Writer & editor with deep experience covering environmental topics / architectural design / culture for large organizations / experts / leaders / publications

COP27: The Issues, the Tensions, and the Urgent Need for Unity on Climate

The past seven years have been the warmest on record. For a brief period, worldwide lockdowns caused greenhouse gas emissions to drop, but rates have since risen to pre-pandemic levels. The stakes couldn’t be higher for the 2022 Conference of the Parties summit (COP27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. A few weeks from now in Sharm El-Sheikh, a resort town on Egypt’s eastern coast, representatives from nearly 200 countries—including more than 100 heads of state—will j

The Inflation Reduction Act Could Save Us Nearly $2 Trillion in Climate Costs

Signed into law by President Joe Biden just over a month ago, the Inflation Reduction Act is already prompting corporations—from automotive titans such as Honda and Toyota to lesser-known manufacturers of batteries and solar panels—to spend billions on new technologies and facilities that will help curb their carbon emissions.

About $369 billion of the climate bill’s $740 billion in spending is earmarked for climate action, in the hopes that it will spur new investments in things like wind and

Climate Misinformation on Social Media Is Undermining Climate Action

Clean energy is a favorite target of these 21st-century social media merchants of doubt. For example, the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a think tank with strong ties to the oil and gas industry, has inserted itself into regional conflicts over wind energy by making YouTube videos framing these battles as clashes between local, small business Davids against multinational, clean energy Goliaths. Last fall, ExxonMobil paid for at least 350 ads intended to influence proposed legislation in New Yor

Made in the Shade: The Promise of Farming with Solar Panels

President Biden has set a goal of cutting U.S. greenhouse gas pollution by at least half (from 2005 levels) by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions in the electricity sector by 2035. If the country is to meet these targets, solar power is going to have to play a big part. And according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s latest Solar Futures Study, solar may well be supplying us with as much as 40 percent of our electricity by the middle of the next decade. But this hopeful scenario poses a conu

Public Transit Just Helped Save America. Now America Needs to Return the Favor.

Across America, subways, buses, light rail, commuter trains, trolleys, and other forms of public transit provided nearly 10 billion rides in 2018. In New York City, where I live, people were making roughly 8 million trips by subway or bus every weekday before the outbreak of COVID-19 in March 2020 massively disrupted commuting behaviors. By mid-April, just one month into the pandemic, ridership in the city had plummeted by 90 percent. Of those 10 percent who were still riding subways and buses d

We Can’t Go “Back to Normal.” We Have to Get to Someplace Better.

You might have seen them pop up on your social media over the past couple months: images of Venetian canals so crystal clear that swans—and even dolphins!—are cautiously returning to them for the first time in decades; of elephants sauntering into deserted Chinese villages and getting drunk on corn wine; of a lively family of wild boars taking advantage of empty Italian streets and making them their own. Some of these images may have been accompanied by hopeful captions along the lines of “the p

How Healthy Is America’s Public Health Infrastructure?

A Washington Post article from two weeks ago, written before “social distancing” became part of our lingua franca, explored some of the reasons why. Because public health infrastructure targets the entire populace, the article observed, its mission “has been consistently overlooked in a country that puts a premium—and spends more money per capita than any other—on treating individual sick people. Its victories are soon taken for granted.” The author cites figures from a 2019 paper published in t

The VIPs in Davos Just Got a Cold, Hard Dose of Global Warming Reality. Will It Take?

The 50th annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, kicked off on Tuesday with a pair of speeches that almost certainly made the thousands of corporate heads and thought leaders in attendance wince, albeit for different reasons.

The first of them was from 17-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, who (just as she did last year) sternly rebuked attendees for their continued support of a fossil fuel economy that she says is imperiling her generation and all to come after it. “I

‘Hotels of North America’: A life written out in hotel reviews

In November of 1953, in Room 401 of the Sheraton Hotel on Boston’s Bay State Road, Eugene O’Neill opened his eyes, glumly took a look around and grumbled his final words: “I knew it! Born in a hotel room and died in a hotel room.” One might think that a writer would savor this particular bit of poetic circularity, but O’Neill — who had indeed entered this world 65 years earlier via the Barrett House Hotel in what’s now Times Square — was none too pleased by the coincidence. At various times in o

Redesigning the Chicago River

With input from her students at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, Gang imagined a solution that combines civil engineering with civic engagement: a physical barrier that would restore the historic separation of the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, complemented by a package of green-infrastructure projects that would clean and detoxify this long-neglected waterway while transforming its banks into a scenic destination. This joint vision for the reclamation of the Chicago River lat

Tom McCarthy’s ‘Satin Island’ (Published 2015)

After traveling widely throughout the world and studying its various peoples in all their kaleidoscopic glory, Claude Lévi-Strauss, the father of structural ­anthropology, finally arrived at a dispiriting conclusion. “Mankind has opted for monoculture,” he observed ruefully in “Tristes Tropiques,” his classic 1955 ­memoir-cum-case study detailing his years spent among the indigenous tribes of Brazil. “It is in the process of creating a mass civilization, as beetroot is grown in the mass. Hencefo

Between Innings (Published 2014)

The sport of deciphering baseball — of finding embedded within the history, structure, statistics and conventions of our national pastime some secret cultural code that might cast light on our cryptic national character — was born in 1954. Seven years earlier, Jackie Robinson had signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers to break the sport’s color line, finally giving baseball the conditio sine qua non for any democratic claims it might make. Two years before that, American servicemen in Europe had celeb

A Warning From Glenn Beck: The United Nations Will Raze Your Suburb

Pssst! Have you heard about Agenda 21? The secret plot to collectivize private property—hatched by United Nations internationalists and midwifed by operatives ensconced within our own government—all in the name of “ending sprawl” and “encouraging sustainability”? The seizure of suburban homes by jackbooted, gun-toting U.N. thugs? The involuntary relocation of displaced suburbanites to cramped dwellings in densely packed cities?

No? Seriously? You haven’t heard about any of this?

Don’t blame Gl

Why do Great American Songbook Albums by Pop Artists so Often Disappoint?

The latest album by Paul McCartney, a collection of pop standards by the likes of Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, and Frank Loesser, was released three weeks ago today to generally positive reviews. In the New York Times, critic Stephen Holden went through two purple ink cartridges as he described how the album “floats over you like a light mist on a cool spring morning in an English garden as the sun glints through the haze. You want to inhale the fresh air, taste the fragrance of b

David Hovey

From his one-room cabin on Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau urged: “Simplify, simplify.” He had built the cabin, famously, with his own two hands over the course of half a year, spending only a pittance on materials and in fact taking much of the stone, timber and sand used in its construction from the surrounding landscape. (“I carried a good part on my back,” he wrote, noting his low transportation costs.)

On the shores of a different, much larger body of water, architect David Hovey took the

AD 100: Margaret McCurry

It's called Harbor Country now—a trademarked appellation coined nearly 30 years ago by boosters who envisioned their picturesque sliver of land, only 60 minutes from Chicago, as a future vacation home haven. Their work paid off, their hopes came true, and the term caught on. But architect Margaret McCurry, a native Chicagoan, recalls a time when the string of quiet, family-friendly communities along Lake Michigan didn't have a marketing plan. "Back then," she says, "this part of southwest Michig