Darrin Nordahl

Darrin Nordahl

Darrin Nordahl is an award-winning writer on issues of food and city design. He completed his bachelor?s degree in landscape architecture at the University of California at Davis and his master?s degree in urban design at Cal-Berkeley. He is the author of Making Transit Fun!, My Kind of Transit and Public Produce.
Born in Oakland, California, Darrin grew up in the quirky yet stunningly beautiful cosmopolis known as the Bay Area, but lived for many years in America?s Heartland. His work is thus a mélange of ?Left Coast? idealism and Midwestern pragmatism, and has generated headlines in newspapers and network news stations throughout North America. Merging his passions for food and cities, Darrin speaks to audiences across the United States and Canada, arguing how thoughtfully designed city spaces can help improve the quality of the environment, our health, and our social connections.

#ForewordFriday: Farm and Food Sweepstakes Edition

For food lovers and supporters of sustainable agriculture, you can't beat Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This oft-overlooked Midwesten gem is memorable for more than just its cheese—it also boasts 177 community gardens, 30 farms, and 26 farmers' markets (...

For food lovers and supporters of sustainable agriculture, you can't beat Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This oft-overlooked Midwesten gem is memorable for more than just its cheese—it also boasts 177 community gardens, 30 farms, and 26 farmers' markets (more per capita than any other American city!) In the last decade, a half-dozen "farm-to-table" restaurants have sprung up in the city, creating a vibrant food culture that is constantly reinventing itself with fresh, nutritious, locally grown food. Milwaukee is also home to The Miller Brewing Company and has a craft beer scene that is second to none. 

Many residents have developed a green thumb thanks to the city's active cooperative extension system and city laws that allow gardeners to sell their produce at farm stands and markets and keep chickens and bees in their yards. Others in Milwaukee have been championing gardening and community agriculture for decades, following traditions passed down through the generations. Still others have turned to gardening and urban agriculture more recently, as a way to recover from the Great Recession and heal divisions that have riven Milwaukee—and our nation as a whole. 

Enter our Farm & Food sweepstakes and check out an excerpt from the revised edition of Public Produce by Darrin Nordahl. Public Produce profiles the many communities and community officials that are rethinking the role of public space in cities, and shows how places as diverse as parking lots and playgrounds can sustain health and happiness through fresh produce. 

 

Photo Credit: Rockaway Youth on Banner by Flickr.com user Light Brigading

Cutting Back: IP Authors Reflect On Their Carbon Footprints

With the end of COP 21 and the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, it’s not just countries that are thinking about how to reduce emissions—individuals are...

With the end of COP 21 and the signing of the historic Paris Agreement, it’s not just countries that are thinking about how to reduce emissions—individuals are reflecting on how their habits and actions impact climate change as well.

Island Press authors shared what they’re doing to reduce their carbon footprints and, in some cases, what more they could be doing. Check out their answers and share your own carbon cutbacks—or vices—in the comments. 

Jason Mark, author of Satellites in the High Country:
Very much like the Paris Climate Accord itself, ecological sustainability is a process, not a destination. Which, I'll admit, is a squirrely way of saying that I'm doing my best to reduce my carbon footprint. I ride my bike. I take mass transit. Most days my car never leaves the spot in front of our home. Most importantly, I have sworn off beef because of cattle production's disproportionate climate impact. The (grass-fed, humane) burger still has a siren song, but I ignore it. 

Grady Gammage, author of The Future of the Suburban City:
I drive a hybrid, ride light rail to the airport and don’t bother to turn on the heat in my house (which is possible in Phoenix).  My greatest carbon sin is my wood burning fireplace.  I don’t use it when there’s a “no burn” day, but otherwise, I have a kind of primordial attraction to building a fire.

John Cleveland, co-author of Connecting to Change the World:
We just installed a 12 KW solar array on our home in New Hampshire. At the same time, we electrified our heating system with Mitsubishi heat pumps. So our home is now net positive from both an electricity and heating point of view. We made the solar array large enough to also power an electric car, but are waiting for the new models that will have more range before we install the electric car charger.  The array and heat pumps have great economics.  The payback period is 8-years and after that we get free heat and electricity for the remainder of the system life — probably another 20+ years.  Great idea for retirement budgets!

Dan Fagin, author of Toms River:
Besides voting for climate-conscious candidates, the most important thing we can do as individuals is fly less, so I try to take the train where possible. I wish it were a better option.

Photo by Bernal Saborio, used under Creative Commons licensing. 

Darrin Nordahl, author of Public Produce:
The United States is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China, and how we produce food in this country is responsible for much of those emissions. From agriculture, to the fossil fuels needed to produce bags and boxes for pre-packaged food, to the burning of gas and oil to transport both fresh produce and pre-packaged food, I have discovered I can reduce my carbon footprint with a simple change in my diet. For one, I avoid processed food of any sort. I also grow a good portion of my vegetables and herbs and, thankfully, local parks with publicly accessible fruit trees provide a modicum of fresh fruit for my family. We also eat less meat than we used to and our bodies (and our planet) are healthier because of it.

Yoram Bauman, author of The Cartoon Introduction to Climate Change:
I try to put on warm slippers or other extra layers around the house in order to not have to heat the house so much, but I still like to take long hot showers. (Maybe those two things are connected).

Rob McDonald, author of Conservation for Cities:
I try to pay attention to my daily habits that make up a lot of my carbon footprint. So I bike to work, or take mass transit. That gets rid of the carbon footprint of driving. I also try to only moderately heat or cool my home, so I’m not burning a lot of energy doing that. The biggest component of my carbon footprint that I haven’t managed to cut is for travel. I have to travel once or twice a month for my job, and unless it is a trip in the Northeast (when I can just use Amtrak!), I am stuck travelling. The carbon footprint of all that air travel is huge. I try to do virtual meetings, rather than travel whenever I can, but there still seems to be a big premium people place on meeting folks face to face.

Emily Monosson, author of Unnatural Selection 
We keep our heat really low in the winter (ask our teenage daughter, it's way too cold for her here!) and I hang my clothes on the line in the summer. Because it’s so cold, I love taking really hot long showers. I should also hang my clothes in the winter too, and ditch the dryer. 

Jonathan Barnett and Larry Beasley, co-authors of Ecodesign for Cities and Suburbs:
We both live in a town-house in the central part of a city – on opposite sides of the continent: one in Philadelphia the other in Vancouver. Our neighborhoods have 100% walk scores. We each own one car, but don’t need to drive it very much - most of the time we can go where they need to on foot.  We wrote our book using email and Dropbox. What they still need to work on is using less air travel in the future.

Jan Gehl, author of Cities for People:
I live in Denmark where 33% of the energy is delivered by windmills. A gradual increase will happen in the coming years. As in most other countries in the developed world, too much meat is on the daily diet. That is absolutely not favorable for the carbon footprint. It sounds like more salad is called for in the future!

Photo by Katja Wagner, used under Creative Commons licensing. 

Suzanne Shaw, co-author of Cooler Smarter:
Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low Carbon Living provides a roadmap for consumers to cut their carbon footprint 20 percent (or more). My approach to lowering my carbon footprint has gone hand in hand with saving money through sensible upgrades. Soon after I purchase my 125-year-old house I added insulation, weather stripping and a programmable thermostat. When I needed a new furnace, I swapped a dirty oil furnace to a cleaner, high-efficiency natural gas model. And now have LED bulbs in every fixture in the house, Energy Star appliances throughout, and power strips at my entertainment and computer areas. This summer, I finally installed solar panels through a 25-year lease (zero out-of-pocket expense). In the month of September, I had zero emissions from electricity use.  Living in the city, I am fortunate to have access to public transportation and biking, which keeps our household driving to a minimum.

Peter Fox-Penner, author of Smart Power Anniversary Edition:
I’m reducing my footprint by trying to eat vegan, taking Metro rather than taxis or Ubers, and avoiding excess packaging.  Right now I travel too much, especially by air. P.S. Later this year I’ll publish my carbon footprint on the website of the new Boston University Institute for Sustainable Energy. Watch for it!

Carlton Reid, author of Roads Were Not Built for Cars:
Our family has a (small) car but I cycle pretty much all of the time. My kids cycle to school (some days) and my wife cycles to work (sometimes). It’s useful to have the car for some journeys, long ones mostly, but having a family fleet of bikes means we don’t need a second car. Reducing one’s carbon footprint can be doing less of something not necessarily giving up something completely. If everybody reduced their car mileage (and increased their active travel mileage) that would be good for the planet and personally: win/win.

Photo Credit: Birds on a Wire by Flickr.com user Kiwi Flickr

While We're Away ... Enjoy These Field Notes Highlights

Photo by Rob Lee, used under...
Photo by Rob Lee, used under Creative Commons licensing. Photo by Rob Lee, used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

Our office will be closed for the holidays, so regular posts are on hiatus until the new year. But lest you miss us, I've pulled a handful of popular and enlightening posts from our archives for your reading pleasure. Why Biodiversity is Important to Solving Climate Chaos: Top 10 Reasons: Get your listicle fix in with this post from Dominick DellaSala, who enumerates why having a broad range of healthy species will help us address the looming climate crisis.

Helsinki. Photo by Niklas Sjöblom, used under Creative Commons licensing. Helsinki. Photo by Niklas Sjöblom, used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

The Role of Wonder in Planning: Timothy Beatley poignantly reminds us of the importance of incorporating respect and appreciation for the natural world into our built places.

Caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo by blmiers2, used under Creative Commons licensing. Caribou in Denali National Park, Alaska. Photo by blmiers2, used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

Hunting and the Land Ethic: Cristina Eisenberg goes elk hunting with renowned ecologists Michael Soulé and James Estes to keep an ecosystem in balance in this thoughtful piece. Conservation Efforts for the Rare Lakela's Mint, Dicerandra Immaculata: Cheryl Peterson tells the story of a pretty purple flower in Florida that is hanging in there.

Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. Photo by pclvv, used under Creative Commons licensing. Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina. Photo by pclvv, used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

Confessions of an Ecoporn Addict: Charlie Chester explores the dark side of stunning nature images and lets a plain place where grizzly bears cross the road grow on him. Considering Bees, Industrious but Not Industrial: Ann Vileisis offers a summary of why bees are so important and the challenges they are facing.

adgad akdjf;ald Bluebird. Photo by digital4047, used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

Load Shedding or Load Sharing?: We take it for granted that unless a big storm hits, our lights will stay on. Edward Grumbine reports from Nepal, where a shortage of electricity means daily blackouts for "load shedding" and asks if the solution lies in "load sharing."

Wyoming. Photo by greg westfall, used under Creative Commons licensing. Wyoming. Photo by greg westfall, used under Creative Commons licensing.

 

Lessons from Los Angeles: Make Transit Hip: Darrin Nordahl offers lessons from LA's image rehabilitation campaign for public transportation. Happy holidays from the whole Island Press team—we'll be back in 2015 with more solutions that inspire change!