Is Air Pollution Ruining Kathmandu: Best #Cityreads of the Week

A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days.

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A round-up of the best stories on cities and urbanism we've come across in the last seven days. Tweet us your favorites with #CityReads.

"Bringing the Details Back to San Francisco Homes," Tom Leach, The Bold Italic

Ever since I can remember, I have always loved to draw the outsides of houses. As a fourth-generation native of San Francisco, I think that the visual stimulation I get from the unique architecture that surrounds me here provides constant inspiration for how to dramatically transform and adorn an otherwise plain and boring box. That inspiration not only fueled my passion for San Francisco architecture but also led to a career as a residential designer. I soon found myself being commissioned to restore the facades of Victorian and Edwardian homes that had their original fronts removed years ago in the interest of "modernization." 

"Kale Causes Controversy in New Orleans," Peter Moskowitz, Al Jazeera America

New Orleans residents say there are real reasons the article made them feel so indignant. They say their anger isn’t so much about the kale line, or even the article as a whole, but about a pervasive sense that the power to define New Orleans increasingly lies out of the reach of native New Orleanians.

They say that with each new transplant to the city, and each new article about the city’s hipness, its true identity and real issues are swept under the rug in favor of talk of what Loyola University professor C.W. Cannon calls “New Orleans exceptionalism” — the idea that New Orleans is somehow more mystical and primitive than the rest of the U.S.

"An Imaginary Town Becomes Real, Then Not. True Story," Robert Krulwich, NPR

This is the story of a totally made-up place that suddenly became real — and then, strangely, undid itself and became a fantasy again. Imagine Pinocchio becoming a real boy and then going back to being a puppet. That's what happened here — but this is a true story.

It's about a place in upstate New York called Agloe.

"Habitats for Humanity: Why our Cities Need to be Ecosystems, Too," Greg Hanscom, Grist

The whole better-greener-more-awesome-cities movement has a problem: We haven’t found a good name for it. Sustainable cities! The term brings to mind such mundanity as energy audits and transit routes. Resilient cities! The notion requires us to consider, first, what horrible shit is coming down the pike. Carbon-neutral cities! Ugh. Don’t get me started on that one.

Enter University of Virginia urban and environmental planning professor Tim Beatley with the solution, FINALLY. Here he comes, with the delivery. Wait for it…

Biophilic cities.

"Has Air Pollution Made Kathmandu Unliveable?" Andrew Lodge, The Guardian

Nepal’s air quality ranks 177th out of 178 countries, according to Yale’s 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), better only than Bangladesh. As a physician working in one of Kathmandu’s main teaching hospitals, I see a disproportionate amount of patients with respiratory ailments who are admitted to the wards on a daily basis, the victims of dirty air. Walking to and from work along the crowded, exhaust-choked streets, I sometimes wonder how more people are not sick.

The view from my Kathmandu rooftop certainly seems to bear the EPI findings out. On many days, the relatively close Himalayan mountains are obscured by smog, the brick apartment buildings that form Kathmandu’s skyline shrouded in an oppressive cloud. Those new to Kathmandu frequently complain of sore throats and itchy eyes within a few days of arrival.

 

About the Author

  • Amanda Erickson is a former senior associate editor at CityLab.