For those individuals among us who possess a talent for art, opportunities to create something beautiful can be found all around us. Everywhere you look, there are empty walls that are just crying out to become something more beautiful, if only someone would take the time. Thankfully, there are plenty of incredibly talented street artists out there who are doing just that, turning drab public spaces into explosions of color and creativity. Check out the gallery here.
As of today, 138 cities have formally announced 100% renewable energy goals or targets, while others are actively considering similar goals. Cities have a wide variety of renewable energy procurement options to help them achieve their goals. One such option available to cities is leveraging an electric franchise agreement to partner with their local utility on new renewable energy projects or programs. New National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) research provides the first available analysis of franchise agreements nationwide. The analysis evaluates the extent to which municipalities have the authority to enter franchise agreements, how many have pursued additional energy objectives in or alongside their agreements, and to what effect. From a dataset of over 3,500 franchise agreements, the authors conclude that cities in 30 states have the opportunity to pursue franchise agreements, while municipalities in 20 states may be prohibited or otherwise precluded from pursuing this option. Follow this link to learn more.
Roland Ebel of the Sustainable Food Systems Program at Montana State University conducted a research project to determine the extent to which an ancient Aztec agricultural technique could benefit 21st century horticultural needs. Ebel examined the use of “chinampas” with the hope of discovering their modern utility. A chinampa is a raised field on a small artificial island on a freshwater lake (usually surrounded by canals and ditches), where vegetables can be produced year round. The irrigation needs of chinampas is low and the productivity extremely high. Chinampas provide fresh produce for a megacity such as Mexico City and are conceivable around many of today’s exploding urban areas. Ebel’s findings are illustrated in the article Chinampas: An Urban Farming Model of the Aztecs and a Potential Solution for Modern Megalopolis “Today, many cities face very similar challenges as Mexico City did 700 years ag – a rapidly growing population, and less and less arable land available for food production. Highly intensive production systems with low resource demand are, therefore, a strategic goal of urban agriculture developers. Thus, while most strategists emphasize high-tech solutions such as complex vertical farms, I think it is worthwhile to learn from the achievements of our ancestors,” states Ebel. Follow this link to read more.
As Americans, we see transportation as freedom. Give us a car and the open road, a bustling transit system, or bike lanes for miles. Transportation connects us to people and opportunity—and good infrastructure can make our lives better. This notion doesn’t end at the modes that move people. Freight trains are often the forgotten side of rail infrastructure, chugging day in, day out across our cities to deliver goods we rely on. Everything from consumer products to food to energy resources moves by rail. As infrastructure sits top of mind for policymakers at all levels of government, and we approach re-authorization of the federal highway program in 2020, it’s useful to reflect on our strengths. Privately funded freight rail is one of these strengths, an infrastructure asset that delivers stronger economies, more jobs, less congestion, and cleaner skies, all of which impacts municipalities. Here are five ways trains are driving cities forward. Follow this link to learn more.
Coordinated by graduate student Hannah Whitley in Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education, the Female Farmer Photovoice Project explores how socially constructed identities complicate barriers and opportunities for urban growers and connect to broader institutional inequities that perpetuate these problems. This past spring, 18 female urban agriculturalists were given disposable cameras and asked to take pictures that “tell their story” of urban agriculture. After three weeks of picture taking, participants met for a reflection meeting to share their photos, select which ones they wanted to share with the public, create titles, and write narratives for their photographs. These images and stories now are displayed on the project website’s digital gallery, www.thefemalefarmerphotovoiceproject.org, and in an exhibition that will travel across Pennsylvania and the Northeast this year. Whitley said she hopes the project will raise awareness of the importance of this kind of research. Follow this link to learn more.
Communities flourish when everyone within them has the opportunity to flourish. When urban-serving universities and communities join forces, we can confront the complexities of education, healthcare, economic, and human development in order to:
Prepare an increasingly diverse workforce to successfully navigate careers through technological, economic, and social change.
Assess, treat, and prevent urban health risks for increasingly diverse populations.
Create sustainable solutions for continued and inclusive growth that improve the quality of life in our communities.
Join educators, industry, nonprofit, and community leaders at The Ohio State University on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. EST in the Ohio Union to exchange ideas and reinvigorate the collective efforts toward strengthening and sustaining vibrant, inclusive communities. Follow this link to learn more.
At the top of a three-story building in Hong Kong, with car horns blasting on the streets below, Jim Fung teaches a dozen students how to thin out choi sum vegetables. “Always use the resources you have,” the instructor said as he placed shredded office paper into soil-filled plastic crates and wound string around bamboo sticks to make support frames. Fung was coaching the first cohort of students in an academy run by social enterprise Rooftop Republic to teach a new generation of urban farmers as demand for their skills soars. The organization is spearheading a movement to turn Hong Kong’s idle rooftops and urban spaces into farms to help residents reconnect with nature and make the finance hub more livable. Follow this link to learn more.
Across the country, local leaders are recognizing the benefits of reaching across jurisdictions to address climate issues. While regional collaborations of any kind can be challenging, elected officials and their staff know that social, economic, infrastructural, and ecological systems transcend city and county lines. Local leaders are partnering with academic institutions, nonprofits, regional planning councils, and other metro-regional stakeholders. Currently, there are at least 17 regional climate coalitions in the U.S. In early 2019, Council Member Lindsey Constance of Shawnee, Kansas, and Mayor Mike Kelly of Roeland Park, Kansas, took up this challenge, initiating The Metro Kansas City Climate Action Coalition with the goal of assembling elected leaders from the bi-state region to “draw down greenhouse gases, improve climate resilience, and generate corresponding economic, social, health, and quality of life benefits.” Follow this link to learn more.