Freeing Towns From the Tyranny of the Automobile

What do we mean when we say that a city is “healthy”? Do we mean that it’s cleaner, safer, and less polluted than others? That its economy is booming? That it spends its taxpayers’ money wisely, on projects that benefit the many over the few? That it prioritizes the building of community—not just in the social but in the physical sense?

Jeff Speck believes that for a city to be described as healthy, it can’t just be one, or even some, of these things; it has to be all of them. And he believes cities can achieve them by committing to the principles of walkability, the idea that communities should be built to meet the needs of pedestrians, not automobiles.

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Read also: Walkable cities

Techniques for Making Cities More Walkable

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Posted in City, Walk | Tagged ,

Biodiversité : accélération de la disparition d’animaux sauvages

Selon un rapport du WWF, publié ce mardi 30 octobre, 60% des populations d’animaux sauvages ont disparu sur Terre en moins de 50 ans. En cause, la destruction de l’habitat de ces animaux par les humains. Aujourd’hui, seul un quart des terres ont échappé aux activités humaines.

C’est un pourcentage qui ne cesse d’augmenter. Tous les deux ans, le WWF (World Wide Fund) réalise un rapport sur l’état de santé de la planète et l’impact de l’activité humaine. En 2016, dans son dernier rapport “Planète vivante”, le WWF indiquait déjà que 58 % des populations de vertébrés avaient disparu entre 1970 et 2012 contre 52 % dans le précédent rapport. Cette année, le WWF révèle que ce pourcentage est passé à 60 % entre 1970 et 2014. Comment expliquer l’accélération de la disparition des vertébrés (poissons, oiseaux, mammifères, amphibiens et reptiles) ? Et comment endiguer ce phénomène ? Décryptage.

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Humans have a long history of coming together to solve a climate crisis

Responding to a crisis often brings out the best in people. Certainly, it has in the past, when sudden changes in climate during the Middle Stone Age sparked off surges of cultural evolution and innovation in early modern humans, some 100,000 to 40,000 years ago.

The earliest stone tool-making had developed by at least 2.6 million years ago. However, the pace of innovation really started to accelerate in short, rapid bursts around 100,000 years ago. The use of symbolism and personal adornments became more complex as human culture developed – but what lay behind these periods of rapid development has been harder to establish.

Our study was based on evidence drawn from marine sediment cores – a cross-section through many layers of earth extracted off the South African coast.

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Archaeology can help us prepare for climates ahead

Watching the weather for today and tomorrow is relatively easy with apps and news programs – but knowing what the climate was like in the past is a little more difficult.

Archaeological evidence can show us how humans coped with long-gone seasonal and environmental changes. For me, it’s fascinating because it reveals what life was like back then. But it’s useful beyond that too. This body of data helps us understand and build resilience to climate change in the modern world.

Archaeological data is now of a standard where it can map past climate variability, offer context for human-induced climate change, and even improve future climate predictions.

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Posted in Archaeology, Climate change | Tagged ,

Bruno Latour: Down to Earth, Politics in the New Climatic Regime

The present ecological mutation has organized the whole political landscape for the last thirty years. This could explain the deadly cocktail of exploding inequalities, massive deregulation, and conversion of the dream of globalization into a nightmare for most people. What holds these three phenomena together is the conviction, shared by some powerful people, that the ecological threat is real and that the only way for them to survive is to abandon any pretense at sharing a common future with the rest of the world. Hence their flight offshore and their massive investment in climate change denial.

The Left has been slow to turn its attention to this new situation. It is still organized along an axis that goes from investment in local values to the hope of globalization and just at the time when, everywhere, people dissatisfied with the idea of modernity are turning back to the protection of national or even ethnic borders. This is why it is urgent to shift sideways and to define politics as what leads toward the Earth and not toward the global or the national. Belonging to a territory is the phenomenon most in need of rethinking and careful redescription; learning new ways to inhabit the Earth is our biggest challenge. Bringing us down to earth is the task of politics today.

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Read also: Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime

Posted in Climate change, Latour | Tagged ,

Defiant Earth: The Fate of Humans in the Anthropocene

Humans have become so powerful that we have disrupted the functioning of the Earth System as a whole, bringing on a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene – one in which the serene and clement conditions that allowed civilization to flourish are disappearing and we quail before ‘the awakened giant’. The emergence of a conscious creature capable of using technology to bring about a rupture in the Earth’s geochronology is an event of monumental significance, on a par with the arrival of civilization itself.

