The City of Phoenix, Ariz., for taking a big leap toward carbon neutrality. In a bid to turn the Valley of the Sun into America's first carbon-neutral metropolis, Green Phoenix aims to cut carbon dioxide emissions from city operations by 70 percent over the next three to four years. Using funds from the Obama administration's economic stimulus package, the plan will restore or protect as much as 3,000 acres of natural habitat, reclaim 85 percent of the city's wastewater, and amp up solar energy sources from the current 12.1 megawatts to 250 megawatts. Increasing regional food production is expected to reduce the need for importing goods over long distances, while creating community gardens is hoped to lower the heat-island effect that causes city temperatures to rise in response to widespread concrete and asphalt.
Called overly ambitious and pricey by critics, Green Phoenix mixes projects already under way—such as constructing a people mover train between the airport and one of the city's light-rail stops and upgrading public buildings to LEED standards—with new programs, such as providing bike rentals at light-rail stops and installing solar panels and solar water heaters in public buildings. "The question is not whether Phoenix is doing too much at once," says Mayor Phil Gordon. "The question is why weren't we all doing more sooner?"
Queensland, Australia, for turning the mass killing of poisonous cane toads last March into a carnival—complete with free grub, cold drinks, and prizes. Imported to Queensland in 1935 to wipe out the cane beetle, the toads are now despised as a threat to native species across Australia. The state's first "Toad Day Out," the brainchild of Queensland politician Shane Knuth, drew hundreds of gleeful Aussies toting thousands of the creatures they'd captured alive. Children won prizes, including weekend getaways, for the largest toad and the heaviest combined weight of the creatures they carted. The toads weren't so lucky—they were killed by carbon dioxide asphyxiation or freezing.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Queensland, for its part, "reluctantly" supported the event. "The collection and subsequent euthanizing of the toads was carried out humanely," explains RSPCA QLD spokesman Michael Beatty. He must mean relatively; according to Beatty, in the past, Knuth "encouraged entire communities to bash the toads to death with cricket bats and golf clubs." And yet the sight of children happily conspiring in the toads' death—not to mention the coldly clinical means of mass execution or the trophies created by a local taxidermist—hardly seems less chilling.