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Lay of the Land

Voting for the Planet | Lest We Forget | No More Spoilers | Now, Mad Deer | Bold Strokes | Updates

Bold Strokes

High Marks for Lowe's
The world's second-largest home-improvement retailer, with revenues last year of nearly $16 billion, has added planet improvement to its corporate strategy. The North Carolina-based Lowe's Companies Incorporated has adopted a procurement policy for its stores that includes an "aggressive phaseout" of wood products from endangered forests.

The company will also give preference to products that are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council as coming from well-managed forests. Following in the footsteps of a successful campaign by the Rainforest Action Network to get Home Depot to stop selling old-growth wood, Lowe's is now working with the World Resources Institute to help protect forests worldwide.

Nothing Like the Sun
Shakespeare has gone solar. The Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon, is reaping the benefits of investing in the Northwest's newest and largest solar photovoltaic project, which generates 25 kilowatts-enough to fully power the festival, the Ashland police station, and parts of Southern Oregon University. Surplus energy from the project is being distributed to up to 250 Ashland residential and business customers who want the solar service.

Riders of the World, Unite!
That bicycling is a pleasant way to get around is not news to the majority of the planet: Worldwide, bicycles outnumber automobiles almost two to one and are by far the most widely used mode of transport. But in urban areas, especially in industrialized nations, cyclists have been pushed to the margins by the ubiquitous car culture. Increasingly, they're pushing back.

In South America, they're called the Movimiento Furiosos Ciclistas. On the first Tuesday of each month, thousands of hot and bothered Chileans in Santiago take to the streets on their bikes in protest of the city's foul air-the eighth most polluted in the world. The Furiosos have been championing pedal power since 1993. And with the election of a sympathetic socialist president last year, they are finally getting the government's ear in their call for bike paths, bike racks on buses, and a more bike-friendly city in general. The founder of the Furiosos is now an advisor to the head of Chile's environment office.

In San Francisco, the "organized coincidence" of a lot of cyclists coming together in one place, usually downtown on the last Friday of the month, is called Critical Mass. This grassroots gathering, which began in 1992 with 45 fed-up cyclists and which now numbers in the thousands, has inspired Critical Mass groups to take root in more than 100 cities worldwide, including Melbourne, Berlin, Chicago, Toronto, and London.

According to Chris Carlsson, one of the original San Francisco cyclists, Critical Mass deliberately eschews formal leaders or agendas. If it's "about" anything, it's an invitation to resist the disruption and damage created by auto-dependency and to inspire questions about what kind of life we'd like to live, what kinds of roads we'd like to travel on and in what manner, and whether the technologies that drive us are really necessary.

With typical European flair, the EU has named a day to honor the growing anti-auto sentiment: Last year on September 22, residents in 800 European towns and cities in 27 countries participated in the annual "car-free" day, in which automobiles are banned from city centers. In a show of support, President Jorge Sampaio of Portugal took the bus to the presidential palace, telling reporters, "There is another way to live."

Marilyn Berlin Snell

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