Welcome back to Earth Thursday, our weekly segment about news related to the Earth and sciences. This week, we take a special look at architecture, landscaping, and urban planning with an eye towards ecological balance or seamless meshing with the natural environment. Join us as we tour Singapore's so-called "sky gardens," a transformed coal mine in rural Scotland, and Japan's new massive solar power arrays. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

Cities aren't likely to go anywhere soon; they're too useful as hubs of commercial and cultural activity. But could we make them more like the natural world? In Singapore architects like Bernard Lee are looking to create new, eco-friendly buildings that will save water and energy while also providing the same living standards urban residents are used to experiencing and adding a substantial amount of green to the scenery.

Here in the West we like to think of ourselves as having better medical care than the rest of the world. But is that always so? By at least one metric, countries like Rwanda have cities like Seattle beat: they have higher polio vaccination rates. Head over to Kuow.org to read more and learn why this could be a major problem.

The word "green" might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of coal mines. And for good reason: they're dirty, often unhealthy, and their chief output is a fossil fuel. But what about after a mine has stopped producing coal? Over in Scotland one community has transformed an abandoned coal mine into a beautiful park.

Just how dire could the consequences of global warming be? Over at Scientific American Brian Kahn shares the results of one new study, which demonstrates which countries and cities are most vulnerable to rising sea levels should a predicted 2° Celsius (about 3.5° Fahrenheit) shift in overall global temperatures take place. The maps he's included with the data helps underline the point.

With climate change in mind one does have to wonder how we'll divorce ourselves of our heavy reliance on fossil fuels. There's a number of possible solutions but one that's attractive to a lot of people is solar energy. Over in Japan the Kyocera Corporation has refurbished old abandoned golf courses into massive solar farms that could potentially provide electricity for 8,100 homes.

Top image by Kenta Mabuchi