The Academy of Sciences in San Francisco—a marvel of sustainable architecture and engineering—contains a participatory exhibit called “What’s your carbon footprint?” which is part of a larger installation on climate change in California. Its design is ingenious: Six sliders measure factors like home energy use, air travel, public transportation and carpooling, and so on.
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“The bulk of the world’s energy consumption is within cities,” British environmentalist Herbert Girardet once wrote. Cities cover 3-4 percent of the earth, he said, but consume 80 percent of the world’s natural resources—which to this way of thinking makes cities ecological disaster areas, parasites drawing sustenance from the countryside.