Thursday, March 31, 2016

Sustainable New Urban Mobility

“Sustainable New Urban Mobility”

This month we interviewed Philipp Rode, Executive Director of LSE Cities and Senior Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. We have asked him to talk about their recent report "Towards New Urban Mobility" and what their findings mean for the future of mobility in the EU. You can read the full interview by following the link below. We also recommend reading the report itself.

EUKN: You described three types of trends towards new urban mobility, i.e. international base or national base? Which of the trends are more decisive and why?

Rode: Describing an international trend approach, which gives us a broader view of transport. I sometimes describe it as an Schizophrenic situation: we are seeing at the moment, clearly on a  global level,  we are very much in a period of rapid motorization. Particularly in a development world context, emerging economies, more cars are being sold i.e. emerging wealth levels, which has shifted towards a type of  motorised mobility. Which in many OECD countries and cities have already experienced its peak over the last ten/fifteen years. At that point there is no longer an increase in an motorisation  perspective. ...
Urban Mobility Publications

Towards new Urban Mobility  

Changes in urban mobility no longer follow traditional patterns of motorisation and policy makers need to embrace an increasing number of alternatives, including cycling and walking as main modes of travel, bike and car sharing, multimodal travel options and electric vehicles. Smartphone applications now support people’s travel decisions as they move through the city, opening up possibilities for smarter mobility services that respond flexibly to user needs.

Read more

Smart mobility trends - Reducing congestion

New business models inspired by the sharing economy and disruptive technologies are ushering in an exciting new age in transportation: the era of smart mobility. The arrival of on-demand ride services like Uber and Lyft, real-time ridesharing services such as Carma, carsharing programs such as Zipcar and car2go, bike sharing programs, and thousands of miles of new urban bike lanes are all changing how people get around.

Raising Greenagers

What inspires teens to think and act green? As the mother of a current teen and two former ones, I still wrestle at times with that question.
I’ve found that most teens want to do the right thing. Although they may be great at hiding it, they really do look to their parents and other influential adults for guidance.
The teen years are about developing a separate and unique identity from parents. A challenge faced by parents and other caregivers is how best to connect with teenagers in ways that recognize their need for autonomy while guiding them towards becoming environmentally-responsible and mindful adults.
Below are some ideas for getting there.
Gen Z

