Two cities add two exemplary buildings while …
Kabul smog prompts advisory to use masks
The bad news is nearly nightmarish -- people must breathe dangerous air -- but at least a couple of signs are encouraging. We trim, blend, and append three 2011 articles from: (1) IRIN, Jan 6, on Kabul; (2) BBC, Jan 20, on Madrid; and (3) Wall Street Journal, Jan 10, on Albuquerque by Julia Flynn Siler.
by IRIN, by BBC, and by Julia Flynn Siler
Kabul air pollution prompts advice on use of masks
Air pollution in Kabul has forced the Afghanistan National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) to advise people to use masks during the morning and evening rush hours.
NEPA and the Health Ministry say air pollution causes up to 3,000 deaths a year and spreads skin, respiratory, and eye diseases, and even cancer. The UN World Health Organization (WHO) says air pollution causes about two million premature deaths worldwide every year.
Up to 75% of the air pollution is from transport,” said Najibullah Yamin, NEPA’s deputy director.
The country imports tens of thousands of second-hand cars every year. They predominantly use low-grade fuel which pollutes the air.
The government announced that Thursdays are also to be public holidays until March 2011. Afghanistan normally observes only Friday as a day of rest. Critics, however, say officials tend to use government vehicles for private purposes on days off.
Kabul’s inadequate public transport system does not meet the needs of its estimated 4.5 million inhabitants.
“Kabul is a valley where in winter there is thermal inversion and because of it very low dispersion of pollutants takes place,” said Chiranjibi Gautam, an expert with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
The lack of trees, parks, and other green areas exacerbate the city’s smog. In cold winter months air pollution increases due to the burning of fuel and firewood, though the use of generators has decreased over the past two years due to US-funded electricity imports from neighboring Tajikistan.
Meanwhile, NEPA’s Yamin accuses a “land mafia” of plundering public land and illegally building houses, with little or no heed to the environment.
A lack of public awareness on environmental issues is part of the problem, he adds. “The last thing on people’s minds here is the air quality and the environment.”
JJS: Human sloppiness is a big part of the environmental problem, our leaving behind our waste, whether unintentionally as in exhaust from cars or intentionally as in junk from boats.
Hotel made of rubbish opens in Madrid
A hotel made entirely of rubbish has opened in the Spanish capital, Madrid.
The walls of the Beach Garbage Hotel are covered with detritus deposited by the tide in Europe, waste found at dumps, and items bought at flea markets.
German artist Ha Schult built the five-bedroom hotel in the central Plaza de Callao as part of the city's hosting of the International Tourism Fair (Fitur).
Schult said he hoped to draw attention to the massive amount of waste generated by mass tourism in Europe.
"I created the Beach Garbage Hotel because the oceans of our planet are the biggest garbage dump," he told the AFP news agency.
About 30% to 40% of the objects found in the temporary guesthouse were found on beaches in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.
Rose Piqueras, a spokeswoman for the project, said the aim was to show something contrasting with the pictures painted by the tourism industry.
"We wanted to show what our holidays could become if we don't clean our beaches," she said, adding that the beaches of southern Italy were worst.
JJS: One creator took low-value items to a high-value site while another creator took high-value items to a low-value site.
Woman Builds French-Style Mansion on Skid Row
Rising like a fortress between a rescue mission and the railroad tracks, Gertrude Zachary's castle is encircled by a wall 10 feet high. The arched brick entryway echoes the transept of a Gothic church. Within is a pool, courtyard garden, guest home, and a 8,500-square-foot main home with four turrets each rising 50 feet into the air.
Zachary's Albuquerque New Mexico home, across from a shuttered restaurant and abutting the parking lot of a raucous bar, is the only apparent residence in the desolate neighborhood. The turrets overlook parking lots, an overpass, and a billboard advertising Ms. Zachary's antique and jewelry business.
She received a jewelry manufacturing plant in a divorce settlement from her third husband in the mid-1970s, and her fortune grew as she expanded the business and made well-timed real estate investments.
In 2000, Ms. Zachary bought a parking lot adjacent to her downtown antiques store for $250,000 -- a fraction of the price of a similar piece of land in the city's more desirable residential neighborhoods. It also boasted a 360-degree view of the Rio Grande valley and was a quick drive to her three nearby stores and a manufacturing plant.
Construction began in 2006 and was completed in 2008. Zachary said she spent $2.1 million to build the mansion; a knowledgeable local expert estimated it cost perhaps double that amount. The assessed value of the home and land is $1.3 million.
JJS: This builder helped the environment by shortening her own trip distances. If more builders were to infill cities, that’d help reduce both energy use and smog exhaust. And builders would use metro land more efficiently -- use the center intensely, use the fringe sparingly -- if not for speculators keeping some prime sites vacant, causing sprawl.
To end their speculation, we need geonomics, especially the shift of the property tax off buildings, onto land. That’s because the land tax spurs owners to put their locations to best use and zero tax on improvements rewards owners for erecting desirable quality. Then as a result, with a compact city, buildings leak less heat, and bikes and buses can compete with cars successfully.
So there’d be less pollution in human habitats, making life there more enjoyable. Hopefully, people who live in lovely, healthy areas will feel sensitive enough to not pollute oceans and other places where other species live.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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