Weekly Reading: 01/25/2013

This week, we wanted to highlight a few exceptional articles that came across our desks. First, from Sightline Institute, Lisa Stiffler digs into a question that we're often asked when working with communities to implement green stormwater infrastructure/low impact development facilities. "Are Rain Gardens Mini-Toxic Cleanup Sites?" Compiling the best available science, Stiffler concludes:

The bottom line is that the soil in rain gardens is safe for kids and pets. That said, people are advised to wash their hands after working or playing in any soil, which can contain naturally occurring metals, fecal waste from the neighbor’s dog, or any number of compounds one wouldn’t want to ingest. And remember that while rain gardens are attractive landscape features, the plants and soil are also doing an important job, so they need to be treated with some care.

Next, StreetsblogDC covers a new report from the Tax Foundation that, "50.7 percent of America’s road spending comes from gas taxes, tolls, and other fees levied on drivers. The other 49.3 percent? Well, that comes from general tax dollars, just like education and health care. The way we spend on roads has nothing to do with the free market, or even how much people use roads." So the next time someone asks how much a cyclist pays for a bike lane, you have a ready answer: 49 percent.

Finally, both Atlantic Cities and Science Daily report on Geoffrey Donovan's fascinating research showing a connection between the decline in Michigan's tree health with a decline in the area's human health. As Lindsay Abrams writes:

When the U.S. Forest Service looked at mortality rates in counties affected by the emerald ash borer, they found increased mortality rates. Specifically, more people were dying of cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness -- the first and third most common causes of death in the U.S. As the infestation took over in each of these places, the connection to poor health strengthened.

Now here's a little bit of joy to start your weekend: