JUDY WOODRUFF: Very small houses have become all the rage in recent years, as some people trade in their traditional lifestyles for an ostensibly simpler option: places that are less than 400 square feet. Well, today, there’s a twist. Tiny houses are being seen as a way to give homeless and low-income people the chance at homeownership.
Jeffrey Brown visited Detroit to find out more for our ongoing series on poverty and opportunity in America, “Chasing the Dream.”
JEFFREY BROWN: They may be tiny, but they have lofty goals: putting roofs over the heads of people who never dreamed they could own a home.
The idea for Detroit’s Tiny Home Project was born in an unlikely place — the floor of an old warehouse.
REV. FAITH FOWLER, Executive Director, CASS Community Social Services: People couldn’t imagine what 300 square foot would look like.
JEFFREY BROWN: Well, could you?
REV. FAITH FOWLER: I couldn’t. (Laugh)
Environment, Regulations, Profit
“California has a long been on the leading edge of environmental policy. It all started because Los Angeles had such filthy air that, in 1947, after a lot of public outcry, the city formed its Air Pollution District—the first air quality agency in the US. (The US Clean Air Act didn’t pass for another 15 years!) Over the next several decades, California rolled out green building codes, efficient appliance standards, and cap and trade policies—all aimed at curbing pollution. All the while, the state made it easier for entrepreneurs to do business. This included actions like decoupling electricity sales from revenues, which forced more efficiency into the system. California also has healthy net metering caps, which allow rooftop solar panel owners sell more of their overstock electricity back into the grid.
The result of all this legislative tinkering: “California is the most energy efficient economy in the world, and least carbon intensive,” says Adam Fowler, a research manager at Beacon Economics, the firm that produced the Green Innovation Index at Next 10’s behest. And it pays. Fowler says that every $10,000 spent in California results in 55 percent less carbon dioxide than it would in the rest of the US. “We have a very clear time series showing that the decoupling of fossil fuel use from GDP is possible,” he says.”
Feel Good, Saving Animals
This story is from May 2015, but it showed up on my Twitter feed and made me smile, so I’m sharing it with you.
“A father and his 2-year-old daughter were treated for smoke inhalation at the Florida Hospital Flagler, Flagler Live reported.
The six dogs, which included two puppies, were rescued when Flagler County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Williams noticed the animals in the home.
Firefighter David Lawrence found the puppies had suffered smoke inhalation and carefully placed tiny oxygen masks up to the puppies' little noses.”
Disasters, Public Planning
“Direct flooding is only the most obvious way in which food access can be demolished during extreme weather. Food arrives in major metropolises every day, often via rail or road. When a storm’s debris clogs these arteries, the conditions can strand residents with limited food supplies, even in a sea of bodegas and convenience stores. Reserves run out quickly: as Kate Cox noted at The New Food Economy, at any given time, the contents of NYC’s food system can only provision residents for four or five days.
As urban centers stare down the threat of increasingly harsh lashings from extreme weather events, coalitions of researchers and city officials are working to answer a crucial question: What does a resilient food system look like?
The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability offer a number of answers in a new report focused on soothing shocks to the food system spurred by various emergencies, from storms to terrorist attacks, electrical outages, and pandemics. Storms could snarl road conditions and delay deliveries. In addition to laying waste to perishable or frozen food, power outages might prevent consumers from using EBT benefits or withdrawing cash to pay for purchases.
Incorporating food systems planning into urban resilience strategies “is a very new thing for many cities,” says Erin Biehl, the report’s lead author and the senior program coordinator in the CLF’s Food System Sustainability & Public Health program. (Boston was the first American city, in 2014, to plan for the repercussions disasters could wreak on the food system.) Plus, “there’s a lot of efforts right now to address future threats especially from climate change, in particular in coastal cities who might be seeing more frequent and intense storms,” Biehl adds. Later this year, Baltimore will fold some of the report’s suggestions into the next update to its comprehensive Disaster Preparedness Plan.”
“Let’s start with democracies, which now come in many different shapes and styles and exist all over the planet. U.S. policymakers tend to spend most of their time focusing on trouble spots, and not worrying much about democracies, which they assume can take care of themselves. But such complacency is problematic. Democracies throughout the West are currently struggling with anti-Semitism and other forms of ugly sectarianism. Europe’s democracies have suffered an energy-sapping fiscal crisis, which the United Kingdom’s exit from the EU will make even more complicated. Countries aspiring to greater democracy, such as Ukraine, are now threatened by authoritarian neighbors, and others, such as Tunisia, are under assault by terrorist groups.
Finally, democracies everywhere are grappling with fundamental questions regarding immigration and national identity, which often involve tough decisions about how to balance security with individual liberty. All these tensions risk making democracies more authoritarian, as their anxious leaders curtail individual freedoms in their desperate attempts to hold things together.
Any new U.S. national security strategy should therefore start by looking for cooperative, not coercive, ways to shore up the world’s existing democracies. The United States can do this best by making the best use of its own example and showing how its democratic institutions promote prosperity, peace, and happiness. The better the United States does, the more its example will inspire other democracies to keep improving.
Authoritarian states represent today’s second major global power base. Like modern democracies, contemporary authoritarian states differ substantially from one another. And just as some democracies are starting to betray authoritarian tendencies, so some authoritarian nations have begun to democratize in certain spheres—by increasing participation in local governments, for example, as Vietnam has done.”
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