cities

New building in Masdar City with an old twist. Photo: André Diogo Moecke via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Traditional architecture offers relief from soaring temperatures in the Gulf

Amin Al-Habaibeh
Nottingham Trent University
| 8th November 2015
As temperatures soar in the Persian Gulf, modern buildings rely on energy-guzzling air-conditioning to maintain tolerable temperatures, writes Amin Al-Habaibeh. But traditional buildings stay cool passively using shade; wind and thermally driven ventilation; and naturally insulating, reflective materials. For a sustainable future, modern architects must revive the ancient knowledge.

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Plane coming in to land at Heathrow. 70% of flights are taken by just 15% of the population, while over half don't travel at all in any single year. Photo: Roy via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Instead of airport expansion, a 'frequent flyer tax'

Keith Taylor MEP
| 10th October 2015
The demand for ever more air travel and new runways comes from a small minority of frequent flyers, writes Keith Taylor - the 15% who take 70% of flights. So we can reduce that demand with a frequent flyer tax - while making it cheaper for ordinary families to enjoy an annual holiday abroad.

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Herbicide being sprayed to keep a footpath in a residential area free of weeds. Photo: Nick Mole / PAN-UK.

Pesticide-free towns and cities - citizen power in action

Keith Tyrell
Pesticide Action Network
| 6th October 2015
Local authorities around the world are going pesticide-free following an initiative by a small town in Canada 25 years ago, writes Keith Tyrell. Now the movement is coming to the UK, with campaign groups setting up in towns, cities and rural communities to keep pesticides out of our streets, parks, playgrounds and allotments.

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Artists impression of the Garden Bridge planned for the Thames in London. Photo: Garden Bridge Trust.

Everything in the Garden Bridge is lovely!

Bee Emmott
| 3rd September 2015
The Garden Bridge will offer a new kind of green space in the heart of the city, strengthening London's status as the greenest capital in Europe, writes Bee Emmott. It will benefit the health and wellbeing of local communities and visitors alike.

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Artists impression of 'Garden Bridge' by Heatherwick Studio. Not immediately obvious is that it will block views from Southbank along the river to St Pauls Cathedral.

London's Garden Bridge: a damaging folly at public expense

Will Jennings
| 26th August 2015
It sounded wonderful: a futuristic 'garden bridge' across the Thames dripping with flowers and foliage, writes Will Jennings. But really it's a private enclosure of valuable public space, mature trees and views, backed by £60m of taxpayers money, that delivers no benefits to London's wildlife, environment or transport needs.

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Detroit rises above the water ... but access to it is strictly rationed by ability to pay. Photo: Unique Day Tours in over 100 cities via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Water is a human right! Detroit's lessons for our common future

Chris Grove
| 4th August 2015
Detroit is the site of a neoliberal experiment that's already being repeated elsewhere, writes Chris Grove, with unpayable debt used to force the privatization of public services and the terminate democratic power and accountability. But as the city's poor find themselves cur off from water, a new, wider conception of human rights is emerging from the wreckage.

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Roofscape: the 'BedZED' (Beddington Zero Energy Development), the UK's largest and first carbon-neutral eco-community, was completed in 2002. Photo: Tom Chance from Peckham via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).

Scrapping 'zero carbon' homes is policy vandalism

Gordon Walker
| 20th July 2015
The UK Government has ditched the requirement for new homes to be 'zero carbon' from April 2016, writes Gordon Walker. With builders already geared up to meet the challenge, this needless reversal will raise energy bills and carbon emissions for a century or more to come, and send out all the wrong signals for the Paris climate talks.

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Solitary Leaf-cutter bee (Megachile centuncularis) nectaring on Small Scabious in Jo's wild flower meadow, Photo: © 2015 Jo Cartmell.

Sowing wildflower meadows, and leaving Nature in charge

Jo Cartmell
| 10th July 2015
When Oxeye daises looked like taking over her mini-meadow, Jo Cartmell was tempted to intervene. But instead, she held back and let nature take its course. Now, a few seasons later, the floral diversity has only increased, taking in some unexpected but welcome arrivals - along with their insect companions, all making their home on what used to be an unloved patch of lawn.

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Holidays are associated with happiness - who knew? But that does not mean we have to build a new London runway, as these pleasure seekers on the beach at Lyme Regis demonstrate. Photo: Clive A Brown via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

London needs a new runway because holidays 'make you happy'. Really?

Chris Goodall
| 2nd July 2015
With the UK's business air travel falling, the Airport Commission says we need a new London runway to make us happy! But all their data really shows is that people who go on holiday lead happier lives than those who don't, writes Chris Goodall, and that people enjoy holidays: a flimsy basis on which to expand airport capacity, and blow the UK's emissions targets out of the water.

