04 March 2010

New Thinking for Our Capital Cities

New thinking for the mainstream maybe, but ecological city pioneers such as Richard Register of Ecocity Builders in California have been on about this since the mid 1970s.

Another longtime advocate and activist is Paul Downton, who is the architect of Adelaide's Christie Walk, an award winning 'piece of ecocity' in the CBD.

Inspired by Richard's work, Paul also initiated a project through the University of SA [where he was teaching at the time] called the Shadow Plans, to look at how Adelaide's urban sprawl could become 'urban shrink' by implementing ecocity policies and practices.

Reposted in from G Magazine, 19 February 2010

'I've been reading a lot lately about cars and transport. Our cars are one of Australia's major sources of carbon-dioxide emissions, but it's not so easy to just get rid of them with a snap of our fingers.

Our transport G Challenge last year was a good start: we all committed to reducing our reliance on our cars. But better designed cities of the future will make it easier for everyone to do the right thing!

Australia has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the world, and a lot of that is due to the sprawling layout of our capital cities. Back in the 50s, we had a more compact "core and spoke" design that allowed an efficient use of transport. Now our suburbs sprawl all over the place, full of cul-de-sacs that prevent public transport and emergency services (like ambulances and firetrucks) from operating efficiently.

Our cities are designed with cars and more cars in mind. Ross Gittins points out in his article The city is choking thanks to our idea of transport nirvana that Sydney keeps adding freeways and widening roads, but that just makes more people think that driving will be nicer. Which just leads to more congestion, which leads to people thinking that we need more roads, and it becomes a vicious cycle. We need to break this pattern by realising that the kind of thinking that got us into this mess is not going to get us out of it!

What we need is smarter urban planning: fewer cul-de-sacs, more transport corridors and hubs, safer and better-lit streets. Only then will we be able to ditch our cars and say hello to less-carbon-intensive ways of getting around like bikes, trains, and buses.

If that sounds a bit out there, you might be surprised to learn that lots of places are working on this already: check out this article on 4 places which removed highways and some European car-free towns. I'd love to see Australian cities try out some of these ideas.'

01 March 2010

European Parliament Members Want to Bring Wonky Fruit Ban Back

Any MEP who votes for this should have their food supply stopped for a month and left to grow their own! Nothing has changed in 25 years:

Eight weeks ago E.E.C. spent 265 million pounds in destroying 2 million tons of vegetable and fruit.

The shame, the shame, the shame.'

Bob Geldof's diary notes from Africa, July 1985 (reproduced in Live Aid DVD liner notes)

Reposted in full from the UK Telegraph, 23 February 2010

'MEPs have called for a European ban on the sale of wonky fruit and vegetables to be restored. The controversial ban was lifted by the European Commission last July, cutting red tape surrounding the shape and uniformity of fresh produce.

The move reduced food waste and cut retail prices by as much as 40 per cent in some cases.

But Spanish MEPs have won the support of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee to bring the ban back.

The issue will now go to the full Parliament for a vote and, although it is unlikely to be approved by EU ministers, the attempt was attacked as nonsensical by Tory MEP Richard Ashworth.

"Food is food, no matter what it looks like," he said.

"To try to stop stores selling perfectly decent food simply because of its shape or size is morally unjustifiable, especially when we are worried about global food supplies."

Until the ban was lifted in July last year, EU rules dictated the shape and size of 36 varieties of produce, from apricots to watermelons, effectively banishing all but perfect specimens.

The then EU Agriculture Commissioner Marianne Fischer Boel trumpeted a rare popularity high point for Eurocrats, declaring: "We simply don't need to regulate this sort of thing at EU level.

"It is far better to leave it to market operators – and in these days of high food prices and general economic difficulties, consumers should be able to choose from the widest range of products possible. It makes no sense to throw perfectly good products away, just because they are the 'wrong' shape."

Spanish MEPs, anxious to defend their domestic markets, disagree, and tabled their own amendments to a report on EU agriculture quality policy.

Last July's decision to lift the ban freed up the market for 26 sorts of fruit and veg including artichokes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, onions, peas, carrots, plums, and ribbed celery.

Specific market rules stayed in place for the ten products which account for three quarters of EU fruit and veg trade – apples, citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches/nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes.

But it was left to national authorities to exempt even those ten from the rules on shape and size, as long as they are sold as "produce intended for processing" or something similar.

Bananas, a legendary target for eurosceptic fun over EU size and shape criteria, are not affected, as they come under a separate marketing regime.

The Spanish government was among a handful of protectionist countries which opposed the lifting of the 20-year-old ban last year. Others were Italy, France and Hungary, all wanting to keep the ban to ensure a level playing field for food quality.'