 Generation Z

Today’s teens are members of Generation Z. Born after 1995, they represent about 25% of the U.S. population. Recent research has shown that they are pragmatic, digitally hyper-connected, and informed. They are also  socially-conscious and entrepreneurial, say researchers.
Be a Model. “The biggest way to demonstrate the importance to your teens of living green is to model good behavior at home,” noted my former colleague, Jeff. He added, “It’s also important is to make sure you get involved in issues and programs in your community.”
In Jeff’s case, that meant stepping up to serve as advisor for his daughter’s initiative, a high school environmental club, until suitable school staff could take over. “Through my guidance, they were able to accomplish a lot of great things at their school and received a lot of recognition, including scholarships,” he said.
Look for opportunities at home to foster your teen’s green side. For example, involve them in brainstorming ways to reduce household and personal energy and water use. Tap into their entrepreneurial side by challenging them to come up with ideas for new green businesses or for greening existing businesses they care about.
teens volunteer
Encourage Volunteerism. “Service and volunteering is increasingly a big deal for teens. It’s something that they know is important, for example, on college applications,” said Kevin McDonald, a father of two teens.
Indeed, the research confirms Kevin’s observation. A 2014 study found 77% of high school students on a national level either extremely or very interested in volunteering. The top three things they reported wanting to get out of it were new skills, work experience, and mentorship/networking.
At, teens and adults can search for volunteering opportunities based on location and interest area.  A recent search turned up 60 environment-related opportunities in the Twin Cities area. Hands on Twin Cities is another good source.
The organization inspires teens to volunteer and take action on causes they care about by providing a ton of fun project ideas and information.
Conservation Corps Minnesota & Iowa offers a few different environment-related service programs for teens age 15-18. Teens in one such program, Youth Outdoors, participate in environmental restoration projects within the Twin Cities. Teens 18 and over are eligible to serve as AmeriCorps members in a variety of settings.
Citizen science provides teens with an opportunity to combine volunteerism and the great outdoors. See Living Green 365: Citizen Science for resources and information.
Lastly, check with schools, nature centers, park and rec departments, local nonprofits, and local government offices for leads and information on volunteering.  Earth Day, Arbor Day, and similar events often provide many volunteering opportunities. High school environmental clubs like the one that Jeff’s daughter started are another good option.
Additional Resource: exists to engage, inspire and enable high school students to make a positive difference in the world. It does this by making it easy for them to learn about, and take action on, sixteen of today's most pressing social issues as well as providing teens & schools with toolkits to improve in-school food and volunteer drives. offers grants (up to $500) to teens in the U.S. to to fund their community service ideas across any one of 16 issue areas, including clean water, land preservation, global warming and recycling.
Citizen science
Expose them to Nature. Exposure to nature can result in a lifelong interest in environmental protection and conservation.
Invite your teen to go on nature walks and hikes, biking, camping, fishing, canoeing, and similar. Involve them in planning outdoor activities that the family can do together. Need to sweeten the deal to gain your teen’s participation? Encourage/allow her to invite a friend along.
For additional inspiration and ideas, check out
Encourage biking/walking. For many teens, learning to drive a car is a rite of passage. Parents may find themselves under increased pressure to hand over the keys.
Chat with your teen about the environmental impacts of driving. Encourage him to bike or walk to activities and places that are within a reasonable distance. Teach her how to take the bus or other means of public transportation (for the Twin Cities area, click on "How to Ride" at
Consider meeting your teen halfway when the opportunity arises. “I told my 15 year old son that I would buy him any bike that he wanted, an IPhone 6, and a bus pass if he would agree to wait until he’s 18 to get his driver’s license,” said Ned. Given the costs of insurance, gas, vehicle wear and tear, and the many environmental impacts of driving, this type of “negotiated settlement” can potentially be a win-win.
teens digital
Plug into their digital world. Smartphones. Gaming systems. Tablets. Laptops. Teens love their gadgets, and being “connected” is virtually a requirement anymore. Unfortunately, the same devices that they adore can be huge energy wasters.
Lots of devices use power even when they’re in standby mode. Ask your teen to unplug her digital devices—and their cords—when they’re done charging. Where possible, install advanced (aka smart) power strips in your home.  
Other ideas:
  • Limit cell phone upgrades. Cell phones require a lot of energy, water, and resources to produce. Require teens to purchase their own devices—they'll probably value and take better care of them if their own money is invested.
  • Tap into their "techie" sides and save energy by considering such things as solar backpacks and solar chargers. Involve teens in doing research to find the best products.
Get Loud Challenge
Get Loud. Has your teen heard of the "Get Loud" competition? It's a joint effort of NextGen Climate America and the Alliance for Climate Education to engage and empower young Americans to take civic action online and in their communities to combat climate change.Teens earn points and potential prizes by taking highly-visible online and offline actions, sharing content, and recruiting other teens to participate.
Listen, Acknowledge, Engage, and Empower. One of the great things about teens is that they’re not yet adults. They are still forming opinions and behaviors and absorbing information that will guide them in their adult years.
“Teens are sensitive about the increasing amount of news regarding the potential for environmental collapse”, said Kevin. " They can find it overwhelming and depressing," he added.
Yet, says Kevin, it's still important to talk with teenagers about environmental issues, even if it's in small bites.
Look for opportunities to engage them in conversations about environmental topics and issues. Ask for their opinions and ideas. Encourage them to be creative problem-solvers. Point out how personal choices (purchasing, transportation, energy use) can have an impact, and what they can do to make a difference.
Looking for guidance? The Alliance for Climate Education offers parents and educators some excellent resources for talking with adolescents about climate change. has activities, book lists, and discussion questions for families. For their earth-themed list see
Additional Resource: Consume This - Buying That Matters. This 40-page booklet from the Canadian Centre for Pollution Prevention is aimed at 14- to 18-year-olds. The information and resources provided in the booklet focus on sustainable consumption and help to raise awareness among youth about the effects that their choices have on the environment.
Issues addressed in the booklet—including resource conservation, consumer behavior, and environmentally friendly production—are presented in a manner relevant to teens. Examples such as "The Life-Cycle of a T-Shirt", "What's in a Soccer Ball", and "How to Pack a Litterless Lunch" introduce young people to the concept of sustainable consumption using a practical and relevant approach. To download a free PDF of the publication, visit

