City Climate Corner

City Climate Corner goes to Europe - preview

Episode Summary

Larry interviews Abby about her trip to Europe that is happening as the episode releases. We talk about what she hopes to learn from visits with officials in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Bremen, Heidelberg, and Freiburg in Germany, and Barcelona in Spain.

Episode Notes

Larry interviews Abby about her trip to Europe that is happening as the episode releases. We talk about what she hopes to learn from visits with officials in Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Bremen, Heidelberg, and Freiburg in Germany, and Barcelona in Spain.







Episode Transcription


Abby Finis  00:02

Cities produce more than sixty percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Big cities get a lot of attention, but most household emissions in the US actually come from communities outside urban cores, making them critical players in climate mitigation and climate justice. City Climate Corner explores how these small- and mid-sized cities are tackling climate change and moving toward an equitable and sustainable future. I'm Abby Finis.

Larry Kraft  00:23

And, I'm Larry Kraft. We're co hosts for City Climate Corner. Hey, Abby. 

Abby Finis  00:31

Hey, Larry. 

Larry Kraft  00:32

We have a special episode this week. But before we get there, we have a celebration.

Abby Finis  00:39

What are we celebrating?!

Larry Kraft  00:40

We have two new Patreon supporters!

Abby Finis  00:44

That's like a three hundred percent increase. Is that right?

Larry Kraft  00:49

It's a significant increase. But we are eternally grateful to Jessi Eidbo and Animesh Mukherjee, who are now supporters and have these amazing City Climate Corner mugs on the way to them.

Abby Finis  01:06

Yeah, that's super awesome. So thank you, Jesse, and Animesh. Thank you for your support.

Larry Kraft  01:10

And, if you have not yet become a supporter and received a cool gift, please become one by going to the Support Us link on our website,, or you can also check out our merch at the store link. 

Start of interview

Larry Kraft  01:25

Alright, so this week, Abby you have something interesting going on. You're going on a trip, aren't you?

Abby Finis  01:31

I am going on a trip. By the time you're listening, I will probably be in Rotterdam. I am off to the Netherlands and Germany and Spain to talk to cities about what they're doing on climate action.

Larry Kraft  01:45

Really! Well so how did you come up and how long have you been planning this?

Abby Finis  01:49

I have been planning this for ages. I had wanted to do it a while back and then the pandemic got in the way. And then I was planning again for this past winter actually, to go and do that and Omicron hit so that kind of put a wrench in the plans. Now, I am less than 24 hours away from getting on that plane and heading over. We call it the curse trip. So we'll see. I think it's really happening. It's really happening now.

Larry Kraft  02:21

So if people actually are listening to this, then it is no longer cursed.

Abby Finis  02:25

It is no longer cursed. Yeah, I must have gotten the right sage or something. But I am super excited because I'm actually doing it through City Climate Corner. And so if you're not already following us on Instagram, that's where most of this trip is going to be documented. My brother is actually going to join me he lives in Barcelona. And quick shout out to him. He's the one who's done all our graphics. He's going to be there for the journey. He speaks German and Spanish and he'll be taking over our social media accounts and documenting what we see and hear.

Larry Kraft  02:55

Okay, so tell me where you're going. What are the cities?


Abby Finis  02:58

Yeah, first, we are meeting up in Rotterdam. The Dutch have been longtime leaders in water management, both for sea level rise, as well as managing excessive rainwater and flooding events. And so they just have some really cool innovative practices. And I'm actually really excited because right now, the forecast is for rain for the days that I'm going to be there. And so it's super appropriate to to be there and experience some of the projects that they have. So they have a number of creative rain gardens around town and water storage systems and green roofs and what they call a sponge garden. 

Larry Kraft  03:37

A sponge garden? 

Abby Finis  03:38

Yeah, a sponge garden. My understanding is that it's a space that's designed to capture and hold on to water like a sponge, and then reuse that water when it's needed. That's gonna be super cool. We'll have that on Instagram as well. They also have the world's largest water square in one of their neighborhoods. 

Larry Kraft  03:55

What is a water square? 

Abby Finis  03:57

It's a public plaza that also has this dual functionality of managing stormwater. I'm gonna be in heaven with all this green infrastructure.

Larry Kraft  04:08

Well, you know, I've spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, even speak some Dutch from many years ago. But I remember learning about the concept they have called making room for the water. Where because they are such a low lying country, with about a third of the country lying below sea level, they do things like selectively giving up land to make controlled space for water, as well as making sure rivers and canals wind around versus flowing straight, which reduces the speed that rivers flow and reduces the flooding risk.

