Life flourishes even in the cracks, David Suzuki

"Have you ever thought about the grass that grows in sidewalk cracks? These hardy plants are generally written off as undesirable. They're routinely trampled, savaged by extreme summer heat, washed out by rainfall and buried by winter snow. To survive these conditions is a testament to the plants' resilience, but they rarely get much love or attention.
That's why I'm intrigued with the work of Nova Scotia researcher Jeremy Lundholm and his team at Saint Mary's University. They've been examining plant species in sidewalk cracks and other nooks and crannies in Halifax. Their research demonstrates something simple and surprising: hardy species found in these environments are similar to those occupying nature's own inhospitable spaces - steep cliffs and barren rock slopes.
While the connection between pavement and cliff face isn't immediately obvious, it makes sense. Plant species that succeed in sidewalk cracks have similar qualities to ones that have adapted to inhabit crevices in exposed, rocky, windswept places.
As Lundholm says, this sort of research demonstrates that rather than seeing our communities as entirely human-created, unnatural environments, we should recognize that urban spaces are in many ways "structurally and functionally equivalent" to natural ecosystems.
In a recent article for The Nature of Cities, ecologist Eric W. Sanderson suggests we try to "conceive of cities in their entirety as ecological spaces." This vision of the city as ecosystem includes all streets, sidewalks, buildings and parking lots interacting in a vibrant ecological mosaic with soil, water, air and "everyone and everything that participates in the great congress of life on Earth."
Sanderson says looking at the built landscape of our towns and cities this way allows fascinating comparisons: steep cliff and tall skyscraper, parkland and meadow, gutter and stream. The urban environment contains numerous ecological niches that have analogues elsewhere in nature. It's just a relatively new type of landscape.
And within this complex urban ecosystem, species are constantly adapting. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute's Migratory Bird Center found their subjects often adapt to human environments. Some songbirds have learned to survive in noisy urban landscapes by changing the melodies they use to communicate. They sing higher notes to trump ambient background city noise and deeper notes in areas with many buildings and hard surfaces. Nesting on the ledges of high-rises rather than cliff faces has even helped peregrine falcons adjust to city life and assisted their dramatic post-DDT comeback.
Yet, while some of our feathered friends and crevice-loving plants have been adapting, the speed and scale of urbanization in Canada has pushed many native species to the brink of extinction.
Ducks Unlimited found that over 72 per cent of the original wetlands in southern Ontario have been developed, and the region is now home to about one third of the province's species at risk. In British Columbia, more than 100 imperilled plants and animals are found in the Metro Vancouver area.
While we need to show some love to the current occupants of nooks and crannies, we must also redouble our efforts to bring nature back to the city and enhance what assets remain.
Efforts like the RONA Urban Reforestation program are on the right track. The hardware retailer is helping to green urban spaces with its support for planting thousands of trees in Canada's cities. This past summer it also started a pilot program aimed at promoting native shrubs and trees through in-store nurseries.
Planting native species in our gardens and communities is increasingly important, because indigenous insects, birds and wildlife rely on them. Over thousands, and sometimes millions, of years they have co-evolved to live in local climate and soil conditions.
To find out more about the benefits of planting indigenous species, contact the North American Native Plant Society or check out the excellent Grow Me Instead guides available for several provinces.
Ultimately we need to recognize that while humans continue to build urban landscapes, we share these spaces with others species. Nature surrounds us, from parks and backyards to streets and alleyways. Next time you go out for a walk, tread gently and remember that we are both inhabitants and stewards of nature in our neighbourhoods.
By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Specialist Jode Roberts.

For more insights from David Suzuki, please read Everything Under the Sun (Greystone Books/David Suzuki Foundation), by David Suzuki and Ian Hanington, now available in bookstores and online".

Eliza Southwood

"About me: former architect, studied at Glasgow School of Art and now a full time artist and illustrator. Recent clients include, boneshaker magazine,, Cycling Active Magazine, Sustrans and Ecotour Expeditions Inc. Exhibitions this year have take place at Society Cafe, Bath, Milkwood Gallery, Cardiff, Bristol Bike Festival and Look Mum No Hands! All images © Eliza Southwood 2012" 

Bicicleta roubada XIII

"Roubaram a minha bicicleta de montanha amarela, que estava presa dentro da Faculdade de Belas Artes.
Não era valiosa, mas tinha um certo valor sentimental e tinha muito investimento em cima.
Não sei que cadeado tinha, eu tinha emprestado a bicicleta a um amigo.
Se alguém a vir ou souber de alguma coisa... provavelmente devem vendê-a com o suporte preto atrás e com os avanços de punho.
O travão de trás do lado esquerdo desencaixa-se se for puxado (tem o parafuso que o prende ao quadro partido lá dentro). O pneu da frente é liso e o de trás é cardado".

Uso de bicicleta em Gaia terá desconto na factura da água

Eliza Southwood
in Jornal Público, 09.11.2012 - 19:23

"O presidente da câmara de Gaia anunciou esta sexta-feira que os utilizadores de bicicleta como meio de deslocação para o trabalho poderão reduzir a sua factura da água e reaver o investimento num prazo de 18 meses.  

“Será um projecto de mobilizar as pessoas para a utilização da bicicleta ou, atendendo à dificuldade de cidades como Porto e Gaia, de veículos que tenham o mesmo tipo de carga não poluente”, explicou Luís Filipe Menezes no final da cerimónia comemorativa do visitante número 2,5 milhões ao Parque Biológico de Gaia.
O objectivo é o de “induzir um novo comportamento ambiental” e “introduzir uma taxa negativa benévola pró ambiental”, salientou o autarca.
O processo é simples e passa pela criação de um parque de estacionamento com um "kit" de registo electrónico onde, a cada dia de utilização, o cidadão deverá passar a sua bicicleta, para contabilização, após o que recebe um cheque ambiental que “pode deduzir em vários tipos de facturas e impostos municipais”. “Deduzi-los principalmente no imposto da água, do saneamento e resíduos sólidos urbanos”, acrescentou o presidente da câmara, segundo o qual, e com base no preço de “um veículo médio do mercado”, a pessoa recupera “num ano e meio aquilo que investiu na aquisição” da bicicleta, se a utilizar durante esse tempo como meio de transporte. A partir daí, “significa que uma pessoa pode não pagar água, se usar esse meio”, frisou.
Para “dar o exemplo” o autarca irá “fazer uma campanha interna forte para que seja a administração a dar o exemplo” e os trabalhadores da autarquia e empresas municipais os primeiros a usar as duas rodas. Menezes, que quer ver implementado o modelo ainda durante o seu mandato que termina no próximo ano, admite, porém, que este projecto não será aplicado em todo o território do concelho, uma vez que “não é realista” se olhadas as distâncias do centro às freguesias limítrofes.
“Mas é realista para núcleos centrais da cidade, para os centros históricos, para os núcleos mais urbanos centrais da cidade”, assinalou, garantindo que este modelo será “trasladado para qualquer lugar onde possa vir a ter responsabilidades de gestão”".