beach cleaning events, and even concerts celebrate a consciousness to preserve the natural Earth. The primary purpose of Earth Day is to heighten awareness of environmental issues and provide a platform for emerging solutions. Just as the first Earth Day in 1970 was concerned with oil spills, this year’s Earth Week marked the one-year anniversary of the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that continues to strain much of the Gulf South economically, socially, and most of all, environmentally.
This year’s theme is “A Billion Acts of Green,” was celebrated in different ways around the world. In the U.S., Green livelihood and green energy campaigns are emerging, along with encouraging responsible forestry, maintenance of water resources, and rural infrastructure. Last year, local NGOs and local government officials coordinated city and village clean-ups and environmental rallies and educational programs.
Is it really possible to plan for a natural disaster? After the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, it is virtually impossible not to ponder this question.
There is abundant information in circulation on preparing for natural disaster. Around the world, economists have studied the long-term economic repercussions; governments and NGOs alike have contemplated mitigation practices; scientists have evaluated our ability to improve warning systems; and engineers and planners have attempted to overcome our building, and infrastructure weaknesses. But mitigation of natural disasters is complex. Communication, safety, and land use planning are all crucial.
By Tracy Taylor
According to Clean Energy Trends 2011, a new report by Clean Edge, the growth of clean technology over the last decade rivals that of the internet and computers, and it is poised to continue the trend. Clean Edge’s research revealed biofuels, wind power, and solar photovoltaics combined to create a $188.1 billion industry in 2010 – and the clean-tech sector research firm projects these three technologies will grow to $349.2 billion in the next decade. Clean Energy Trends 2011 takes an in-depth look at five key trends that Clean Edge believes will shape clean-energy markets over the next decade: the phase-out of incandescent lights, advances in natural gas, cleaner aviation fuels, low-cost green building, and viable alternatives to high-demand rare-earth metals.
Whereas compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) were once thought to be the solution to energy-intensive incandescent bulbs, the eyes of the future have turned to another lighting technology: solid-state light emitting diodes (LEDs). Companies are currently on the verge of creating the first affordable LED replacement for the standard 60-watt incandescent bulb, without the mercury content and dimming constraints seen in CFL bulbs. With an estimated savings of 80% of energy over incandescent equivalents, the future is looking bright for LED technology.
On July 29th through August 1st this summer, Newark, New Jersey’s Lincoln Park will host its 5th Annual Music Festival. And despite the impressive lineup (featuring the likes of Carrie Jackson, Adegoke Steve Colson, Lance Williams and True Worship, Keith Bailey & A.N.T, Danny Krivit, Kenny Bobien, Loleatta Holloway, and DJs Immortal Technique and 9th Wonder), the Festival marks more than just a collection of outdoor musical acts. It is the crown jewel of the Lincoln Park/Coast Cultural District (LPCCD) project, now in its eleventh year.
The LPCCD, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, started out as an advocacy organization and quickly became a community development corporation. It was formed to address the blight, crime and overall deterioration of the Lincoln Park area, once a vibrant arts-based community known for its handsome brownstones and jazz clubs. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, the community experienced job loss, population loss, increased gang activity, and thriving open drug markets. The closure of its subway stop, formerly the last stop on the subway line out of New York City, further isolated the community. The LPCCD, headed by former U.S. Army Specialist and U. Penn law graduate Baye Adofo-Wilson, and with the support of the Regional Planning Association, underwent an extensive series of community meetings to begin searching for solutions.
By Royce DuBiner
On Hawaii’s island of O’ahu, a major rail transit project is currently underway to build a 20-mile elevated rail line for the Honolulu metropolitan area. The proposed route will connect downtown Honolulu with the suburb of Kapolei. The line is designed to reduce traffic congestion on roads around the city and provide affordable transportation access and alternatives.
However, the Hawaiian Islands line is on a collision course with hundreds of unexcavated historical sites and burial grounds. Many of these burial sites are protected under Hawaiian state law, which directs that any burial remains over 50 years old may not be moved without approval of the historic preservation department. One of the critical tenets of Native Hawaiian traditional and customary practices is to ensure that remains are undisturbed and that they receive proper care and respect.