Abby Finis  04:42

Yeah, it makes a lot of sense. I think it's one thing to manage water in a way where you're working against it, but just try to find those pathways where you're working with outflows and where it wants to go and managing with systems instead of trying to manage against them. It just, it makes a lot of sense. 


Larry Kraft  05:01

Alright, so where do you go next? 

Abby Finis  05:03

All right, so then we are taking the train to Bremen, Germany, which is one of the top cycling cities in Germany. I've already downloaded my app for their bike share program, and I am ready to ride around. They have a ton of information on their website, different recommended cycling tours, they have a bike overlay district where they're really just prioritizing bike mobility over vehicles and creating that space for cyclists.

Larry Kraft  05:32

Wait, did you say bike overlay district?

Abby Finis  05:35

I did say that, but I actually think I used my own words there. 

Larry Kraft  05:39


Abby Finis  05:39

They call it a twelve block bike zone.

Larry Kraft  05:45

Hmm. And are cars allowed in that zone do you know?

Abby Finis  05:48

I will know by later next week. Yeah, I'll find all that out.

Larry Kraft  05:54

Be interesting to compare what you see there to your experience in Fayetteville.

Abby Finis  05:59

Yeah, Fayetteville does have very nice, dedicated off road paths. And we talked about that episode of building out that network. And I think Bremen is a bit further along in building up that network. But I'm happy anytime there's decent infrastructure. Happy to bike and Fayetteville and I know it's gonna be a joy and Bremen.


Larry Kraft  06:17

All right, you can go anywhere after Bremen? 

Abby Finis  06:19

Yeah. So then we head down to Heidelberg. Heidelberg has the world's largest passive house settlement in the Bundestag district. So I'll be meeting with a couple of city staff there who are going to give me a tour of that. And we're meeting at this netzero kindergarten that they just completed. Really excited to see the architecture, design, and functionality of that neighborhood.

Larry Kraft  06:45

You said it's a Passive House District. So more than one?

Abby Finis  06:48

Yeah, so that's the largest. And I'm not sure quite how big it is. But the whole neighborhood of passive homes.

Larry Kraft  06:55

For those that don't know what a passive home is, what are they?

Abby Finis  06:58

A passive home is one that is designed to use energy as efficiently as possible. And so it's going to be a home that is super insulated, it's going to be oriented so that you're maximizing the use of the sun, both in terms of gaining heat in the winter, and gaining light so that you don't have to have the lights on all the time. There's other technical features to it than that. But generally, the idea is you don't necessarily have to have mechanical systems in your home or they supply very little of the energy for the home to heat, you're of course going to need like cooking appliances and stuff. But that should be provided by on site solar typically. So it's just a really, really efficient way to build and operate homes.

Larry Kraft  07:50

It reminds me a bit of, we have a nature center in St. Louis Park Westwood. And it was designed to be net zero as well. And we just had our first year completion and it actually is achieving that. But on one side of it the south facing side, there's this wall, just inside the windows, that's meant to absorb the heat during the day from the sun, and then radiate it in the evening so that you don't have to heat to it sounds like a similar concept.

Abby Finis  08:22

Yeah, and it kind of goes back to that concept that we're talking about earlier is don't work against the elements don't work against the water. Identify how you can work with them to minimize the effort, the infrastructure, the systems that are needed to provide the functionality that you're looking for.


Larry Kraft  08:42

Alright, and then after Heidelberg,

Abby Finis  08:44

Yeah, we'll head down to Freiburg, so our last city in Germany. Every time I tell people that I'm going to Freiburg, they get very excited. And so now I am very excited to go to Freiburg. It just sounds like a really beautiful city. And it kind of incorporates all of these elements of sustainability. They've been doing sustainability for a long time, they still have a number of historic buildings that weren't destroyed by the war. And so it's a really cool mix of history and more modern technology built into their city. And so they do have a number of projects. They also have sustainable neighborhoods, I read that people are actually like, there's one neighborhood where people shame each other if they own a car. So if you own a car, you park at like a mile or two away, nobody knows that you own a car. I'm sure they find out. It's just this sort of like funny mentality and peer pressure that is put on people to practice what they preach and live out their values of being in sustainable communities. They also have other mobility projects. They have a really cool map of all the projects around town and so we're going to try to hit up as many of those as we can. And we're speaking with the council member there, that'll be cool to get that insight from an elected official as well.

