How the economic crash will impact cities and where we want to live………


Hey all you Green Cities-types. It’s not every day you encounter an article called “Green Cities, Brown Suburbs”, so I just had to pass it along. This interesting article builds off of a study economists Edward Glaeser from Harvard and Matthew Kahn from UCLA have done trying to quantify how to be good to the environment, or more specifically where to live if you want to limit your carbon dioxide emissions. And yes – it includes rankings! The article ranks metropolitan areas based on their carbon emissions, compares suburb-city carbon emissions and shows the relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and the Wharton Residential Land Use Regulation Index, which measures barriers against local building in metropolitan areas.

The big winners…coastal California and New York City. The five metropolitan areas with the lowest levels of carbon emissions are San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Sacramento, where there are low levels of both electricity and home heating use. New York City has the largest emissions gap between central city and suburbs, with the study estimating that that the average New Yorker emits 4,462 pounds less of transportation-related carbon dioxide than his suburbanite counterpart.

The article concludes: “Thoreau was wrong. Living in the country is not the right way to care for the Earth. The best thing that we can do for the planet is build more skyscrapers.” It’s like music to a city girl’s ears.

Stay tuned for an event this semester at the law school with Professor Glaeser to discuss this study.


Mayors Do the Darndest Things

February 16th, 2009

Mexico City Kiss-In (photo courtesy AP)

Mexico City Kiss-In (photo by AP)

Somehow Mexico City appears to be a big focus for me on the FLoG Blog this year, and so I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight an article in Friday’s NY Times. With midterm elections coming up in July, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has starting focusing on some more, ahem, interesting tactics to generate support from his constituents. The newest – free government distributed free Viagra, Cialis and Levitra (erectile dysfunction drugs) to poor men over 60. In announcing the plan and noting that many elderly people do not qualify for employer heath plans, the mayor said “Everyone has the right to be happy…They don’t have medical services, and a society that doesn’t care for its senior citizens has no dignity.”

Adding to the amorous spirit, this weekend for Valentine’s Day the government sponsored a “kiss-in”, in which just under 40,000 people gathered in the Zocalo main square to set the world record for the world’s largest group kiss. The event was meant to celebrate the holiday and “to show that warmth and love are at the core of this capital”, according to the City’s tourism department.

Now in a city that has been plagued with crime, efforts to encourage people to love rather than hate seem a conceptually nice idea. This is true particularly when contrasted with statistics stemming from a recent crackdown against drug traffickers that has led to widespread violence across the country. At least 6,000 people died in drug-related conflicts in Mexico in 2008.

Though the long term benefits of free Viagra and giant group kissing-fests seem dubious and more like politically transparent pandering than anything else, it remains to be seen what the response will be among the voters of Mexico City. And who knows, if tactics like these end up having some positive effect, perhaps we in the US might take a lesson and focus on a whole new type of stimulus plan. (Sorry – terrible pun. I just couldn’t resist.)