I first heard about Seedbombs when Jeff from @truckingoodfood mentioned them a few days ago.
Then low and behold what I found in my RSS reader today, from INHABITAT:
Guerrilla gardeners in San Francisco have some new ammunition with the recent installation of the city’s first seedbomb vending machine! Designed by L.A.’s Common Studio, the re-purposed gum-ball machine is set up in front of Bi-Rite Market in the Mission District, where it vends “bombs” containing seeds and compost encased in clay. All they need is a little bit of water and they will sprout – toss one into an abandoned lot or even a pothole, and voila: green space.
This is a pretty genius idea. If there were a mix that could survive unassisted in our city, I’d scoop that up right away.
City slickers love telling everyone what neighborhoods they live in. It’s become a kind of shorthand for what sort of person they are, what they value, where they like to hang out. It makes sense: As small as the world has gotten, it’s still really big, and carving out a little piece of it that feels familiar and pride-worthy is a basic human urge.
But forget for a second where your apartment is, and think about the blocks that surround it, the guy one door down you’ve never spoken to, the people you mill around at the flea market or pass in the bike lane on your way to the grocery store. You probably have as much in common with them as you do with your friends, but you’ve never even met.
Now, if you’ve read my blog (TB3N) for any time now, you’ve seen me advocate for more lively neighborhoods more than once. At it’s base, what they said above is 100% true. We do tend of generalize people, even within our own community, based upon where they live.
Does your block have something to say about you?
Or do you have something to say about what your block really is?
The first step is getting out there and finding out the truth and seeing what you can do to be more involved.
The first step to building a better neighborhood is the step out your front door.
To read more from GOOD.is Guide, click here.
Lately I’ve been thinking and writing a lot about urbanism, and the benefits of living in a vibrant neighborhood, and that is clearly in small part due to my surrounds and the benefits I reap all around me.
Today I came across an article where the author took it a step further and drew up a map of how to improve his neighborhood so that it was more connected and accessible.
Below are the before and after maps created by David Roberts. To read the full details, click here.
This is a great concept, and clearly on that translates to our city very well.
How would you improve your neighborhood to make it better?
The graph above comes courtesy of Transportation for America’s recent comprehensive survey. Of course, I’ve been writing quite a bit this month about our road systems, urban living, and the effects commuting can have on our lives, and according to T4A, it looks like the vast majority of Americans can at least agree on one solution: better mass transit.
Of course, when you say “mass transit” a lot of people in our part of the country think about dirty buses with smelly hobos urinating on the seats and/or trying to karate-chop you.
The reality, though, is that mass transit is whatever we fund it to become. As American’s, we’ve been fed the “lure of the open road” and “the ultimate driving experience” in 30-second highlight clips for decades. We could all probably name some features that we consider “must-haves” in an automobile we were looking to purchase (power windows, sun-roof, cruise-control, seat warmer, cocktail mixer, etc), but how long would you have to think to come up with a list of must-have features for mass-transit?
The charts above and below show that a lot of people agree that mass transit is a good idea, especially if we put our tax dollars to fund it. I don’t know the math behind federal funding for mass transit, but I’m sure it could benefit from some of the programs being used for endless highway build-outs.
More than four-in-five voters (82 percent) say that “the United States would benefit from an expanded and improved transportation system, such as rail and buses” and a solid majority (56 percent) “strongly agree” with that statement. This is a widely held view with overwhelming majorities of voters in every region of the country and in every type of community. Fully 79 percent of rural voters agreed with the statement, despite much lower use of public transportation compared to Americans in urban areas.
When asked about reducing traffic congestion, three-in-five voters choose improving public transportation and making it easier to walk and bike over building more roads and expanding existing roads (59% to 38%). […]
These same respondents would prefer to almost double the allocation to public transportation, saying that 37 cents of every federal transportation dollar is what they think should be the norm. Fully 59% of the electorate cite some amount that is greater than what the federal government currently spends (18 cents or greater). (source)
Think about it, we’ve debated health-care and lack of insurance and how hard it is for working class Americans to get the things they need in life over-and-over-again for the last year. Here’s a solution that can attack a basic factor in the problem: Make it easier for someone to get to work/school, and they can use it to get to a better place in life. Instead of addressing the symptoms, let’s attack the disease.