Larry Kraft  10:03

And are you meeting with some other folks in Freiburg too?

Abby Finis  10:07

Yeah, it turns out that ICLEI's Europe headquarters are in Freiburg. I've been in contact with folks there and hope to connect with somebody while I'm there. But we'll certainly find a way to get them on the phone and talk to them. Because we are very interested in learning what ICLEI Europe is up to after we spoke with ICLEI USA. And I think there's a lot of really interesting work just in terms of the climate action that's being done in Europe and the leadership from the European Union. And now this geopolitical situation where a number of European Union countries are dependent on Russia's oil and gas. And so what does that mean for the energy transition? And we've seen the Netherlands just announced that heat pumps will be mandatory for eating replacements starting in I think, 2026. 

Larry Kraft  10:58


Abby Finis  10:58

Yeah. And this ripple effect and impact of, you know, how do we really accelerate this energy transition so that we're not dependent on countries like Russia that are doing atrocious things to Ukraine right now?

Larry Kraft  11:12

I imagine you're gonna get an interesting view of what is going on with Russia being so much closer to it.


Abby Finis  11:17

Yeah, I think there will be some really good conversation around that. And I'm curious what people are thinking, the last city that we're gonna go to is my brother actually lives just south of Barcelona and Sitges. And Barcelona has been one of the cities that have planted this seed, in my mind of like, I really want to go check this out. Dave Roberts did a really awesome five part blog series in Vox, a couple of years ago on the Barcelona superblocks. Which are these nine square block neighborhoods where they worked with residents to ask them, what do you want to see? If our goal is to reduce the noise pollution from urban vehicular traffic, what do we need to do in our neighborhoods to change that? And it's really just evolved to more conversations and improving quality of life for residents in Barcelona. And so there's just really cool examples of community engagement, and strategies around what they call tactical strategies of putting in temporary installations. You know how people like it, if they like it, then they put in structural changes. It's just a really cool example of community engagement and working deeply and working on that kind of block by block level to make these changes and think about how we can live more sustainably and healthier and in very large cities.

Larry Kraft  12:42

You know, I remember you introducing me to superblocks. I think it was a couple of years ago, just after I got on council in St. Louis Park. And they sound fascinating to me. I'm looking forward to hearing from you about them, because I remember reading in some of them where within them, either there are no cars, or the cars can go no faster than like five or 10 miles an hour. And it just changes the way people interact with the neighborhood.

Abby Finis  13:08

Yeah, when you turn that space back over to people, the possibilities of what you can do with that are infinite, and it just creates a better community. It creates better interaction with spaces and enables a whole host of activities that people can engage with and in their communities. I'm yeah, super excited to check those out, too.

Larry Kraft  13:30

There's no beaches near there that you'd be super excited to hang out at all.

Abby Finis  13:33

Yeah, my brother might live really close to the beach. Yeah, so I'll have about a week or so in kind of the Barcelona area and hanging out there so.

Larry Kraft  13:48

Did I just hear Parker?

Abby Finis  13:49

You know, you did. He's crying at the door. I have been in the studio for a bit now and he's losing patience with me. Parker, the City Climate Corner podcast pup, has got his nose at the bottom of the door and is crying.

Larry Kraft  14:07

Well, Abby, have a wonderful trip. Look forward to hearing about it and doing some episodes on it.

Abby Finis  14:12

Yeah. And again, be sure to follow City Climate Corner on Instagram, because Larry and I admit that we're both pretty bad at keeping up on social media. But it will be content filled for the next couple of weeks here. So check it out, and hope you find it interesting, and I'll be happy to share what I learned when I get back.

Larry Kraft  14:34

Great, and we'll share some links to when we we will.

End credits

Abby Finis  14:39

We hope you enjoyed this episode of City Climate Corner. If you like what you're hearing, make sure to subscribe and give us a review. If you're able, become a monthly supporter through Patreon. As always, you can find more information on this topic and resources from each episode's guests on our webpage If you have an idea for the show, send us an email at or find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

Larry Kraft  15:03

City Climate Corner is produced by Abby Finis and me, Larry Kraft. Edited by me. Our production assistant is Maggie Morin. Music by …

Abby Finis  15:11

King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Larry Kraft  15:14

Thanks for listening, and we'll see you next time.