Urban birdwatching

Birdwatching is a popular pastime across the globe. Some people take it very seriously, buying expensive gear and traveling all over the world to see rare birds. Most people, though, just have a good pair of binoculars and stay closer to home. 

But what if your home is a big city? What birds can you see in a city besides really common ones, like pigeons or crows, that are often pests and boring to watch?

I thought that way until I watched a film called, Birders: The Central Park Effect. The lake in the middle of Central Park is the only large body of water for miles on that migration route, so flocks of birds use it as a stopover. You can see birds there—in the middle of a huge, busy city—that you'd normally only see in the wild. And even in winter and summer, between migrations, there are lots of different species to see.

Save energy with new windows

In 1991, researchers at Berkeley Lab invented a triple-glazed window they hoped would revolutionise the building industry. Though windows with three panes had existed for years, what distinguished Berkley’s design from precursors was the presence of a centralised, thin layer of glass. This made the window lighter, as less material could be used to make the external panes. It also made the window more energy efficient, as compartments either side of the central layer could be filled with insulating gas. On paper, the window had the potential to cut annual heating bills by 39 percent and reduce air conditioning costs by 28 percent. The only problem was that it was prohibitively expensive to manufacture.

Online shopping and crowded streets

Online shopping is skyrocketing. So what are cities going to do about it?

The rising numbers of deliveries are adding to concerns about traffic and pollution in rapidly growing cities around the world. In Europe and Asia, cities have barred deliveries during certain hours, built warehouses to centralise distribution and provided millions in funding to encourage firms to switch to quieter, greener equipment. In the U.S., discussions about how to handle the glut of online shipments were somewhat slower to start, but they're happening now.

In response to the increasing congestion, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a test ban on deliveries during commuter hours on some of the city's most crowded streets. Cities in Europe have taken other kinds of steps. Paris, for example, has sponsored logistics hubs, while one of London's bus operators is looking at the possibility of using buses for parcel delivery.

Bike-sharing in urban Japan

The so-called sharing economy has spread to a variety of fields such as cars and homes, and Japan has seen another rising trend in recent years—bicycles.

A growing number of municipalities and private firms are providing bikes to gauge whether such services will catch on.

According to NTT Docomo Inc., which has been teaming up with municipalities to offer a bike-sharing service on an experimental basis, its bicycles were used about 1.8 million times in fiscal 2016, which ended March 31, up from 20,000 in fiscal 2012.

Docomo, Japan’s largest mobile phone carrier, is partnering with Koto, Chiyoda, Minato, Chuo, Shinjuku, Bunkyo and Ota wards in Tokyo. Around 4,200 two-wheelers were available at 281 “stations” as of March. Docomo also offers bike-sharing in the cities of Yokohama, Sendai, Hiroshima and Naha, Okinawa Prefecture.

Rapid urbanisation

In 2015, 85% of global GDP was generated in cities. Growing cities require substantial investments in infrastructure if they are to continue expanding at their present rate. It’s estimated that we will invest $78 trillion in global infrastructure over the next 10 years alone to accommodate this growth. New York, Beijing, Shanghai and London will need $8 trillion in infrastructure investments alone. 

Beijing's "street life" under siege

Across Beijing's historic alleyways known as hutongs, construction workers are knocking down local restaurants and bars to make way for new, bigger developments. The historic alleyways are seeing more and more corporate ventures moving in. This is apparently to restore the city to a type of grandeur, but many residents say it is invading their lives and that the "soul" of their community is being lost.