October 30, 2014

A homeless man rests in Sugamo, Tokyo, Japan.

Drowning in drinking water

A report by the Centre for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), a sustainability non-profit in Chicago, shows that the U.S. may be wasting as much as 6 billion gallons of water per day due to aging pipes, leaky water mains and faulty metres. That’s 2.1 trillion gallons of water each year across the country.  “We do have a crumbling infrastructure issue. It is old,” Danielle Gallet, CNT’s water supply program manager, told NPR yesterday. But fixing infrastructure across the entire country won’t be cheap. David LaFrance, CEO of the American Water Works Association estimated the project would cost $1 trillion (U.S.) – half a trillion to replace existing infrastructure and the other half to meet infrastructure needs in areas that are currently not receiving water. Consumers across the country are already seeing their water prices rise, some in the double and triple digits, said NPR.


Political plants

Europe’s most prominent plant scientists have signed an open letter warning that Europe needs to take a more “pro-scientific stance and stop blocking GM research on ‘political grounds,” if wants to keep up with research in the rest of the world. The scientists are 21 of the 30 most cited plant scientists in academia, The Guardian reported today. The letter makes three demands: that funding be maintained or increased to develop plants that are resilient to climate change, that plant scientists be allowed to conduct field tests, and that Europe approve genetically modified plants that have been deemed safe by trusted authorities. “Politicians that choose to ignore this message cannot in future say that they take science seriously,” Professor Stefan Jansson of Umeå University in Sweden and coordinator of the letter told The Guardian. Mark Lynas weighed in on this debate in an interview with Corporate Knights last August.


Bike-share systems are a luxury for the rich

The Mineta Institute at San Jose State University published a report yesterday showing that four of the major established bike sharing systems in Canadian and U.S. cities – Montreal, Toronto, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis and Saint Paul – disproportionately benefit the rich. In all four cities, low-income people represented a lower percentage of bike-share users than their share of the total population. High-income populations showed the opposite trend. The report identifies the lack of stations in low-income areas and inability to access to bank accounts and credit cards as the key barriers for low-income people.


Tokyo takes care of its poor

It appears that Japan is doing a much better job of helping its most vulnerable citizens than the United States. The number of homeless people in Tokyo, the world’s largest and most populated city, hit a record low this week at 1,697 people. Contrast that with New York City, the largest city in the United States, which had a record high of homeless this month at 56,000 people. While Tokyo is larger than New York City and Los Angeles combined, its homeless rate is one individual for every 10,000 residents. New York, on the other hand, is 67 for every 10,000 residents. ThinkProgress reported that Japan has one of the lowest rates of inequality in the developed world and offers a social security program that far surpasses that of the United States.


A new green chapter for Toronto?

Toronto elected a new mayor on Tuesday night, officially ending the dramatic Rob Ford era.  Now that the words “environment” and “climate change” can be spoken in city hall again, Corporate Knights’ Tyler Hamilton took a look at John Tory’s environmental plan for the next four year. His plan to boost the city’s tree canopy by 3.8 million trees over the next 10 years, expand and improve city parks, and revive 44,000 acres of the city’s ravine system, seem like promising ways to literally make the city more green. His renewable energy plan provides even more evidence that the next four years could be exciting for Toronto environmentalists. But his transit plan, which received the most attention during his campaign, is untested and has been criticized for not being ambitious enough.

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