Category Archives: Climate Change

Third annual Midnight Garden Ride will raise funds for bicycle advocacy and education

Drew Wade, chairman of the Savannah Bicycle Campaign, has conceived an idea that has grown over the last three years into one of Savannah’s most unique events. It doesn’t really happen at midnight, but the Midnight Garden Ride will get underway at dusk on Saturday, Sept. 3 and allow many participants to do something they might not normally: ride their bikes at night.

There are cyclists on Savannah’s streets at all times of day and night, of course, but the spectacle of 700 or more people riding bicycles as night falls is something else altogether. As I wrote in this week’s  Savannah “News Cycle” column, “It’s sociable and empowering at the same time. The sight of hundreds of bicycles with blinking lights and other decorations makes it more like a parade than anything else.” This year’s event has moved to Forsyth Park and expanded to include a concert cospresented by Savannah Stopover. Back again are the popular costume and best lighting rig contests and raffle.

While the event is certainly fun, it also allows import efforts to make our community better. Funds raised through registration and other event activities help the Savannah Bicycle Campaign toward its mission:

“Our primary objectives are education for cyclists and motorists about the best ways to share the road, advocacy for improved bicycle facilities in Chatham County, and promoting bicycling as a healthy, safe activity for recreation and sustainable transportation. Ultimately, through an inclusive approach, we will make our communities more livable, connected & safe. These are our goals, and we hope that you will join us.”Our primary objectives are education for cyclists and motorists about the best ways to share the road, advocacy for improved bicycle facilities in Chatham County, and promoting bicycling as a healthy, safe activity for recreation and sustainable transportation. Ultimately, through an inclusive approach, we will make our communities more livable, connected and safe. These are our goals, and we hope that you will join us.”

Does that sound like something you support? If yes, you know where you should be on Saturday night.

Lawmakers propose disastrous, job-killing, backwards-looking transportation plan

In a July 5 article called “How the Great Reset has Already Changed America,” for the Atlantic, Richard Florida describes how our elected leaders are lagging behind and even moving in directions that suggest a disconnection from our current reality. He writes, “… our political and business leaders continue to look backwards, wasting precious time and resources on futile attempts to resuscitate the same dysfunctional system of banks, sprawl, and inefficient and energy-wasting ways of life that brought about the crisis in the first place.”

It’s hard to imagine a better example of backwards-looking ideas than House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica’s proposed transportation reauthorization bill, which he announced yesterday. It will eliminate dedicated federal funding for bicycling and walking. Mica apparently deems spending in these areas to be “not in the federal interest.” Meanwhile Sen. James Inhofe, the lead Republican negotiator on the transportation bill in the Senate, has stated one of his top three priorities is to eliminate “frivolous spending” on bicycle facilities, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

These merciless cuts are not aimed at reducing the deficit, reviving the economy, creating jobs, improving transportation choices or serving the American people.

It’s clear they did not.

 

Connect Savannah story looks at local geothermal projects

“Energy Underground” in the Dec. 7 issue of Connect Savannah surveys geothermal efforts underway in the area, including one particularly interesting project:

The recent, and under-reported, symbolic groundbreaking of what will be the Savannah Gardens neighborhood redevelopment of Strathmore Estates, unearthed the city’s game plan to provide geothermal energy to 150 single family homes. According to Martin Fretty, city director of housing, “We’re trying to find ways to put in both Smart Meters and geothermal.” If the city succeeds in this Eastside development, it will be the largest residential use of geothermal in the region.

The recent, and under-reported, symbolic groundbreaking of what will be the Savannah Gardens neighborhood redevelopment of Strathmore Estates, unearthed the city’s game plan to provide geothermal energy to 150 single family homes. According to Martin Fretty, city director of housing, “We’re trying to find ways to put in both Smart Meters and geothermal.” If the city succeeds in this Eastside development, it will be the largest residential use of geothermal in the region.

Read more here.

When trends converge: Boycotts, bicycles and a car culture in decline?

slowdown
In recent days, I’ve heard a lot about boycotting BP to punish it for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Boycotts against companies have in many ways become the default American reaction against behavior we don’t like. Perhaps we have become resigned to idea that our main role in our economy and society is to consume. American consumers (formerly known as American citizens) vote with our wallets. And, we are told, we should vote against BP by withholding our business. Seems straight forward enough.

