Sprawl anyone? Craaazy aerial photos of Mexico City sprawling on forever. 

The stereotype of conservationists is a cartoon: guys in Birkenstocks and beards who want to go live in a cabin in the forest by themselves. (Laughs.) We need those people to get data in the wild. But we also need people who live in cities and thrive on technologies to be conservationists.

"Totally unnecessarily we get into a conversation where it is farmers versus conservation, where it is loggers versus conservation, where it is fishermen versus conservation.”

Watch: Peter Kareiva is the chief scientist for the Nature Conservancy. A member of the National Academy of Sciences, Kareiva is often noted for his emphasis on nature’s resiliency, rather than its impending doom.


Architecture for Humanity Chicago helps improve food access and eating habits in inner-city areas by buying up an old Chicago Transit Authority bus and retrofitting it into a single-aisle grocery store. Dubbed the Fresh Moves Mobile Produce Market, it travels through the Windy City’s “food deserts,” selling fresh produce and offering classes on cooking and nutrition.

See more smart ideas for fixing cities: 12 Innovative Ways to Rethink Our Cities. 

Watch now: Social critic John Thackara argues that the current human paradigm of endless growth is obviously unsustainable, so we should consider the brilliance of the Brazilian Jequitiba tree, which soaks up four tons of water a day. “I am a proper tree hugger, as well as a lichen hugger.”

"You do what you see other people doing. And then it gets stuck by the social expectations of everyone else."

After spending years in Africa fighting AIDS, TB and cholera with the W.H.O., Gary Slutkin returned to Chicago and had an epiphany: the violence plaguing his hometown exhibited all the signs of an infectious disease. Learn how he’s applied epidemiological principles to reduce shootings and violent crime in inner-city Chicago neighborhoods by as much as 75% through the CeaseFire approach.

A Pop-Up Greenhouse Could Bring Farm-Fresh Food To Food Deserts

Farmers’ markets, organic groceries, CSAs: They’re a great way for conscientious urbanites to snap up fresh produce. But the fact is, farm-to-table foods aren’t cheap, preventing many low-income families from eating healthy.

That could change with the Greenhouse Project in Brooklyn. This conceptual “pop-up farm” would be built in Cypress Hills, a low-income neighborhood with extremely high obesity rates and a dearth of access to nutritious food. A forward-thinking group of architects, engineers, and designers hopes to offer a corrective by providing hydroponic food to local residents through an off-grid mobile unit. The group estimates that it could farm 8,000 pounds of produce every 12 weeks.

But the Greenhouse Project isn’t just about growing fresh produce. The plan is to turn the place into an educational hub.

DesigNYC is gearing up for its 2012 campaign, “Recharging Communities.” If you have bright ideas, and you’re looking to do good at an urban scale, check out the group’s call for submissions.