For years now, North Americans have been driving supersized cars and trucks, fueled by massive gas tanks filled with cheap gasoline. In fact, young American children probably believe that an SUV the size of a Japanese studio apartment, is perfectly normal, and well-deserved. But it has not always been so: The energy crisis, high prices, and gas rationing of the 1970's encouraged Americans to trade in their gas-gulping Chryslers for gas-sipping Japanese compacts. But a new generation seems to have forgotten those lessons, and are splurging on monstrous SUVs that are shamefully fuel inefficient.
Yet Americans and Canadians interested in protecting the environment -- as well as their wallets -- may have a new transportation option in the near future. New cars made by SMART, a brand of DaimlerChrysler (of all companies...), may be tiny, but their fuel inefficiency is sizable, at 60 mpg, for the base model. Amazingly, it is four feet smaller than a Mini Cooper, so you could park two in a standard parking spot. The plastic panels are easily swappable, and one color all the way through; hence, you can't scratch the paint. Even the emissions are tiny: Last year, a major study of more than 1,200 cars, cited the Fortwo as being the least polluting car in the world.
Despite its dimunitive appearance, the SMART's steel frame makes it safe in an accident. Unlike most of the Japanese cars nowadays, it is quite affordable, and could cost as little as $15,000. There are three primary models: a two-seater "fortwo", a four-seater "forfour", and a two-seater "roadster".
To learn more about these innovative new vehicles, and to see pictures of them, check the Web sites of the SMART company in the U.K., or the U.S. distributor, ZAP. As of this writing, ZAP is accepting reservations. Recent write-ups on SMART cars have appeared in Wired, MSNBC, AutoWeek, and Slashdot.
For those of us living in the United States, and receiving our news primarily from U.S. media, it is easy to forget that countless citizens in other countries are quite interested in developing and living in urban environments that do not degrade the environment. When pressed to identify the locations of environmentally conscious cities in foreign lands, most Americans would point to Europe and the Scandinavian countries. Yet the U.S.'s neighbors to the south are joining in the growing global awareness that cities not designed to work in harmony with nature, will likely never come close to doing so.
One example of an eco-friendly metropolis in South America, is Curitiba, which bills itself as the ecological capital of Brazil. This prosperous city, located in the southern region of the country, did not start off as a green community. Curitiba was founded in the 17th century as a gold-mining camp, became the capital of the State of Paraná, and rapidly expanded to over 1.6 million residents. Such tremendous growth, if not steered by long-term thinking, could have easily resulted in Curitiba becoming a typical urban disaster, with streets clogged by polluting cars.
Instead, Curitiba's thoughtful city plan outlined sensible transportation and land-use policies designed to maximize public mass transit and self-sufficiency within local areas. The coordination of over a dozen separate bus systems, allows city transportation to be fast and convenient -- essential ingredients missing from most U.S. transit systems. Local community self-sufficiency is achieved by providing all city districts with health care, education, and recreation facilities, thereby reducing transit load.
These efforts have not gone unnoticed. Curitiba was nominated as the American Capital of Cultural 2003, an initiative of the Organization of the American States (OEA). In addition, it won a UNESCO prize for its smart urban development. Even individual neighborhoods are gaining recognition: One residential area, called Ecoville, made news recently when an innovative apartment building was built and inaugurated within the neighborhood. The building's 11 levels can revolve independently, providing its residents with 360-degree views.
The PristinePlanet.com team joins with other members of the ecological community in expressing our sadness over the recent tragic events in Southeast Asia. In an effort to make a contribution to help those in need, we have made a donation to the American Red Cross. During these difficult times, our thoughts are with the tsunami victims and their loved ones.
Web Site Logos
The PristinePlanet.com Web site is now looking even more colorful than ever, as we have added many logos to the site! One is the new logo of PristinePlanet.com, featuring our name above an image of the earth and a leaf, inside a green circle. It was designed and created by artist Emily Taylor, based in San Diego. It can be seen on the site's homepage, at the top, in the exact center of the page. In addition, the Web site has logos for all of our member organizations, and can be seen in various places on the site.
In the Press, Again!
BeniciaNews.com, an online publisher, chose to feature a recent PristinePlanet.com press release. We appreciate their mentioning us on their site, as we do with any organization that would like to raise people's awareness of our mission at PristinePlanet.com.
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