To address this issue, the city is undertaking a massive archeological survey and assessment of the purposed transit route. Using ground-penetrating radar, the rail project hopes to identify all existing sites in order to address how to handle the remains. The survey will move segmentally through the job site instead of undergoing a massive pre-build survey.
In opposition to the segmental discovery methods for remains, Paulet Kalikini, a cultural descendent of the remains at issue, filed suit against the city of Honolulu and the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources seeking to enjoin the construction of the project, which is partially managed by General Growth Properties. Kalekini wanted the city to instead undertake a comprehensive survey to identify all sites containing remains in order to avoid any unnecessary contact with the remains out of respect for many Hawaiians’ spiritual beliefs and traditions.
The Hawaii Supreme Court upheld Kalekini’s right to sue, despite the fact the project had already begun, via a Hawaii statute that allows a plaintiff to bring suit under special issues in the “public interest.” However, despite the many compelling “public interest” reasons Kalekini identified (for example, Hawaiian traditions requiring remains be undisturbed after burial, and Hawaiian state constitutional guarantees to native rights) the Court ultimately found that archeological projects may be broken up into phases in accordance with both state and federal laws. The Court ultimately favored the public interest reasons in favor of continuing the project via the current plans.
The suit and controversy surrounding Honolulu’s rail project highlight the dichotomy between building for a sustainable urban environment and honoring the past. The Hawaiian Islands are dense and compact and contain many historic sites. It is therefore virtually impossible to build on the islands without disturbing a site of cultural and spiritual significance.
Although the project’s phase development is taking account possible historical sites, it does so with limited foresight and in a piecemeal fashion. When the project encounters a burial site, it must stop and then each time decide between building around the site or relocating the remains. Time is of the essence as many Hawaiians would reap enormous benefits from the new rail line. Similar problems to those facing the Hawaiian project are regularly encountered by many other major public works projects.
Such projects must take into account all possible implications of destroying historical or spiritual sites. Addressing a problem only as one comes upon it is a haphazard and ineffective way to preserve and respect sites of historical, spiritual, and cultural significance, often resulting in stressed relationships among all parties involved. It is important for new sustainable development projects to address such issues in the design phase, rather than the construction phase, to ensure the environmental good will is not overshadowed by cultural insensitivity and insult.
To read the case yourself, visit Kaleikini v. Thielen, 237 P.3d 1067 (Haw. 2010).
Royce DuBiner majored in History at Goucher College and is currently pursing his J.D. at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. His interests include History, Preservation, and sustainable development.
Discarded banana peels and pineapple leaves could soon play an important role in automotive production, safety, and efficiency. A group of scientists in Brazil have recently developed a more efficient way of introducing small fibers from bananas and other fruits (“nano-cellulose fibers”) into plastics production. The group discussed the new process this week at the 241st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
The research group, based at Sao Paulo State University in Brazil, has recently generated a new plastic-like substance that is stronger, lighter, and more environmentally friendly than traditional plastic, which is derived mainly from petroleum. According to project leader Alcides Leão, PH.D, fibers from delicate plants such as bananas, pineapples, and the agave plant can be used to produce a plastic material nearly as strong as Kevlar.
On March 17, 2011, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), introduced bipartisan legislation to accelerate hydropower projects and development across the country. The Hydropower Improvement Act has a total of nine co-sponsors, including Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA). The bill seeks to substantially increase U.S. hydropower capacity and support local job creation and economic opportunities.
According to Murkowski, the Hydropower Improvement Act of 2011 “achieves common sense regulatory reform, spurs economic growth and takes advantage of hydropower’s position as the country’s leading source of clean, renewable energy.” Similarly, Senator Bingaman states that the “bill allows us to highlight the potential for development of additional hydropower resources in an environmentally responsible way.” The bill includes provisions to address the potential for hydropower development from smaller sources that are available even in dry states like New Mexico.
At the 20th Annual Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Conference this March, David O’Neal, Managing Partner of real estate development company Brynn Grey Partners, Ltd., and Michael Penny, Town Manager of the Town of Frisco, Colorado were featured on a panel discussing keys to the success of public/private partnerships. The two are near experts on the topic, having recently and successfully co-developed Frisco’s Peak One affordable housing community.
