December 9, 2014

Le flâneur et les flâneuses de Paris

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, has announced a scheme to tackle traffic and pollution in the city by transforming the city center into a semi-pedestrianized zone on weekends. “In the four central districts, apart from bikes, buses and taxis, the only vehicles allowed will be residents’ cars, delivery vehicles and emergency vehicles,” Hidalgo said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche. Paris is likely to expand the semi-pedestrianized plan to weekdays if the plan is deemed a success. The mayor is also working to double the number of Parisian bike lanes by 2020, pledging €100 million towards the plan. Adding electric bikes to the successful Vélib’ bike share network is also under consideration. Air pollution is a perennial problem in Paris, even prompting authorities to enact temporary driving restrictions last March during a heavy period of smog. Hidalgo also expressed interest in eliminating diesel-powered vehicles from the city by 2020. A poll conducted for the Journal de Dimanche found that 84 per cent of Paris residents see fighting pollution as a priority.

 

China expected to roll out 32 new high-speed rail routes

Dozens of new high-speed rail routes are expected to be unveiled tomorrow across China, including a new rail link between Guangzhou and Shanghai that will cut travel times down to seven hours from sixteen. China aims to have 125,000 km of high-speed rail by the end of 2015. The expansion of high-speed rail capacity has been a top priority among infrastructure planners in China since the first line was opened in 2007. The high-speed rail network is now the most heavily used in the world, despite having been plagued by cost overruns, shoddy construction and corruption along the way. China has been looking to export its high-speed rail technology around the world, but has yet to sign any big deals.

 

Chinese soil pollution raises concerns about food safety

A new study from the China National Environmental Monitoring Center has found widespread soil contamination in 25 per cent of vegetable plots across China. Researchers collected 5,000 soil samples from vegetable gardens across the country and found high concentrations of heavy metals, such as lead and zinc. Most of these heavy metals can be attributed to industrial pollution generated by China’s rapid economic growth in recent decades. Plants grown in soil tainted with heavy metals can cause adverse health effects in animals and humans. These findings are supported by several other reports released over the past year, including a five-year study conducted by China’s environment ministry. Faced with growing public concerns about food safety, the Chinese government is being forced to confront the problems of soil contamination and lax food safety regulations.

 

Saving Louisiana’s rapidly disappearing coastline

As the Gulf of Mexico rises, Southeastern Louisiana is sinking faster than almost any other region on the planet. Louisiana’s coast has been starved of sediment over the last 80 years by river levees and eviscerated by canals dredged for oil and gas extraction. Louisiana has responded with an unprecedented effort to build and preserve up to 800 square miles of wetlands and barrier islands, while constructing miles of levees over the next half-century. Propublica looked into the specifics of the untested 50-year, $50 billion plan and came away with plenty of questions.

 

Massachusetts launches $3.5 million Social Impact Bond (SIB) tackling homelessness

Governor Deval Patrick announced a new effort on Monday to reduce chronic homelessness across Massachusetts. Investors will spend $3.5 million working to move 800 longtime homeless individuals into permanent housing. If the project is deemed a success by a third-party evaluator, the investors will be paid back their investment by the state, along with an additional financial return. This is the second SIB issued by Massachusetts – an emerging form of pay-for-performance impact investing that has gained global popularity rapidly since its inception in 2010. Corporate Knights delved into the promise and peril of SIBs last year.

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