California, other places moving forward with bans or restrictions on gas-powered leaf blowers

More communities across the United States are banning or restricting gas-powered leaf blowers:

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But addressing the noise pollution they cause wasn’t the main reason behind the legislation. Small off-road engines, or SOREs, are a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions, causing spikes in asthma in workers who operate them.

“Today, operating the best-selling commercial lawn mower for one hour emits as much smog-forming pollution as driving the best-selling 2017 passenger car, a Toyota Camry, about 300 miles — approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Las Vegas,” the California Air Resources Board said in a recent fact sheet. “For the best-selling commercial leaf blower, one hour of operation emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a 2017 Toyota Camry about 1,100 miles, or approximately the distance from Los Angeles to Denver.”…

Hundreds of cities and towns in the U.S., including Washington, D.C.; Burlington, Vt.; Houston; Palm Beach, Fla.; Aspen, Colo.; and Highland Park, Ill., have enacted restrictions on the use of leaf blowers. Among those restrictions: forbidding gas-powered units, imposing decibel limits and limiting what days one can use them…

On Wednesday, the Boston City Council agreed to consider a resolution that would outlaw gas-powered SOREs. Kenzie Block, a city councilor representing the Fenway, Mission Hill, Back Bay, Bay Village and Beacon Hill neighborhoods, said the main impetus for the ban was health-related.

Noise, health, pollution, and gas use and I could see why this shift toward equipment with other power sources would appeal to many places.

Where is the power equipment lobby with a response? As noted elsewhere in the article, gas-powered equipment could provide power and other opportunities. Or, do companies who manufacture equipment still see enough of a market in other communities and/or are excited to sell lots of people new equipment that they would not otherwise have to buy?

The ripple effects of this on American lawns are interesting to consider. Would battery or electricity powered equipment encourage people to tend to their yards more or not?

High fences indicative of a lack of community in suburbs?

Suburbs are often criticized for a lack of community: residents drive in and out of garages with little interaction. In searching for a missing girl in Cairns, Australia, several people suggest that the search is made harder by the high fences that separate suburban yards:

Cairns is losing its sense of community and neighbourhood spirit, with residents only finding time to help each other in times of natural disasters.

That’s the verdict of sociologists, politicians and police, who believe people in the Far North are living more isolated lives than ever before.

Fewer people know much about residents in their street, which potentially leads to an increased risk of crime.

And they say this trend can be most clearly demonstrated in, of all places, the proliferation of high fences in the suburbs.

At no time has this been more apparent than with the dilemma facing authorities as they seek information on the disappearance for teenager Declan Crouch and the murder of Erica Liddy.

Despite many pleas for help, vital clues from the public – the eyes and ears of Cairns – are yet to come.

A few decades ago, high fences in the suburbs were extremely rare, with neighbours often the best of friends, talking regularly over small mesh wire side fences in the backyard.

But experts say the fast pace of modern life mixed with a blend of fear, apathy and population growth is keeping residents hidden away from each other, behind those all-pervasive six-foot high fences.

I would suspect that the problem involves more than just fences. The fences are just a symptom of bigger issues – get rid of the fences and neighbors won’t necessarily know each other any better. And if there is a lot of media attention about these sort of stories (abductions, murder, etc.), why wouldn’t more suburbanites build fences to keep their yards and kids safe?

This story itself is illustrative of a larger question regarding suburbs: if they were simply designed a little differently, would there be stronger communities? This is a key claim of New Urbanists: moving cars and garages to a back alley, making streets more pedestrian friendly, and reintroducing porches to the front of houses will lead to more community. And with recent data suggesting that Americans do want to live in more walkable communities but still want to remain private, the verdict is still out on such design changes.