The impetus for the project was a severe shortage of affordable year-round housing for Frisco residents in the 65% second-home community. And while the project’s initial goals were well-received by the Frisco community, the plan became controversial when the town announced it would use town-owned land, formerly green space along a bike path, to construct the development. Because the land was publicly owned, the public took on an unusually involved role in every step of the development process. From this experience, O’Neal and Penny drew their 3 keys to success:
As the “green movement” in America progresses, many devotees of architecture and preservation are envisioning tall glass buildings made of copper, stone, or other materials that will save the environment or our wallets. However, one inevitably wonders why we are building new “green” structures when we could just use the ones we already have. Reusing an old water bottle instead of buying a new one is a great idea. Why not reuse the old building instead of building a new one?
That is exactly what the National Trust for Historic preservation and preservationists across the country are advocating. America has thousands of commercial and residential structures simply lying in ruin or waiting for new use or restoration. The catch phrase amongs preservationists is now, “the greenest building is the one already built.” Many historic structures are uniquely suited for being brought up to LEED certification.
The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 20th anniversary conference focused on the future of land use in the west. In a session addressing public rail transit in the Rocky Mountain West, John Inglish, CEO of the Utah Transit Authority, and Bill Van Meter, Assistant General Manager at Denver Regional Transportation District, showcased their cities’ plans – “Envision Utah” and “RTD FasTracks.” Utah’s Envision Utah is a comprehensive statewide plan, the “Quality Growth Strategy,” which includes both environmental and infrastructural goals. Denver’s FasTracks is a plan to expand the city’s existing light rail system to outlying residential areas and increase citizen use of intermodal transportation. The plan also includes mixed-use development at all rail stops.
These are exciting times for land use planning.
While that may be the first time “exciting” and “land use planning” have shared a sentence, the creators of the Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute’s 20th annual conference can make that case. As the nation emerges from financial crisis, as markets coil to rebound from recession, and as optimism and hope for growth build, these are indeed exciting times for land use planning.
This year’s conference, which is March 3–4 at DU’s Sturm College of Law, is dubbed “The Next West: Livelihoods and the Future of the Rocky Mountain Region.”
History has a tendency to repeat itself. The “local food” movement, characterized by citizens obtaining food from farmers in their local community, was widespread before World War II. Over time, technology, globalization, chemical use, and ideals of maximum production began to dominate agriculture and change how and what society ate.
Today, Americans are accustomed to eating FDA-approved produce from across the globe, all year. We find tomatoes, corn, and bananas at the grocery store in February. However, there is growing concern within the food industry that the rising costs of energy for transportation, unfair labor practices, and the negative impact of chemicals used to boost food production are becoming increasingly unsustainable. One way that environmentally- and socially-conscious eaters are addressing these concerns is eating local produce; by becoming a “locavore.”
By Daniel Volkosh
Much of American political and economic conversation is dominated by China. It seems all but inevitable that China will overtake the United States economically in the not-too-distant future. Yet this epoch in world politics may include another nation: Canada. Canada’s future role should not be underestimated, and the United States would be wise not to neglect the relationship.
Some have speculated that Canada could be the world’s richest country by the end of the century because of its wealth of natural resources and (relatively) environmentally-friendly national legislation. Notably, Canada also has a large percentage of the world’s fresh water, forests, and oil. According to a recent article in The Economist:
By Tracy Taylor
Not only are smart growth communities good for your quality of life, they are good for your pocketbook as well. According to Market Acceptance of Smart Growth, a recent report by the EPA, smart growth communities not only see stable market prices over time, but they often see greater retail appreciation than the average suburban development. Given all the grim news surrounding the housing market over the past years, this is a welcome bit of news to add to the already long list of benefits of smart growth.
Smart growth – what was once the buzzword of the future has already changed the way our neighborhoods look, the way our communities interact, and the way our residents feel about the place they call home. Characterized by the centralized parks and open spaces, walkable lunch spots and coffee shops, and businesses within minutes of houses, smart growth communities encourage healthier lifestyles and a sense of community. Less money is supposedly spent on gas, less gas equals less emissions, and less emissions equals cleaner air. And of course, exercise increases as cars are kept parked in driveways and residents set off on foot or bike for their shorter commutes.