How Chicago Brings Back Wild Nature Into the City

When thinking of Chicago you probably think of its famous architecture, and rightly so. In the future you may think of Chicago’s reclaimed land and eco-conscious landscaping. In the last few decades the city has covered rail yards and car parking with natural features (and art!), built new waterfronts where an airport used to be, and are currently expanding their riverwalk to include more natural features. The city’s skyline is a real treat and now so is the pedestrian realm.

Cities around the globe are looking to restore native ecologies, turning back the clock on the destructive landscape practices of past few centuries. The same is true for Chicago, which has a number of experiments along its shores to unbuild the city and find the most effective practices for doing so. In this video, we walk to a few of these sites and explore their techniques for unbuilding the city in order to give it back to nature. The five sites are: Northerly Island, the Field Museum, Millennium Park, the River Walk, and the Wild Mile. We look at each closely to see just how their before and after reveals changing attitudes toward living with nature.

People Who Ditched Their Car Are Happier

small car

There’s are individuals who advocate against making our cities better places to live because they fear losing their dependence on their automobile (car marketers encourage this too). We need to let car-brained individuals know that their lives will be better if they have more transportation options and that they will be happier too. People who got rid of their car for non-monetary reasons increased their happiness!

to reduce energy and resource consumption beyond technological modifications. One way to do this is to forgo ownership of certain consumer goods, such as cars. Although proponents of sufficiency claim that car shedding (i.e., giving away a vehicle so that the household no longer has its own car) might increase subjective well-being (SWB), there is little empirical evidence supporting this. This paper aims to help fill this gap by adding empirical evidence on the relationship between car shedding and SWB. Data from the Swiss Household Panel is used (2006–2017) with a fixed-effects model assessing the year-to-year changes in evaluative and affective well-being (life satisfaction, leisure satisfaction, joy, and anger) before and after car shedding. Separate analyses for non-affordability-driven and affordability-driven car shedders were conducted. Results show that non-affordability-driven car shedding has a positive effect on feelings of joy one to three years after the event. Affordability-driven car shedding, in contrast, is associated with a decrease in leisure satisfaction and feelings of joy up to three years later. Levels of positive affective wellbeing already decrease in anticipation of affordability-driven car shedding. A sufficiency measure like non-affordability-driven car shedding is not associated with reducing SWB, and this may have policy implications.

Read more.

Time to Rethink the Skyscraper

The climate crisis has us questioning where people live, work, and how they get between the two. We’ve known for decades that low density sub-urban living is horrible for the environment (and people’s mental health) because it detaches people from each other due to car-based transportation. Many have argued that skyscrapers are the needed alternative because high density living is good. Architects Declare have released a letter questioning this reasoning, they argue that six stories is the ideal height for people and for the planet. A city of six story buildings is good density, the best example being Paris.

The unavoidable fact is that, in terms of resource efficiency, the embodied carbon in their construction and energy consumption in use, skyscrapers are an absurdity. The amount of steel required to resist high windspeeds, the energy required to pump water hundreds of metres above ground and the amount of floorspace taken up by lifts and services make them one of the most inefficient building types in a modern metropolis. It could also be argued that skyscrapers further detach us from any meaningful relationship with the natural world. Above about ten storeys, balconies don’t work because it is simply too windy, so high-rise apartments are hermetically sealed – as isolated from nature as possible.

Read more.

The Future of Food is Algae

cooking prep

In the coming years we’ll be eating more algae if we’re lucky. Amazing algae already accounts for biofuel production and can be used to make bioplastics too, so why not keep looking for other ways to use it? At Cornell, that’s exactly what some researchers did. They discovered that coastal places are ideal places to operate onshore algae farms to grow food, ironically deserts are the some of the most efficient places to do so. With arable land being destroyed for unsustainable low density housing and meat production we need to find other ways to grow nutrients.

With wild fish stocks already heavily exploited, and with constraints on marine finfish, shellfish, and seaweed aquaculture in the coastal ocean, Greene and colleagues argue for growing algae in onshore aquaculture facilities. GIS-based models, developed by former Cornell graduate student, Celina Scott-Buechler ’18, M.S. ’21, predict yields based on annual sunlight, topography, and other environmental and logistical factors. The model results reveal that the best locations for onshore algae farming facilities lie along the coasts of the Global South, including desert environments.

“Algae can actually become the breadbasket for the Global South,” Greene said. “In that narrow strip of land, we can produce more than all the protein that the world will need.”

Read more.

Living Wage Canada Releases New Rates, Annual Calculations

conversation

It’s one thing to have a job, it’s another thing to have a job that pays you enough to participate in society. Canada’s minimum wage, like most places, doesn’t match the reality of what a person needs to earn to make a living (thus people say minimum wage deserves minimum effort). Despite this unfortunate starting point, Living Wage Canada has found a way to streamline for both employers and employees what to expect an hourly minimum rate should be. As a result, the organization makes it easier for employers to be a certified living wage employer and will make it simpler for workers to know what to ask for.

The living wage movement in Canada stemmed from conversations around child poverty in the early 2010s. One major contribution to child poverty is parents who are working but still not able to make ends meet. Because of this focus on children the living wage was originally calculated for a family of four with two working parents. At the time, testing showed that the living wage rate for single parents with one child and single adults were fairly close to that of the reference family of four. However, over time, the living wage rates for these different household types have grown. The introduction of the Canada Child Benefit in 2016 by the federal government lowered living wage rates across the country. In 2019, the provincial government in Ontario introduced the CARE credit, which offers additional support to households with children.

Read more (PDF).

Thanks to Delaney!

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