Eco - September 2012
Art With A Conscience
Madrid-based street art activists Luzinterruptus have been startling passersby in the Spanish capital recently with innovative installations that promote reflection on matters environmental.
In the spring of this year, for instance, the group's Mutant Weeds suddenly sprouted from the pavement in three downtown locations. The fluorescent green sticks the colour of pharmacy signs were designed to draw attention to light pollution issues in the city. Another of their street artwork's theme was the absence of water in too many of Madrid's public fountains.
Branching out abroad, Luzinterruptus were in Switzerland earlier in the summer where they created a scheme to swap plastic bags for art exhibition tickets. Sticking with that theme in Poland, the group took hundreds of plastic bags with lights inside and hung them from branches in a public park in Warsaw. The idea was to alert local residents to the need to take action over their city's poor record on domestic waste recycling.
Ironically, however, back home in Spain the little luminous devices Luzinterruptus likes to use have become objects of desire for trendy Madrileños. It typically takes as little as an hour for what the artists create on the streets to be "tidied away" by avid collectors.
Green With Envy
The Big Green Week, Bristol's summer feast of environmental ideas, events and inspiration, is back on the calendar for 2013 after its successful debut in June. Over 40,000 people took part in 100 events over nine days including comedy, music, film, poetry and art, plus talks on key aspects of local, national and global concern, culminating in the free Festival of Nature on the final weekend.
Commitment to continue with Big Green Week comes despite disappointment over the city losing out to Copenhagen for the title of European Green Capital for 2014. Bristol's bid, however, was especially commended for bringing together local people, community groups, businesses and government in the Bristol Green Capital Partnership.
Besides projects promoting cycling, public transport, solar power and home insulation, there's an ambitious target to eliminate all waste going to landfill, and a comprehensive plan to monitor and improve urban air quality. In one typically down-to-earth initiative, the Conservation Volunteers charity took 1,000 wheely bins that had been "retired" from domestic waste collection and repurposed them as rainwater butts for distribution - free - to local householders.
Traffic congestion is a critical issue for most modern cities, but all across Europe there's nowhere worse affected than Warsaw when it comes to jams. That's the headline finding from a new index published this summer by satnav specialists TomTom.
Car journeys in the Polish capital take on average 42% longer than they would if traffic was flowing freely, while the morning peak sees travel times increase by as much as 89%. Average speeds at free-flow times, though, at 54 km/hr, are somewhat higher than in some of the other 30 cities covered by the European statistics. In Brussels, for instance, which ranks third worst on congestion, drivers' satnavs recorded average speeds of only 47 km/hr even in conditions of free-flowing traffic.
New York, on the other hand, is well down the North American list at number 15 out of the 26 cities covered in the tables. Congestion there has actually got a little better since last year, the TomTom figures suggest.