June 07, 2010 | Ronda Jambe

LA ripens while the Big Apple gets a new core

Coming back to a cold Canberra, chilled as much by lack of imagination as frost, it is time to reflect on my recent travels.

The radio tells me the ACT Greens have expressed concern again, this time over the Stanhopeless government’s lack of attention to planning in the work on the road around City Hill. This will need to be undone if a future pedestrianising project proceeds.

But considering the ACT gov (in which the Greens hold, but do not exert, the balance of power) is now duplicating the Gungahlin Drive Extension, stupidity and waste in planning is what we expect.

Much sadder is the problem of how one gets the Greens to stop using words in their press releases like want, criticise, call for, describe, seek, etc. Why can’t they actually change something substantial, or at least stop some of the obvious bad suff?

In the two US cities named in this blog’s title, there is  no obvious trace of a Greens party. They do not seem to be a force in US politics, unlike here, where they are creeping up to 15% in recent polls.

Yet in Los Angeles and New York there is robust evidence of changes towards sustainability. Some governments are getting a few things right, and the public delight is observable. For the first time I saw the bike lanes in Chelsea and Greenwich Village, and bikes on the subways. It got better when I took my visiting Ausssie friends to the Highline, an old goods rail line that has become an elevated walkway with wooden lounges, lots of plantings and soon, a water feature where kids can splash.  

And I briefly rested at a table in Times Square, looking  up at the news flicking above. Amazing how a few hundred tables and chairs can make a busy intersection more inviting.

In LA my informal research took me on public buses to the Getty Centre, where my sample size of one day showed bikes hooking up to the front of the bus on every line I took. Even in the airport district, where I stayed, cyclists passed me on the footpaths. Culver City, once the home of the movie industry, is holding public meetings and displays about how to make the city more pedestrian friendly. Bike paths will be a big part of that.

Ironically, the very freeways that LA is infamous for now hold a silver lining of sustainability, at least in my jet-lagged brain. Instead of seeing the zooming traffic that has always repelled me from LA, I see that peak oil will bring new opportunities. In my mind’s eye I see the two inner lanes in each direction still reserved for vehicles, albeit more public transit than now. The outermost lane I see covered in bikes, since much of LA is pretty flat. And the second outermost lane might become (the subjunctive is my mode!) a green barrier between them, making the bike paths that much safer. Can you see it too?

By the way, the Getty Centre grew from the largess of a larger than life oilman. Silver linings indeed.

And the buildings will grow vertical gardens. I’m not making that up, it is already a niche for fantastical designers, who have worked out how to water walls and hold the dirt. The rooftops will hold trees and collect water, I am fiddling with some photos to make them meet my requirements for future reality, and will insert them when I have finished.

Never take my word for these ramblings, the professionals are way ahead of me and are already transforming the biggest cities for bigger hopes. A UN environment report, released today, that 25% of food capacity will be lost within 40 years if current trends continue, punctuates my point. My plans are more modest, as I look over the start of my enlarged dams that will water my orchard. Vive le reve!

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 1:20 am | Comments Off on LA ripens while the Big Apple gets a new core |
Filed under: Environment

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