Category Archives: Linked List

For your listening pleasure

In case you’re not the kind of person who rises with the sun, you can still catch my segment on PRI’s The Takeaway online, any time you like. Thanks to producer Kristen Meinzer and host John Hockenberry for having me on.

The Takeaway

If you’re up early tomorrow, tune in to The Takeaway on public radio. I’ll be talking about seeing income inequality from space. 

Density and transit

Charlie Gardner plots some trends of density and the percentage of people who travel using mass transit. Unsurprisingly, high density cities have higher mass transit use, though there are a few notable exceptions.

Count the trees

Theresa Riley interviews yours truly on my urban trees and income inequality series for Moyers & Company.

Learning from Munich's Olympic architecture

Cristiana Strava, writing for Polis:

Speaking at the Legacy Conference in November 2002, current International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge criticized Olympic “luxury” projects that would become “white elephants” after the games, preferring developments that would prove sustainable afterward. After Beijing hosted the games four years ago, it became clear that the race to the top in terms of Olympic spending was spiralling out of control. In this moment, it is worth looking back and taking stock of the transformative effects the 1972 Olympics had on Munich, a city in the midst of re-inventing itself.

Ray Bradbury never gave up on monorails

Adrian Glick Kudler found this wonderful quote from the late, great master of science fiction:

 “A single transit line will not answer our problems; we must lay plans for a series of transportation systems that would allow us to move freely, once more, within our city. The answer to all this is the monorail.”

Hear, hear.

What is nature, now?

Christopher Mims:

To a significant extent, it’s us. It’s our machines — the hybrids of flesh and technology that we have all become.

I don’t mean to be cavalier about the damage we’re doing to our planetary life support systems. But any attempt to talk about the 21st century without acknowledging that every living thing on the planet will be altered by humans is intellectually bankrupt. There is no “nature” left — only the portion of nature that we allow to live because we imagine it serves some purpose — as a thing to eat, a place to reprocess our waste, or an idea that fulfills our dwindling desire to maintain “the natural” for aesthetic or ideological reasons.

Go outside

Jonah Lehrer:

From 2006 to 2010, the percentage of young children regularly engaging in outdoor recreation fell by roughly 15 percentage points.

This shift is occurring even as scientists outline the mental benefits of spending time in natural settings. According to the latest research, untamed landscapes have a restorative effect, calming our frazzled nerves and refreshing the tired cortex. After a brief exposure to the outdoors, people are more creative, happier and better able to focus. If there were a pill that delivered these same results, we’d all be popping it.


What this research suggests, however, is that we need to make time to escape from everyone else, to explore those parts of the world that weren’t designed for us.

Or stated differently, we need to explore the parts of the world for which we have evolved. Early humans cut their teeth on the challenges of the natural world, so it makes perfect sense that our minds are sharpest and most creative when we are immersed in wilderness. The question is, in an increasingly urbanized and networked world, how do we maintain that connection? As Lehrer suggests, wilderness retreats are one way, but they’re just not possible for everyone. What we need to do is bring more wilderness to us.

How? Plant trees. Set aside more and larger parks. Give people better views out their windows. Those are all good places to start. But more important, I think we need to fundamentally reconsider how we incorporate nature into urban spaces.

Is humanity pushing earth past its tipping point?

Brandon Keim, reporting for Wired:

“There are some biological realities we can’t ignore,” said paleoecologist Anthony Barnosky of the University of California, Berkeley. “What I’d like to avoid is getting caught by surprise.”

David Quammen on Twitter

David Quammen is one of the best science and nature writers around, and he’s just joined Twitter. If you’ve got an account, click the link above and then press that follow button. You won’t be sorry.

If you’re unfamiliar with Quammen’s work, I suggest starting with Song of the Dodo. It is an incomparable piece of reporting and writing that, in part, inspired me to become an ecologist and a writer.

An atlas of suburbanisms

Nate Berg:

To develop a better understanding of the ways that elements of urbanity and suburbanity go beyond their traditional boundaries, Moos and his team have launched the Atlas of Suburbanisms, a resource-rich website focusing on 19 cities and suburban regions across Canada. By mapping characteristics commonly associated with suburbs, the atlas provides a more nuanced look at how elements of suburbanism are actually dispersed in Canada’s metropolitan regions.

Like cities, not all suburbs are created equally. Or, for that matter, have evolved equally.

San Francisco's latest tech bubble

Norimitsu Onishi, reporting for the New York Times:

At the Ironwok Japanese and Chinese restaurant, whose half-torn storefront banner flapped in the wind on a recent afternoon, the owners were waiting for Twitter with the same mixture of expectation and trepidation shared by much of the city toward the second tech boom in a little over a decade.

“Of course, Twitter is good for the city, but how about me?” said the owner, Jenny Liu, 41, explaining that her landlord was raising her monthly rent to $12,000 from $8,000.

Having just spent last week in the Bay Area, including a few days in the city itself, I can understand Liu’s conflicted feelings. While the economy has tanked in much of the country, the Bay Area tech scene has bucked the trend with a vengeance. Many have benefitted, but it’s also made the region—which was already exceedingly costly when I left three years ago—even more expensive.

There’s heaps of opportunity for San Franciscans in a new tech boom, especially one where the epicenter is in the city and not the ‘burbs of Silicon Valley. But rents and real estate prices for all types of properties have risen substantially over the past few months. It’s possible that high prices will force out non-tech residents, who haven’t reaped quite as much from the recent boom. If that happens, San Francisco runs the risk that it will become a tech monoculture, depriving the city of the creative diversity that has spurred so much innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

The upside is that this latest bubble could burst, which isn’t much of an upside at all.

The Internet in 1988

Technically it’s a map of ARPANET, the precursor of the Internet, but it’s still remarkable how small it was then and how large it has become in such a short time.

Thanks to Eric Fischer for finding another gem.

The yin and yang of conserving land

Felicity Barringer, writing for NYT Green:

Acquisition is the yin of conserving land. But increasingly, as I reported in an article in Sunday’s paper, much of the time and money that private land trusts have devoted to acquiring land is being diverted to defending the conservation restrictions they have already put in place.

The yang of conservation is the need to guard what has been given to future generations.

Greenbelt Mapper

I’ve long admired the Greeninfo Network’s cartography, and this webGIS that identifies open space at risk of being overrun by development is no exception. My only quibble is that it’s limited to the San Francisco Bay Area. Every region should have one of these.

Via Jon Christensen.

Street lights change ecosystems

Yale e360:

In a series of tests in Cornwall in western England, researchers from the University of Exeter used 28 traps to capture 1,200 animals on the ground beneath street lights and in darker areas between the lights. According to their findings, published in the journal Biology Letters, invertebrate predators and scavengers were more common underneath the lights, even during the daylight hours.