Saving Boston's Long Wharf Park From Extinction

Have you visited the beautiful and historic Long Wharf Park on Boston Harbor? And what do you do when the government goes rogue?

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), in defiance of the Massachusetts Constitution, is trying to turn Long Wharf Park into a late-night restaurant and bar. The Massachusetts Constitution requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature before public parkland can be converted to other uses. The vote has not happened, and the BRA is telling the world that it is unneeded. As featured in today's Boston Globe, ten local residents, including me, have been trying to force the government to obey the constitution.

Show and Yell

Season 2, Episode 2

Is booing an act of verbal vandalism? Or the last true expression of democracy?

In this hour-long special, hear how Philadelphia sports fans earned their reputation as the loudest boo-birds, and whether the distinction of high or low culture plays a role. You'll hear from former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who admits to booing Santa Claus; and sportswriter/opera buff Robert Lipsyte, who was surprised that more people didn’t boo Pavarotti when he “parked and barked” his way through a performance.

Also in this episode, we look at “conspicuous conservation” – when people go out of their way to engage in “green” activities.

Why California's Push for Rooftop Solar is a Foggy Idea

Would you trust your neighbors with billions of dollars of public money to invest in a clean energy future? If you live in California, this isn’t a hypothetical question.

California Gov. Jerry Brown last month announced his intention to rely on “tens of thousands of little decisions” by Californians to develop a 12 giga-watt renewable energy infrastructure by 2020. In remarks at a UCLA clean energy conference, Brown embraced distributed solar generation in order to avoid the pitfalls that often encumber large-scale renewable energy projects, including the capital costs of transmitting energy from far-flung deserts and hilltops. Furthermore, rooftop solar panels and Cameron-esque windmills also pose little threat to desert tortoises or sacred Native American sites, so they are less apt to be caught up in the kind of litigation that has delayed major renewable projects.

But energy policy that relies on distributed generation has its drawbacks. Perhaps most notably, it forsakes economies of scale. It also places infrastructure investment decisions in the hands of homeowners, who, as this space has suggested, may not make socially optimal—or even individually rational—choices.

Grazing the Non-Commons

Central Texas is having its worst drought in 50 years, and since May we have been limited to twice-a-week lawn watering. With things getting worse, on August 24 the limit goes to once per week. I'll abide by the limit, but I'll set my sprinklers to run longer each session than during the twice-a-week watering.

Conservation By Urination

According to the Brazilian environmental organization SOS Mata Atlantica, a household that flushes its toilet one less time per day saves more than 1,100 gallons of water per year. So the organization has launched a TV ad campaign encouraging Brazilians to avoid a flush by peeing in the shower.

What Do a 19th-Century Brownstone and a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker Have in Common?

In a column we wrote a while back about the unintended consequences of well-meaning legislation, we highlighted one of the failures of the Endangered Species Act: in the lag time between when an animal's habitat is announced to be under consideration for the E.S.A. and the protection actually goes into effect, landowners have incentive to prophylactically destroy the habitat.

Save the Sharks?

In today’s Times, Andy Revkin reports on a new study by the Lenfest Ocean Program that will surely inspire a rush to the barricades for certain environmentalists: Some shark populations in the Mediterranean Sea have completely collapsed, according to a new study, with numbers of five species declining by more than 96 percent over the […]

No Good Citizen Goes Unpunished

Hats off to North Carolina residents, who, for almost a year now, have cut their water consumption by a third in response to a record drought. Now, the residents of Charlotte-Mecklenburg County are getting a hefty reward for their sacrifice: they’ll be paying more for their water. Perhaps ticked-off residents shouldn’t be surprised: less spending […]

Bottled Water Is the Enemy

Mayor Ken Livingstone of London is urging his citizens to forego bottled water in light of the drag it puts on the environment. Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York has done the same. Others, meanwhile, have taken the further step of an outright ban on bottled water. Your thoughts?

Freakonomics in the Times Magazine: Unintended Consequences

Read the Column » Consequences of Employment Protection? The Case of the Americans with Disabilities Act By Daron Acemoglu and Joshua D. Angrist Prosbol: A Study in Tannaitic Jurisprudence By Solomon Zeitlin Preemptive Habitat Destruction Under the Endangered Species Act By Dean Lueck and Jeffrey Michael Is the Endangered Species Act Endangering Species? By John […]