Monday, March 28, 2016

Permaculture Fundamentals Cards

"All 21 cards of the Mollison Permaculture Ethics and Design Principles card set are now free to download from <>. These are the original permaculture ethics and design principles from the writings of Bill Mollison, the father of permaculture and developer of the Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC). 

I first taught the PDC in 1993, and this arrangement of the original ethics and principles from Permaculture: A Designers' Manual (Mollison 1988) and Introduction to Permaculture (Mollison and Slay 1992) came about after many years teaching permaculture and running permaculture projects. The cards are organised into ethics, energy principles, component placement principles, principles from nature, and attitudinal principles. It is these attitudinal principles, which along with the ethics are the 'heart and soul' of permaculture, that are often missing from condensed versions of the permaculture principles. The cards are designed to be printed as 6x4 photos, as this is often the cheapest form of high quality printing if you only want a small print run."

~Brett Pritchard

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

How Nature Can Make You Kinder, Happier, and More Creative

By Jill Suttie

We are spending more time indoors and online. But recent studies suggest that nature can help our brains and bodies to stay healthy.
I’ve been an avid hiker my whole life. From the time I first strapped on a backpack and headed into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, I was hooked on the experience, loving the way being in nature cleared my mind and helped me to feel more grounded and peaceful.

But, even though I’ve always believed that hiking in nature had many psychological benefits, I’ve never had much science to back me up…until now, that is. Scientists are beginning to find evidence that being in nature has a profound impact on our brains and our behavior, helping us to reduce anxiety, brooding, and stress, and increase our attention capacity, creativity, and our ability to connect with other people. 

“People have been discussing their profound experiences in nature for the last several 100 years—from Thoreau to John Muir to many other writers,” says researcher David Strayer, of the University of Utah. “Now we are seeing changes in the brain and changes in the body that suggest we are physically and mentally more healthy when we are interacting with nature.”

While he and other scientists may believe nature benefits our well-being, we live in a society where people spend more and more time indoors and online—especially children. Findings on how nature improves our brains brings added legitimacy to the call for preserving natural spaces—both urban and wild—and for spending more time in nature in order to lead healthier, happier, and more creative lives.
Here are some of the ways that science is showing how being in nature affects our brains and bodies.

1. Being in nature decreases stress

It’s clear that hiking—and any physical activity—can reduce stress and anxiety. But, there’s something about being in nature that may augment those impacts. 

In one recent experiment conducted in Japan, participants were assigned to walk either in a forest or in an urban center (taking walks of equal length and difficulty) while having their heart rate variability, heart rate, and blood pressure measured. The participants also filled out questionnaires about their moods, stress levels, and other psychological measures.

Results showed that those who walked in forests had significantly lower heart rates and higher heart rate variability (indicating more relaxation and less stress), and reported better moods and less anxiety, than those who walked in urban settings. The researchers concluded that there’s something about being in nature that had a beneficial effect on stress reduction, above and beyond what exercise alone might have produced.

In another study, researchers in Finland found that urban dwellers who strolled for as little as 20 minutes through an urban park or woodland reported significantly more stress relief than those who strolled in a city center.

