After years of sitting behind curtained windows, cloistered by the television-addled nuclear family, it seems that people are starting to actually care about honest-to-goodness neighborhoods again. For those who wish that the obnoxious family living next door would take a long walk off a short pier, this might be bad news. But for those who love bike parades, block parties, neighborhood-watch enthusiasm and the open opportunity to borrow sugar and eggs, the renewed popularity of good, old-fashioned 'hoods is welcome. To celebrate this renewed spirit, the Neighborhoods Summit Partnership hosts the Festival of Neighborhoods this weekend. Booths, games and chances to meet your neighbors abound at the Festival of Neighborhoods on Sunday, July 29, in Courthouse Square. Fourth Street and Mendocino Avenue, Santa Rosa. Noon–4pm. Free. 707.483.5730.
Biochar is a relatively simple and inexpensive technology that might just have hugely positive effects. Basically a soil enhancer, biochar is the end result when agricultural waste is processed into a fine-grained, highly porous charcoal that helps soil retain nutrients and water, according to the International Biochar Initiative. This month, the 2012 U.S. Biochar Conference, featuring speakers on food security, climate change and environmental degradation, takes place on the SSU Campus. The conference runs from July 29 to Aug. 1 at Sonoma State University. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. Ticket prices range from $95 to $225; a movie, Symphony of the Soil, screens for free on Monday, July 30. See www.biochar.us.com.—Leilani Clark