The problem is our dependence on oil is bigger than the Gulf of Mexico and bigger than BP. Deepwater Horizon is arguably the largest and most publicized example of our tragic addiction to oil, but it is no way the first. Our national failure to consider more sustainable ways to live, work and get from place to place will continue to cause us increasingly severe and eventually debilitating environmental, military, political, financial and human rights headaches. And as we move on down the right hand side of the Peak Oil curve, these problems will become more numerous and difficult to solve.

Boycotting BP, then, is kind of like switching from Marlboros to Camels to spite Phillip Morris, while continuing to smoke two packs a day. We might feel vindicated in the short term and RJ Reynolds will be happy to take our money, but we’ll suffer the same terrible consequences in the end.

While our addiction to oil has shown up only at the margins of the national debate of how to best punish BP, some interesting things are happening in the background. As summarized by Richard Florida in The Great Car Reset: “Younger people today – in fact, people of all ages – no longer see the car as a necessary expense or a source of personal freedom.” If fewer young people falling in love with automobile culture, for whom are we continuing to build automobile infrastructure? In a cruel twist of fate, we may be creating it for people now (including our families and ourselves), who will become imprisoned by it later. The question is how much more money and effort we will devote to building an automobile-centric transportation system that future generations will not need and that will work against the interests of the people who are currently demanding it? How many more disasters will we tolerate to feed our demand for oil?

A local trend of note was reported yesterday by the Savannah Bicycle Campaign. A recently completed bicycle census finds that bicycle use in Savannah has increased dramatically, or at least was seriously underestimated in the past. Either way, there is more excellent news about who is riding in Savannah. As described here, “Women are considered an ‘indicator species’ for bike-friendly cities”:

“If you want to know if an urban environment supports cycling, you can forget about all the detailed ‘bikeability indexes’—just measure the proportion of cyclists who are female,” says Jan Garrard, a senior lecturer at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia, and author of several studies on biking and gender differences.

Savannah saw a 33 percent increase in the proportion of women cyclists over the 2009 census number. That’s even more reason to provide additional bicycle infrastructure. It also offers cause to pause before spending mountains of money on road projects that will keep us hooked on driving in the short term.

Would oil off our coast cause us to change our ways?

oilspillstoppedIn the early days of the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe, some local media reported the Gulf Coast’s loss could be the Atlantic Coast’s gain, in the form of tourists reconfiguring their summer vacation destinations. These stories usually included mandatory expressions of sympathy for the region dealing with the environmental catastrophe. Still, the disaster was down there. The major consequence for us would be more difficulty finding space to plant our chairs and umbrellas on the more crowded beaches of Tybee Island, right? Interviews were conducted just to make sure we were in the clear. But now the story may be changing. Yesterday, the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog published a horrifying animation that illustrates where the oil might eventually go if the damaged well continues to flow.

Oil AnimationWill the realization that it could come here lead to any action besides the emotionally satisfying, but ultimately useless, railing against BP and the government that has been our only response to the spill? Will the possibility of oil slicks from Miami to Maine cause us to comprehend our role in this cataclysm? Will it help us to finally understand that it’s our unrelenting demand for cheap oil that made deep water drilling a viable business proposition? Will it prompt us to take a hard look at how we have built our communities and the way we choose to travel in our daily lives?

Here’s an excellent list of 10 ways cities and towns can kick the offshore-oil habit. How many of these are we doing locally? Aside from the wonderful expansion of on-street bicycle parking, spearheaded by Sean Brandon of the City of Savannah’s Parking and Mobility Services department, the sad answer is not much. In fact, some of the ideas mentioned in the list, including increased density and reduced automobile parking, are fighting words around here! Having been shown the consequences of our oil dependency via television coverage from the Gulf of Mexico, can we now talk seriously about our problems and begin to make responsible decisions about how to make our communities sustainable and livable? Or will it take oil drifting into Wassaw Sound to get our attention?