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A paved front garden in Chingford, outer London - one of 7 million around the country. Photo: William Warby via Flickr (CC BY).

Keep our front gardens green!

Jenny Jones
| 30th June 2015
It's time to halt the loss of the nation's front gardens to dreary paving, writes Jenny Jones. Green gardens protect against floods, provide homes for wildlife, keep cities cool in summer, and help us all feel happier. Now, with 7 million gardens already paved over, we must protect those that remain.

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An event to commemorate Ying Tao, 26, who died on 22nd June at the scene of the crash at Bank junction, run over by a tipper truck. Photo: Donnachadh McCarthy.

Tonight, join the silent roar: stop killing cyclists!

Donnachadh McCarthy
| 29th June 2015
Following a monstrous spate of cyclist deaths in London, protestors are gathering outside the Bank of England tonight to demand: stop killing cyclists! The UK's peaceful cycling revolution is now under way, writes Donnachadh McCarthy, who invites us all to join the movement to make our cities safe for humans.

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Lettuce on an Organic Farm in Havana, Cuba. Photo: David Schroeder via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Cuba's warming relations with the US may undermine its agroecological city farms

Julia Wright
Emily Morris
| 27th June 2015
Cuba is a global exemplar of organic, agroecological farming, taking place on broad swathes of land in and around its cities, write Julia Wright & Emily Morris. These farms cover 14% of the country's agricultural land, employ 350,000 people, and produce half the country's fruit and vegetables. But can they survive exposure to US agribusiness?

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Radical Bankers gather in their social centre in an abandoned bank. Photo: The Source Brighton.

Anti-austerity movement revives radical urban squatting

Almudena Serpis
| 24th June 2015
Long a feature of British urban life, domestic squatting has now been criminalised, writes Almudena Serpis. But suddenly two social centres have come to life in a squatted bank in Brighton, and a long abandoned pub in London, reviving the rebellious spirit of the squatting movement, and promulgating a radical anti-austerity message that evokes the struggles in Greece, Spain and beyond.

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The Bois Dormoy is a unique green oasis in the heart of metropolitan Paris and its multicultural community. It should be treasured, not destroyed! Photo; via Bois Dormoy on Facebook.

Paris must remember: climate solutions are small, local, green, and begin at home

Marc Brightman
| 17th June 2015
As Paris prepares for COP21 in Paris, Marc Brightman finds that the city is in the grip of a benign but ignorant authoritarianism that is ready to trample on much-loved green spaces like the Bois Dormoy, reclaimed from dereliction by the multicultural local community, which represent real solutions to the global problems of food, climate, the future of our cities, and our place in nature.

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Precious little harmony here: a building site in Beijing. But change is on the way. Photo: Thembi Mutch.

Amid the smoke and chaos of 'development', China seeks a return to ancient harmony

Thembi Mutch
| 19th May 2015
China is struggling with a myriad of environmental challenges, writes Thembi Mutch, as the country 'develops' at breakneck speed with massive construction projects, and industrial expansion. But amid the chaos and filth, the Chinese people are mindful of their history and ancient principles of harmony with nature - something that many are working hard to restore.

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Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, New York, nestled alongside the Hudson River. Photo: Tony Fischer via Flickr (CC BY).

Indian Point - the nuclear bombshell in New York City's backyard

Karl Grossman
| 12th May 2015
Following the accidental fire in a transformer at the troubled Indian Point nuclear site last weekend, and the unplanned release of oil into the Hudson River, calls are growing for the two remaining power plants to be shut down, writes Karl Grossman. The NRC is likely to extend its expiring licenses for another 20 years - but New York State could still refuse it a water use permit.

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Six Spot Burnet Moth and Large Skipper Butterfly supping nectar on Common Knapweed. Photo: © 2015 Jo Cartmell.

Jo's mini meadow - our beautiful and vital insects

Jo Cartmell
| 7th May 2015
First Jo Cartmell converted her uninspiring front lawn into a 'mini-meadow' full of wild flowers. Next, she waited the return of insect life - not for very long as it turned out. Barely a few years into the project, a remarkable profusion of bees, beetles, moths and butterflies were buzzing and humming around the blooms ...

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A dry branch of the Atibainha reservoir, part of the Cantareira system of reservoirs that serves Sao Paulo, 26th February 2015. Photo: Clairex via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Brazil's ravaged forests are taking their revenge

Robert Hunziker
| 2nd March 2015
Thanks to massive deforestation along Brazil's Atlantic coast and the Amazon, São Paulo's reservoirs are at just 6% of their capacity and water rationing is in place. But this is just the beginning of a long term drying process that could be recreated around the world as forests are laid waste and hydrology disrupted.

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