Recently I wrote about freeways and about how much I love urban life. Then today, while going through my feed reader, I came across an article on TreeHugger talking about “Road Zombies” and “extreme commuters”.
According to census data, there are more extreme commuters than ever, with 3.4 million of them just in the U.S., a number that is up 95% since 1990….. This is what economists call “the commuting paradox.” Most people travel long distances with the idea that they’ll accept the burden for something better, be it a house, salary, or school. They presume the trade-off is worth the agony. But studies show that commuters are on average much less satisfied with their lives than noncommuters. A commuter who travels one hour, one way, would have to make 40% more than his current salary to be as fully satisfied with his life as a noncommuter, say economists Bruno S. Frey and Alois Stutzer of the University of Zurich’s Institute for Empirical Research in Economics. People usually overestimate the value of the things they’ll obtain by commuting — more money, more material goods, more prestige — and underestimate the benefit of what they are losing: social connections, hobbies, and health. “Commuting is a stress that doesn’t pay off,”
Consider the costs involved in commuting: fuel, vehicle maintenance, extra day-care costs because of your commute, less leisure time, impaired eating practices…the list goes on.
To be perfectly honest, I first enjoyed this article because I thought it validated some of my arguements. But then I got to thinking, and realized how happy I am to know that I don’t have stress levels that suburban commuters do.
I’ll take my city life with street-lights and parks and coffee shops and the occasional hobo over your big lawns and lives spent in cars anyday.
I do. I love living in the city. Not only because it fits my lifestyle, but because I love the promise of it.
Urban areas are traditionally the cradles of great ideas. Think of Socrates, Cyrus, Solomon, Alexander, Magellan, Edison; democracy, art, opera, literature; all ideas born in cities, because cities allow us to know our fellow man in ways that yards & freeways & Cost Co’s don’t.
This got me thinking if there was an easier way to express my love of city life.
I hear people use the word “Urbanist” more and more lately, (or perhaps I’m just tuned into those types of channels more and more…) and I wondered if it’s a term that would apply to me.
So I Googled it. But I had difficulty finding a clear definition. I also learned that apparently there is some disagreement between “urbanism” and “new urbanism”. Hmmm, well here’s the most well-written thing I could find. Wikipedia (pfft, great source, right?) defines New Urbanism as;
“an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types.”
Well that seems easy enough. I love walkable neighborhoods, though my idea of walkable is probably a little more aggressive than most peoples. Walkable for me just means “has flat-ish areas” and “hopefully few hobos and/or feral animals”.
Then I read a quote from the Congress for the New Urbanism:
We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.
So what do we have here?
- Neighorhoods? Great
- Accessibility? Indeed!
- Diversity? Always good.
- Public Policy? Can always use help.
- Pedestrian and Transit? I’ve BEEN on-board with that for decades.
Alright, so this sounds like an agenda to get with.
As you know from my previous post about freeways, urban sprawl is something I definitely cannot get with. In truth, even when I lived miles away from my job and school, I still took public transit, and as opportunity presented itself, I moved closer and closer to the core. Now I live 1.5 miles from my office, right next to a light rail stop, and withing walking distance of parks, museums, great restaurants, pubs, a farmer’s market, the full gamut of culture in Phoenix, AND my favorite coffee shop. I don’t see how a car would improve my life.
We really COULD improve my life, and the lives of thousands of people around me, is a good healthy dose of Urban ReUse.
I don’t say Urban Renewal, because Roosevelt Row and many parts of Downtown Phoenix are already vibrant and thriving in their own way, so I don’t want to solicit the type of “renewal” typically thought of.
No, what I would like to see is more redesign and reuse of existing structures, filling in the empty store fronts and repopulating the vacant lots that leave gaps in our neighborhood picture. Just like an MRI, you can have 90% healthy areas, but if you have 10% missing, then you’ve got a problem.
(Ironically, for 5-years I used to live next-door to the first place he mentioned, and didn’t know that it had since turned into a vacant shell.)
So, in closing, give cities a boost, for all they’ve done for you.
…and be kind to the planet while you do it….
(This is Day 5 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge)