Children who attend school in heavy traffic areas may show slower cognitive development and lower memory test scores, Spanish researchers have found.
About 21,000 premature deaths are attributed to air pollution in Canada each year, according to the Canadian Medical Association. The detrimental effects of air pollution on cardiovascular health and on the lungs are well documented and now researchers are looking at its effects on the brain.
Source: <a href="http://bit.ly/1tDdYEc">http://bit.ly/1tDdYEc</a>
from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
-> This article could have been titled: "Gains in Life Expectancy Slowed by Obesity, Shootings, and Overdoses." A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research examined preventable deaths for the period 1960-2010 and its conclusion is troubling: the longevity gained from our public health wins (safer cars, less smoking, less drinking) has been nearly cancelled out by the public health battles we are losing (obesity, shootings, and drug overdoses). The wins have given us an additional 1.82 years of good health; the losses have erased 1.77 years, leaving not much net gain. The study uses 'quality-adjusted life expectancy' as it is a more accurate measurement of years spent in good health. Read the working paper at <a href="http://bit.ly/1Ae7KDc">http://bit.ly/1Ae7KDc</a> or the summary at <a href="http://on.wsj.com/1sdkykg">http://on.wsj.com/1sdkykg</a>.
The decline in motor vehicle death rates is impressive, dropping from 20 per 100k in population (1960) to a little over 10 deaths per 100k (2010). The authors present the counterfactual scenario, which projects death rates if we had done nothing--freezing seat belt use, impaired driving, and vehicle safety at 1960 levels--and continued to drive at our current rate: we reach 78 deaths per 100k population by 2008 before the plunge in VMT brings deaths back down to 65 per 100k in 2010. The lesson seems to be it is remarkable what we can accomplish when government, the private sector, and the public agree on a public health threat and decide to act.
The trend is going the wrong way in Houston, where the voters told the City to turn off red light cameras in 2010. The result: more crashes--a lot more (<a href="http://bit.ly/1uqzPVc">http://bit.ly/1uqzPVc</a>).
from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
B' Spokes: I want to emphasize: "The lesson seems to be it is remarkable what we can accomplish when government, the private sector, and the public agree on a public health threat and decide to act."
After we told our neighbor we were planning to construct a rain garden, she asked us whether it would have any floating aquatic plants. We said, “Oh, no, it’s not going to hold water. It will fill up after a rain but then the water will seep into the ground within 48 hours.” Then she asked us if we were planning to keep fish in it.
I wasn’t surprised to hear this, though, because not a lot of people are familiar with the concept of stormwater management.
So, what are some of the benefits of building a rain garden?
- Beautiful, low maintenance landscaping – A rain garden is full of hearty, typically native, perennials, that can handle both wet and dry conditions.
- Native plants help native species – In particular, the plants we purchased have been inundated by monarch butterfly larvae, who attached their chrysalises to them.
- Reducing our stormwater footprint – Stormwater that runs off of hard surfaces such as our roof, sidewalk, and parking pad, flows to the alleyway picking up pollutants as well as contributing to huge spikes in volume in nearby streams. By keeping some of our runoff on site and letting it slowly seep into the water table, we’re doing our part to reduce erosion and pollution effecting Herring Run, the Back River, and the Chesapeake Bay. In some areas, large rain events also contribute to sewage overflows, which, in case you didn’t know, means raw sewage ends up in waterways – toilet paper and all.
- And, as already mentioned… less mowing!
From Harford County government:
The fact that stormwater and urban runoff from Maryland accounts for just 5% of the sediment and 2% of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay calls into question the need to undertake incredibly costly public works projects. We all want a cleaner Bay, but are we willing to stretch the household budgets of our citizens or to put local companies out of business to achieve just a fractional improvement in Bay quality?
A new, peer-reviewed analysis performed by the staff of Jonathan Rose Companies, with assistance from the federal EPA, shows the power of a superior location in substantially reducing a household’s environmental footprint. In fact, it shows this is so whether the housing type is a single-family home, townhome, or multi-family building. In particular, a comparison based on national averages indicates that the energy consumption (and, thus, global warming emissions) of a typical household in a transit-oriented location is likely to be less than that of a household in a conventional suburban location (i.e., “sprawl”), even if the household in a conventional suburban location employs energy-efficient building technology and drives fuel-efficient vehicles.
Via Switchboard of the Natural Resources Defense Council
Does suburban sprawl – spread-out, automobile-dependent strip malls, big-box stores, wide arterial roadways, and unending large-lot housing – cause flooding? Absolutely not. (Sprawl doesn’t make it rain, although I can put together a very plausible theory about increased driving, tailpipe emissions, global warming, and severe weather events.) But does sprawl aggravate flooding? Oh, yeah. Here’s how:
When it rains, the water needs somewhere to go. Ideally, that someplace is a forest or meadow, which filters and absorbs the water into the ground. But when, instead of natural vegetation, we have rooftops and pavement, the natural process is broken and the water runs off, gaining volume and velocity. If the rainfall is hard enough and/or steady enough, flooding occurs; and floodwaters increase as runoff increases. Nature, already overburdened by severe precipitation, is prevented entirely from doing its job at limiting the accumulation of flood waters when impervious surface is in the way.
What does this have to do with suburban sprawl? Spread-out, low-rise development contributes more rooftops and pavement per unit of development to the watershed than do walkable neighborhoods. Imagine a 200,000-square-foot, one-story Walmart Supercenter surrounded by 15-20 acres of surface parking. When it rains on Walmart's property, there’s no way the water can get into the ground through naturl filtration processes. Now multiply that by all the other parking lots required for strip malls and office parks, and all the widened and extended road surfaces needed to accommodate traffic heading to the retail and spread-out housing.
Now imagine a different scenario: The same amount of floor space is accommodated by a combination of even two- to four-story buildings, and housing built more compactly to a walkable scale. Imagine that the pattern reaches sufficient critical mass to support decent transit service and the substitution of walking, bicycling, and transit use for some of those car trips, thus reducing the amount of road surface needed. Where there is parking, imagine that some of it, rather than spread out on surface lots, is placed in multi-story, above- or below-ground garages such as those found in urban areas. With rainwater hitting a smaller footprint of pavement and other hard surfaces, there is less runoff.
Would the difference be great enough to prevent flooding altogether during the most severe weather events? Probably not. But it could make a difference in the volume of water running off into the flood.
EPA has done some calculations on the residential part of the issue. Suppose your metropolitan area is going to grow by 10,000 homes over the next several years. If those homes are built one to an acre, a hypothetical storm might produce 187 cubic meters of runoff; but reducing the watershed coverage to an average of four homes per acre, the runoff from those same new homes would be reduced to 62 cubic meters. Build the homes at eight to an acre, and the runoff would reduce further, to 49.5 cubic meters. The main reason for the difference is the amount of roadway required to service the homes is much greater at low densities than at moderate densities.
Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases caused by the burning of the oil, gas and coal that power our world are enhancing the natural "greenhouse effect," causing the planet to warm to levels that climate scientists say can't be linked to natural forces.
Carbon dioxide levels were around 280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution, when we first began releasing large amounts into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.
For the past 800,000 years, CO2 levels never exceeded 300 parts per million, according to Scripps, which measures CO2 levels along with several other agencies, including NOAA. Records of past levels of CO2 are found in samples of old air preserved as bubbles in the Antarctic ice sheet, Scripps reports.
"The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it's too late for our children and grandchildren," said Tim Lueker, a Scripps oceanographer.