The secrets of the world's happiest cities

I love this article on the happiness of self-propelled transit:

But for a moment I forgot my questions. I let go of my handlebars and raised my arms in the air of the cooling breeze, and I remembered my own childhood of country roads, after-school wanderings, lazy rides and pure freedom. I felt fine. The city was mine. The journey began.

This passage captured my experience of driving in the city:

Driving in traffic is harrowing for both brain and body. The blood of people who drive in cities is a stew of stress hormones. The worse the traffic, the more your system is flooded with adrenaline and cortisol, the fight-or-flight juices that, in the short-term, get your heart pumping faster, dilate your air passages and help sharpen your alertness, but in the long-term can make you ill. Researchers for Hewlett-Packard convinced volunteers in England to wear electrode caps during their commutes and found that whether they were driving or taking the train, peak-hour travellers suffered worse stress than fighter pilots or riot police facing mobs of angry protesters.

But one group of commuters report enjoying themselves. These are people who travel under their own steam, like Robert Judge. They walk. They run. They ride bicycles.

Malala Yousafzai should inspire courage and hope in us all

"Dear friends, on 9 October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends, too. They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."

Many of us here stir and strive in the spirit of applied hope. We work to make the world better, not from some airy theoretical hope, but in the pragmatic and grounded conviction that starting with hope and acting out of hope can cultivate a different kind of world worth being hopeful about, reinforcing itself in a virtuous spiral. Applied hope is not about some vague, far-off future but is expressed and created moment by moment through our choices.
Hope, said Frances Moore Lappé, “is a stance, not an assessment.” But applied hope is not mere glandular optimism. The optimist treats the future as fate, not choice, and thus fails to take responsibility for making the world we want. Applied hope is a deliberate choice of heart and head. The optimist, says David Orr, has his feet up on the desk and a satisfied smirk knowing the deck is stacked. The person living in hope has her sleeves rolled up and is fighting hard to change or beat the odds. Optimism can easily mask cowardice. Applied hope requires fearlessness.

Amory Lovins Address Berkeley Grads

Cities take the lead on green building in US

For several years now, the good news in the U.S. has come from local governments that are choosing not to wait for federal legislation to take the necessary action. In a three-year nationwide survey, the American Institute of Architects found that 138 cities that are home to more than 50,000 inhabitants had developed green building programs. This represents more than 53 million Americans in total, or about 17 percent of the country! The West coast leads the trend, with 56 cities that have implemented green building programs, but the East coast is rapidly catching up, with a 76 percent increase in the number of such cities since 2007.

Elevator dispatch

The latest issue of Canadian Facilities Management and Design (October 2010, sadly unavailable online) has an interesting article on elevator dispatch technology. The idea is that when someone approaches the elevator bank, they enter in the floor they want to go to on a console rather than a simple up/down button. The console then tells them which elevator to get on. The dispatch system optimizes travel by grouping people who want to go to similar locations, reducing the number of trips and waiting time. Because the elevator system operates more effectively and efficiently it can save over 30% on energy and get people where they want to go in less time. Cool, eh.

World Habitat Day Oct. 4, 2010

Support Habitat for Humanity on Monday, October 4 - Designated by the UN as World Habitat Day:

Oct. 4, 2010, in recognition of World Habitat Day, Habitat for Humanity will raise awareness of the need for improved shelter and highlight Habitat’s priorities: the worldwide connection between human health and housing, and, in the United States, neighborhood revitalization. These themes echo the United Nations’ chosen theme for 2010 for events in the host city of Shanghai, China and the rest of the world: “Better City, Better Life.”

Management Plan Could End Brazilian Deforestation By 2020, Study Says

Worldchanging shares a hopeful message about the Amazon rainforest:

“Market forces and Brazil’s political will are converging in an unprecedented opportunity to end deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon with 80 percent of the forest still standing,” said Daniel Nepstad, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center and lead author of the study. Since 2005, Brazil has reduced the rate of deforestation by 64 percent. According to the study, an investment of $6.5 to $18 billion in several areas from 2010 to 2020 can help Brazil end deforestation.

How Elon Musk Turned Tesla Into the Car Company of the Future

Wired has a nice article on the history of Tesla, the new electric car company that demonstrated what might be possible by making it’s dashing Roadster:

The auto industry began to take notice of the little startup with the big ideas. In January 2007, GM unveiled a prototype electric vehicle called the Chevrolet Volt. In an interview with Newsweek, Bob Lutz, then GM’s vice chair, said, “If some Silicon Valley startup can solve this equation, no one is going to tell me anymore that it’s unfeasible.” That same year, Daimler unveiled plans to develop an electric version of its Smart car. Suddenly, the major carmakers were moving into electrics so fast that Tesla risked being left behind by the wave it had generated.

Green energy upgrade protects Ontarians from rising nuclear costs

Choosing to scale up green energy to replace the retiring Pickering nuclear station is more affordable for Ontarians than buying expensive replacement reactors, says a report released today by Renewable is Doable, an alliance of organizations including the Pembina Institute, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Greenpeace. Last summer, Ontario suspended its purchase of two new replacement reactors when their cost reportedly topped $26 billion — $20 billion more than expected in 2007.