John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Also, a British tractor thief gets his comeuppance and a Nigerian church freaks out over bombs in women's headdresses.
Welcome back to our weekly look at what's been outlawed in cities across the world (last week's edition here):
STYROFOAM, IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
Los Angeles has taken a commendable step toward environmental responsibility by eliminating the use of polystyrene in its public-school cafeterias. Wait – schools still use this stuff? Apparently so: The banning process began not so much at the behest of lawmakers but of students at Thomas Starr King Middle School, who decided to see just how much landfill waste their daily lunch hour was producing by stacking up all their Styrofoam lunch trays. The resulting spire of hard-to-degrade trays reached 30 feet into the sky like a leaning tower of pizza grease. Here is that gross structure:
Officials from the L.A. Unified School District called a press conference last week to announce they would be whisking polystyrene platters away for good, not just because they suck for the planet but also because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently determined that styrene was "reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen." The move comes as California legislators mull a total prohibition on these food containers, which would be the first such statewide ban in the nation.
A TRACTOR YAHOO, IN THE U.K.
A man who stole a red tractor in Weald, Kent, and took police on a puttering, sloth-speed chase last November has been banned from driving for a year. John Davis, who's 23, may have had his hair slightly tussled when he approached 30 m.p.h. with the bobbies hot on his tail. It took 18 miles before the pursuit ended with Davis crashing through an electric fence and running onto train tracks, proving that the U.K. police are either unaware of PIT maneuvers and spike strips or were just too busy laughing their asses off. However, there is a serious side to this story: According to the Paddock Wood Courier, Davis' lawyer believes that there were some hard men who pressured him into heisting the stodgy farm vehicle. "He would not have done this without threats made to him," said the lawyer, raising the question: Is there a British criminal ring that specializes in removing stumps?
BIG HEADDRESSES, IN NIGERIA
Citing security risks, a church in Nsukka in Enugu State has forbidden its female congregants from wearing their prized, humongous head-wraps. Called "geles," these signature Nigerian hair coverings look like table sheets when unfolded but when properly in place resemble very fashionable beehives. But St. Theresa's Cathedral Church is concerned that women might exploit these possibly 2-foot-high accessories for the Muslim rebel group Boko Haram, which has been attacking religious buildings lately. The new dress code will help “security men to know when a bomb will be smuggled into the church," Reverend Father Uche Obodoechina told The Guardian. The church is also acting annoyed because lines of gele-rocking women can apparently form a "barricade" that obstructs the view of the altar. Starting next month, they will be confiscated.
(Top photo courtesy of Laura Taylor on Flickr.)