The reasons for this effect are unclear; but scientists believe that we evolved to be more relaxed in natural spaces. In a now-classic laboratory experiment by Roger Ulrich of Texas A&M University and colleagues, participants who first viewed a stress-inducing movie, and were then exposed to color/sound videotapes depicting natural scenes, showed much quicker, more complete recovery from stress than those who’d been exposed to videos of urban settings.

These studies and other provide evidence that being in natural spaces— or even just looking out of a window onto a natural scene—somehow soothes us and relieves stress.


2. Nature makes you happier and less brooding

I’ve always found that hiking in nature makes me feel happier, and of course decreased stress may be a big part of the reason why. But, Gregory Bratman, of Stanford University, has found evidence that nature may impact our mood in other ways, too.

In one 2015 study, he and his colleagues randomly assigned 60 participants to a 50- minute walk in either a natural setting (oak woodlands) or an urban setting (along a 4-lane road). Before and after the walk, the participants were assessed on their emotional state and on cognitive measures, such as how well they could perform tasks requiring short-term memory. Results showed that those who walked in nature experienced less anxiety, rumination (focused attention on negative aspects of oneself), and negative affect, as well as more positive emotions, in comparison to the urban walkers. They also improved their performance on the memory tasks.

In another study, he and his colleagues extended these findings by zeroing in on how walking in nature affects rumination— which has been associated with the onset of depression and anxiety—while also using fMRI technology to look at brain activity. Participants who took a 90-minute walk in either a natural setting or an urban setting had their brains scanned before and after their walks and were surveyed on self-reported rumination levels (as well as other psychological markers). The researchers controlled for many potential factors that might influence rumination or brain activity—for example, physical exertion levels as measured by heart rates and pulmonary functions.
Even so, participants who walked in a natural setting versus an urban setting reported decreased rumination after the walk, and they showed increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain whose deactivation is affiliated with depression and anxiety—a finding that suggests nature may have important impacts on mood.

Bratman believes results like these need to reach city planners and others whose policies impact our natural spaces.  “Ecosystem services are being incorporated into decision making at all levels of public policy, land use planning, and urban design, and it’s very important to be sure to incorporate empirical findings from psychology into these decisions,” he says.


3. Nature relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity.

Today, we live with ubiquitous technology designed to constantly pull for our attention. But many scientists believe our brains were not made for this kind of information bombardment, and that it can lead to mental fatigue, overwhelm, and burnout, requiring “attention restoration” to get back to a normal, healthy state.

Strayer is one of those researchers, at the University of Utah. He believes that being in nature restores depleted attention circuits, which can then help us be more open to creativity and problem-solving.
“When you use your cell phone to talk, text, shoot photos, or whatever else you can do with your cell phone, you’re tapping the prefrontal cortex and causing reductions in cognitive resources,” he says.
In a 2012 study, he and his colleagues showed that hikers on a four-day backpacking trip could solve significantly more puzzles requiring creativity when compared to a control group of people waiting to take the same hike—in fact, 47 percent more. Although other factors may account for his results—for example, the exercise or the camaraderie of being out together—prior studies have suggested that nature itself may play an important role. One in Psychological Science found that the impact of nature on attention restoration is what accounted for improved scores on cognitive tests for the study participants.

This phenomenon may be due to differences in brain activation when viewing natural scenes versus more built-up scenes—even for those who normally live in an urban environment. In a recent study conducted by Peter Aspinall at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, and colleagues, participants who had their brains monitored continuously using mobile electroencephalogram (EEG) while they walked through an urban green space had brain EEG readings indicating lower frustration, engagement, and arousal, and higher meditation levels while in the green area, and higher engagement levels when moving out of the green area. This lower engagement and arousal may be what allows for attention restoration, encouraging a more open, meditative mindset.

It’s this kind of brain activity—sometimes referred to as “the brain default network”—that is tied to creative thinking, says Strayer. He is currently repeating his earlier 2012 study with a new group of hikers and recording their EEG activity and salivary cortisol levels, before, during, and after a three-day hike. Early analyses of EEG readings support the theory that hiking in nature seems to rest people’s attention networks and to engage their default networks.

