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Nick Clegg promises ten garden cities to battle housing shortage

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Deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has pledged to battle for the development of a string of new garden cities, between Oxford and Cambridge, should his party form part of the next government.

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Speaking at the Lib Dem’s annual conference in Glasgow on Monday, Clegg laid down the gauntlet to the Conservative party – his Coalition partners – by putting forward his solution to Britain’s housing crisis.

After first being proposed in 1898, garden cities – cities that are built around nature and maintain green spaces for the benefit of their residents – are back in vogue. 

Recent governments have talked up the idea of garden cities as a solution to Britain’s housing shortage, but progress has been slow, as few uncontroversial sites have been identified. 

Promising to deliver 50,000 new homes, Clegg said the Lib Dems would guarantee the creation of ten garden cities, with five running along a proposed railway line linking Oxford and Cambridge.

The government has pledged to build three new garden cities by 2020, but Clegg, having previously accused the Tories of nimbyism, said this does not go far enough.

“Garden cities are a vital cornerstone of our plan to boost house building to 300,000 homes a year – enough to meet demand and keep prices in reach – while still protecting our precious green space and preventing urban sprawl,” he said.

“Our plan is to build a series of high quality new towns and cities where people want to live, with green space, sustainable transport and spacious homes.

“The Conservatives have held back the development of garden cities on the scale necessary, but if Liberal Democrats are part of the next government, we will ensure at least 10 get under way – with up to five along this new garden cities railway, bringing new homes and jobs to the brainbelt of south-east England.”

The Lib Dems said that existing communities would not be forced to accept the new towns, but would be incentivised with new services – such as “express stations” that would offer more frequent rail services. 

A number of alternative visions for garden cities have also been put forward recently.

This year’s Wolfson Economics Prize, the biggest economics prize after the Nobel, asked entrants “How would you deliver a new garden city which is visionary, economically viable, and popular?

Urban planner David Rudland won the top prize for his idea, which proposed that 40 existing towns and cities, including Oxford, York, Norwich and Reading, have garden city-style extensions added on.

By expanding towns and cities rather than building new ones, Rudland said the UK could provide 86,000 new homes, to accommodate around 150,000 people. 

In March, the government unveiled its own idea – with plans for a 15,000 home settlement in Ebbsfleet, Kent – but critics observed that these plans had already been in place for some time.

Further reading:

Expand cities into greenbelt to solve housing crisis, says Wolfson Prize winner

Plans for garden cities unveiled as 2014 Wolfson Economics Prize announces shortlist

‘Garden city’ to provide 15,000 homes in Ebbsfleet, Kent

Wolfson Prize: submissions close in £250,000 competition to create ‘garden city’

Report: green spaces ‘central’ to successful cities

 

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Environment

New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations

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In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.

These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.

Review of the new report

The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.

The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.

The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street

The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.

One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.

The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.

This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.

The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.

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