community · environment · health · Social

Bee boulevard: How to turn an urban corridor into a haven for native pollinators | Grist

English: Amber Flush rose - Bagatelle Rose Gar...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I couldn’t stay away for long, could I?

I thought this was an interesting article about actively creating space in urban environments to promote biodiversity and making our lives as humans healthier (more bees means more flowers, fruits and veggies), and it just so happens to make the space prettier and more enjoyable visually as well.

Several years ago, Sarah Bergmann, a painter by training, started asking questions about the fate of the world’s pollinators. And while she’s not an environmentalist per se, Bergmann’s art and graphic design work never stray far from the environmental sphere. To her, the complex and shifting relationships between pollinators and plants have always begged further investigation. Bergmann’s response to what she learned is a work-in-progress called the Pollinator Pathway, a mile-long corridor of pollinator-friendly, mostly native plants stretching between two green spaces in the heart of Seattle.

Bergmann chose the pathway’s two endpoints — the Seattle University campus and a lot-sized forest called Nora’s Woods — for their diverse plant life and lack of pesticides. Since building the first test garden in 2008 with the help of a small city grant, she and hundreds of volunteers have installed 16 more gardens in parking strips along the way. “It’s not just a random line of plants; it’s meant to find two existing green spaces within the city and draw a line between them,” she says.

Gardens are built with the cooperation and enthusiasm of homeowners on the corridor, who have also agreed to maintain them. They must be drought-tolerant, pesticide free, and, ideally, contain at least 70 percent native plants — though Bergmann says the project hasn’t quite hit that target yet. And of course, the plants must be appealing to bees and other pollinators. These requirements, combined with city height restrictions for parking-strip vegetation, led to a list of about 50 plants that can be part of the pathway.

Biologists have been promoting migration corridors for mammals and birds for decades, so why not bees? Gardening is also a fun, playful activity for many people, and the idea that they’re helping out something else in return is also satisfying.

Find out more about creating bee corridors via Bee boulevard: How to turn an urban corridor into a haven for native pollinators | Grist.

behavior · community · culture · education · environment

Bicycling our way into work and out of the Great Recession | Grist

Ringstraße, Vienna, Austria, 2005
A commuter in Austria. Image via Wikipedia

I am always interested in how organizations promote healthier, more enriching, more environmentally friendly practices, and I think this article makes a good point, that a lot of the bike commuter programs are geared towards the middle to upper class, yet the people who NEED to use bikes, and in many college towns I’ve lived in DO use bikes but need the support and information, are poor young folks:

The way we work has been changing for a long time, and our transportation needs and options along with it. With the recent recession, fewer people are working as much or for as much money, or as regularly — or at all. More of us are, in a word, poor.

We’re the ones who need bicycling the most. Yet the broke and the tenuously employed aren’t always reached by bicycle transportation advocacy, education, and services. When they are, the messages being promoted are not always relevant or welcome.

The mainstays of bike advocacy organizations are the three E’s: engineering, enforcement, and education — with a fourth E, encouragement, becoming increasingly popular.

U.S. bike advocacy is also imbued with a heavy focus on individual responsibility as more important — or perhaps more readily achievable — than social and infrastructure change, as exemplified by the until-recently prominent vehicular cycling movement.

Such initiatives tend to reach out to the people who ride — or don’t — out of choice rather than economic necessity, whose only barrier to getting on a bike is motivation.

When you’re already broke, you don’t need to be encouraged to adopt someone else’s lifestyle. You need solutions that arise from your own circumstances and community.

That means that simply choosing to hop on a bike isn’t actually that straightforward. Even as your car is sucking your savings dry and pummeling your credit, at least it’s the devil you know.

People living in low-income households are less likely to have access to a working bicycle (only 29 percent of households making less than $15,000 do, according to the NHTSA’s most recent survey). Aside from the cost and learning curve of acquiring, outfitting, and maintaining a reliable everyday bicycle, if you’re broke your neighborhood is also less likely to be graced by bike lanes, calmed traffic, and other facilities that are lauded for their ability to raise property values. You’re also less likely to have easy, central access to grocery stores and other amenities.

more via Bicycling our way into work and out of the Great Recession | Grist.

I’m curious to hear what solutions people may have for this. How do we focus more on getting the poor, or more accurately the broke, onto bikes safely and effectively?

anthropology · behavior · community · disease · education · environment · health · mental health · Social

How the places we live could heal us | Grist

This is an interesting follow-up/add-on to the RadioLab “Cities” episode I blogged about a couple of weeks ago. The Healing Cities Working Group of planners and health professionals in Vancouver, BC is working to create healthy environments in urban areas, particularly focusing on food and food sources.

It’s possible to interest public officials in the health impact of the built environment because Canada has nationalized health care.

“When you have a public health care system like we have in Canada, we all collectively pay the end-of-pipe costs,” said Holland. “So anything we have in our society that makes us unhealthy, we end up paying for it.” Of course, that’s true in the United States as well, but there is much less transparency and awareness of those costs because of the way our system is set up.

In Canada, Holland hopes to be able to involve doctors and public health authorities in the fight against sprawl and for more walkable and transit-oriented neighborhoods. Among the Healing Cities Working Group’s many planned initiatives is a partnership with health officials to advocate for more health-enhancing infrastructure and development at the local level.

via How the places we live make us sick, and how they could heal us instead | Grist.

Other studies have found that greener neighborhoods also decrease stress and make people more likely to walk or bike places. Where you live, what have you found works best for you personally to motivate you to get you outside, moving, and buying less insta-food?