What does it mean to have arrived at this point, where human history and Earth history collide? Some interpret the Anthropocene as no more than a development of what they already know, obscuring and deflating its profound significance. But the Anthropocene demands that we rethink everything. The modern belief in the free, reflexive being making its own future by taking control of its environment – even to the point of geoengineering – is now impossible because we have rendered the Earth more unpredictable and less controllable, a disobedient planet.

At the same time, all attempts by progressives to cut humans down to size by attacking anthropocentrism come up against the insurmountable fact that human beings now possess enough power to change the Earth’s course. It’s too late to turn back the geological clock, and there is no going back to premodern ways of thinking. We must face the fact that humans are at the center of the world, even if we must give the idea that we can control the planet. These truths call for a new kind of anthropocentrism, a philosophy by which we might use our power responsibly and find a way to live on a defiant Earth.

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How Climate Change Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis and Volcanoes

The atmosphere is far from isolated and interacts with other elements of the so-called “Earth system”, such as the oceans, ice caps and even the ground beneath our feet, in complex and often unexpected ways capable of making our world more dangerous.

In the paper, Liu and his colleagues provided convincing evidence for a link between typhoons barrelling across Taiwan and the timing of small earthquakes beneath the island. Their take on the connection is that the reduced atmospheric pressure that characterises these powerful Pacific equivalents of hurricanes is sufficient to allow earthquake faults deep within the crust to move more easily and release accumulated strain.

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Posted in Climate change, Earth system science | Tagged ,

Ocean Solutions to Address Climate Change and Its Effects on Marine Ecosystems

The Paris Agreement target of limiting global surface warming to 1.5–2∘C compared to pre-industrial levels by 2100 will still heavily impact the ocean. While ambitious mitigation and adaptation are both needed, the ocean provides major opportunities for action to reduce climate change globally and its impacts on vital ecosystems and ecosystem services. A comprehensive and systematic assessment of 13 global- and local-scale, ocean-based measures was performed to help steer the development and implementation of technologies and actions toward a sustainable outcome. We show that (1) all measures have tradeoffs and multiple criteria must be used for a comprehensive assessment of their potential, (2) greatest benefit is derived by combining global and local solutions, some of which could be implemented or scaled-up immediately, (3) some measures are too uncertain to be recommended yet, (4) political consistency must be achieved through effective cross-scale governance mechanisms, (5) scientific effort must focus on effectiveness, co-benefits, disbenefits, and costs of poorly tested as well as new and emerging measures.

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Want to solve the world’s problems? Try working together across disciplines

Labor Day is our New Year’s Eve. Rather than vowing to lose weight or spend less time on our phones, as college professors we head into the new school year with a different kind of resolution: to inspire and prepare our students to become agents of positive change.

The world’s problems certainly didn’t take a break this summer, and we know that successfully addressing them depends on a mindset much broader than any one discipline can offer. Our strategy is to cultivate a way of thinking that blends insights from multiple perspectives.

As a psychologist, an anthropologist and a historian who teach at an engineering college, happily, we see examples of this kind of integration all around us.

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Read also: The 19th-century tumult over climate change – and why it matters today

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Economic shifts in agricultural production and trade due to climate change

T In addition to expanding agricultural land area and intensifying crop yields, increasing the global trade of agricultural products is one mechanism that humanity has adapted to meet the nutritional demands of a growing population. However, climate change will affect the distribution of agricultural production and, therefore, food supply and global markets. Here we quantify the structural changes in the global agricultural trade network under the two contrasting greenhouse gas emissions scenarios by coupling seven Global Gridded Crop Models and five Earth System Models to a global dynamic economic model. Our results suggest that global trade patterns of agricultural commodities may be significantly different from today’s reality with or without carbon mitigation. More specifically, the agricultural trade network becomes more centralised under the high CO2 emissions scenario, with a few regions dominating the markets. Under the carbon mitigation scenario, the trade network is more distributed and more regions are involved as either importers or exporters. Theoretically, the more distributed the structure of a network, the less vulnerable the system is to climatic or institutional shocks. Mitigating CO2 emissions has the co-benefit of creating a more stable agricultural trade system that may be better able to reduce food insecurity.

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