September 11th, 2009
Pavement is one of the defining characteristics of our urban existence. From pop-culture terms like “asphalt jungle” to the Joni Mitchell song and its famous lyrics about paving paradise for parking lots, pavement is often used as a symbol of both the progress and peril of our urbanizing ways. Unfortunately, all of this pavement is more than a downer in our collective psyche. By catching car-based pollutants and funneling rainfall straight into storm drains and gutters, pavement destroys rivers and streams and kills the animals and plants that depend on them. Oh, and it also produces the dirty water that makes millions of people sick each year after they swim in polluted water.
Unfortunately, it’s much easier to lay pavement down than it is to take it out. The physical process is difficult, it’s hard to dispose of, and most of our zoning regulations and building codes make it difficult to remove once it’s in place. Decommissioning a parking lot or underused street for environmental reasons isn’t for the faint of heart, but fortunately there are some ambitious folks out there willing to confront the challenge head-on. Read on to see how they’re creating some beautiful and useful public spaces. (more…)
Popularity: 23% [?]
July 30th, 2009
When it comes to the beach, it’s what you can’t see that can really hurt you. We all have irrational beach fears of sharks, jellyfish, rip currents and the like, but our greatest chance of getting hurt or sick at the seaside or lakeside comes from not from these scary but rare threats but instead from the bacteria and other pollutants in the water.
According to the latest version of the NRDC’s annual beach water quality report, pollution-related beach closure and advisory days in 2008 exceeded 20,000 nationwide for the fourth year running. Seven percent of water samples collected at beaches across the country contained human or animal wastes, and over 13 percent exceeded health standards in the Great Lakes. By state the worst offenders were Louisiana (29%), Ohio (19%) and Indiana (18%), meaning that you have a 1 in 5 chance of running into some smelly stuff in these states - yuck! Delaware, New Hampshire and Virginia were best, all falling at or below 1%.
Where does this crud come from? The primary source is stormwater runoff, especially from urban areas. Clean rain falls on dirty surfaces. It picks up all sorts of pollution on its way to the ocean, river or lake - trash, metals, oil and grease and yes, human and animal waste. On a side note, we can all play a role in helping with this problem. The use of rain barrels, rain gardens and other rainwater capture techniques help keep the clean water in your yard before it gets to the much dirtier streets and storm drains.
Some of the best beaches were:
- California, Stinson Beach, Marin County (0%)
- California, Newport Beach, Orange County (0%)
- Delaware, Rehoboth Beach, Sussex County (0%)
- Florida, John Lloyd State Park, Broward County (0%)
- Hawaii, Sandy Beach County Park, Honolulu (0%)
- Massachusetts, South Beach State Park (Martha’s Vineyard), Dukes County (0%)
- Michigan, Petoskey State Park, Emmet County (0%)
- Minnesota, Park Point (Beach House), St Louis County (0%)
- North Carolina, Ocracoke, Hyde County (0%)
- New Jersey, Atlantic City Beaches @ Lincoln, Atlantic County (0%)
- New York, Coney Island Beach, Kings County (0%)
- Texas, South Padre Island, Cameron County (0%)
- Virginia, Virginia Beach (0%)
And now some of the real stinkers:
- California, Santa Monica State Beach @ The Pier (43%)
- Florida, Alligator Point, Franklin County (56%)
- Louisiana, Holly Beach 5, Cameron County (50%)
- Ohio, Edgewater State Park, Cuyahoga County (34%)
Popularity: 4% [?]