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F RONTLINES

good finds

is lining up $10 billion in purely private capital— vowing to forgo any public funding. Though his company has been working closely with federal and state agencies on safety and right-ofway issues, TCR president Robert Eckels is confident that “our private development approach will be successful for this corridor.” TCR’s market-led approach, he adds, “will be differentiated by the high level of customer experience offered.” That level is hinted at on TCR’s website, which emphasizes the speed and luxuriousness of the Japanese-built trains that would make up the company’s rolling stock. Clearly TCR hopes to lure the same Texas business travelers who helped make Southwest Airlines a homegrown corporate success story—but who now complain that the time spent getting into and out of airports has made flying between

A Texas bullet train could draw as many as 22,000 passengers a day

Natural pesticides don’t get any more natural than the predators that snack on aphids, mites, and other garden-destroyers. One seed-packet-size envelope of pheromoneemitting PredaLure will attract enough ladybugs, lacewings, and other insect vigilantes to cover 500 square feet.

W

hen the pacific science center

in Seattle issued an open call for artists to submit projects demonstrating solar energy’s potential, local artist Dan Corson cheated: he sent the judges flowers. Now Corson’s five-stem bouquet of 33-foot-tall “sunflowers”—capped by brightly colored, 20-foot-wide blossoms—graces the museum’s entrance. Nestled atop these blossoms are photovoltaic (PV) panels that absorb plenty of sunlight during the day (yes, even in famously cloudy Seattle, which is Corson’s, and the museum’s, point). Stored solar energy is used to power an electronic symphony of mysterious harmonic tones during the day and a light show once the sun goes down. Inside the museum, visitors can observe daily, monthly, and yearly data on the flowers’ sunlight-collecting and energy-generating capacities. “Not that all solar projects are ugly, but we often see PV cells arranged in an efficient and non-aesthetic manner,” Corson told Smithsonian magazine. “I wanted to look at ways of using the PV cells to tell more stories.”

spring 2014

a zoo out there Lions and tigers and bears? Old hat! Give your favorite city kid a copy of the Urban Wildlife Coloring Book, a clever bestiary—signed by the artist—featuring a cast of critters closer to home. $25, at merceranddibble. bigcartel.com

only a paper room

S

o what if the tiny, remote West

Texas town of Marathon (pop. 430) can’t claim any big-city tourist attractions? No other town can boast a place like Eve’s Garden: a B&B-style inn built almost entirely out of papercrete, a composite building material that uses recycled paper as a base. It’s a colorful nod to sustainable design in a location where you’d never expect it. evesgarden.org

top: kathy collins/getty images; right: photograph for onearth by ted wood

Dallas and Houston not much faster, and definitely not any easier, than driving. Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser has calculated that every trip between Dallas and Houston in a bullet train rather than in a car or plane would keep 113 pounds of CO2 from entering our atmosphere. And in a report sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation and published last year, a group of civil engineers and economists estimated that a bullet train connecting Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio could draw as many as 22,000 passengers a day. Even if you cut those ridership numbers in half, train passengers would still be reducing atmospheric CO2 by more than a million pounds every day. Doubtless there are plenty of Texans who would cite the chance to cut CO2 emissions by hundreds of millions of pounds annually as reason enough to support high-speed rail. But that’s not the segment of the market TCR is reaching out to. Mass transit yields an environmental dividend regardless of why people use it. Were the nation’s first bullet train to come about thanks to Texas business travelers—shuttling, ironically, between two capitals of the oil and chemical industries—it could be the best advertisement imaginable. If high-speed rail is good enough for the good ol’ boys and gals of Texas, maybe the rest of America will realize that it’s good enough for them too.

1 8 onearth

best buggies

flower power

OnEarth Spring 2014  

Hog Wild, by Ted Genoways

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