Strayer and colleagues are also specifically looking at the affects of technology by monitoring people’s EEG readings while they walk in an arboretum, either while talking on their cell phone or not. So far, they’ve found that participants with cell phones appear to have EEG readings consistent with attention overload, and can recall only half as many details of the arboretum they just passed through, compared to those who were not on a cell phone. 

Though Strayer’s findings are preliminary, they are consistent with other people’s findings on the importance of nature to attention restoration and creativity.

“If you’ve been using your brain to multitask—as most of us do most of the day—and then you set that aside and go on a walk, without all of the gadgets, you’ve let the prefrontal cortex recover,” says Strayer. “And, that’s when we see these bursts in creativity, problem-solving, and feelings of well-being.”


4. Nature may help you to be kind and generous

Whenever I go to places like Yosemite or the Big Sur Coast of California, I seem to return to my home life ready to be more kind and generous to those around me— just ask my husband and kids! Now some new studies may shed light on why that is.

In a series of experiments published in 2014, Juyoung Lee, GGSC director Dacher Keltner, and other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, studied the potential impact of nature on willingness to be generous, trusting, and helpful toward others, while considering what factors might influence that relationship.

As part of their study, the researchers exposed participants to more or less subjectively beautiful nature scenes (whose beauty levels were rated independently) and then observed how participants behaved playing two economics games—the Dictator Game and the Trust Game—that measure generosity and trust, respectively. After being exposed to the more beautiful nature scenes, participants acted more generously and more trusting in the games than those who saw less beautiful scenes, and the effects appeared to be due to corresponding increases in positive emotion. 

In another part of the study, the researchers asked people to fill out a survey about their emotions while sitting at a table where more or less beautiful plants were placed. Afterwards, the participants were told that the experiment was over and they could leave, but that if they wanted to they could volunteer to make paper cranes for a relief effort program in Japan. The number of cranes they made (or didn’t make) was used as a measure of “prosociality.,” or willingness to help.

Results showed that the presence of more beautiful plants significantly increased the number of cranes made by participants, and that this increase was, again, mediated by positive emotion elicited by natural beauty. The researchers concluded that experiencing the beauty of nature increases positive emotion—perhaps by inspiring awe, a feeling akin to wonder, with the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself—which then leads to prosocial behaviors.

Support for this theory comes from an experiment conducted by Paul Piff of the University of California, Irvine, and colleagues, in which participants staring up a grove of very tall trees for as little as one minute experienced measurable increases in awe, and demonstrated more helpful behavior and approached moral dilemmas with ethically, than participants who spent the same amount of time looking up at a high building.

5. Nature makes you “feel more alive”

With all of these benefits to being out in nature, it’s probably no surprise that something about nature makes us feel more alive and vital. Being outdoors gives us energy, makes us happier, helps us to relieve the everyday stresses of our overscheduled lives, opens the door to creativity, and helps us to be kind to others.

No one knows if there is an ideal amount of nature exposure, though Strayer says that longtime backpackers suggest a minimum of three days to really unplug from our every day lives. Nor can anyone say for sure how nature compares to other forms of stress relief or attention restoration, such as sleep or meditation. Both Strayer and Bratman say we need a lot more careful research to tease out these effects before we come to any definitive conclusions.

Still, the research does suggest there’s something about nature that keeps us psychologically healthy, and that’s good to know…especially since nature is a resource that’s free and that many of us can access by just walking outside our door.

Results like these should encourage us as a society to consider more carefully how we preserve our wilderness spaces and our urban parks. 

And while the research may not be conclusive, Strayer is optimistic that science will eventually catch up to what people like me have intuited all along—that there’s something about nature that renews us, allowing us feel better, to think better, and to deepen our understanding of ourselves others.
“You can’t have centuries of people writing about this and not have something going on,” says Strayer. “If you are constantly on a device or in front of a screen, you’re missing out on something that’s pretty spectacular: the real world.”


More on the Power of Nature: