Weekly Environmental News: June 16-June 22, 2013

Complete Streets take the focus off cars

Legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that would require states to include Complete Streets in all federally funded transportation projects, a significant shift from car-centric policies that have dominated transportation projects since the post WWII era and have encouraged an unsustainable growth pattern of devouring farmland and old-growth forests in exchange for tracts of single-family homes and shopping malls. While this legislation is promoted primarily as a safety measure, the decreased reliance on cars through better access to public transportation and the promotion of cycling and walking could also reap positive benefits for the environment in the form of reduced air and water pollution from car exhaust and road runoff.

Image by Suzanne Kashnow

Image by Suzanne Kashnow

Baltimore struggles with the best approach to reducing litter in waterways

Baltimore’s City Council put the brakes on a bill to ban the use of polystyrene foam by the food service industry., sending it back to committee for further debate. Opponents of the bill cite the burden of cost for business owners to find new products, and the fact that the majority of litter in Baltimore’s inner harbor (the outfall for the four watersheds of Baltimore City) is not styrofoam but plastic. Polystyrene is a suspected carcinogen and because of its pervasive existence in our water supply it has been found in 100% of every every human tissue and breastmilk sample tested by the EPA.

Urban tree canopies are just the beginning

Looking beyond trees for ways to unleash the potential of our urban environments is the focus of the Urban Greenprint, a Seattle-based project looking to find ways to mimic the ecosystems cities have replaced. Opportunities for further research and practical applications include stormwater mitigation via increased evaporation and carbon sequestration in building materials.

Biologists worried about starving migratory birds, seen as tied to climate change

Migration patterns are triggered by seasonal weather patterns and reliant upon food supplies at destinations along the way. Changes in climate that impact both the onset of the seasons and the bounty of the sea have repercussions for many species of migratory birds such as Arctic tern chicks and puffins, whose populations are showing significant declines.



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