- Being “Used To” Our Lifestyle Makes Change Seem Difficult – The range of lifestyles which people have been able to become accustomed to and enjoy throughout history and spread out over the globe, is immense. Some of them are sustainable; ours is not. The willingness to experiment and accept change, to be flexible at a societal level, is of paramount importance today, and has in the past meant the difference between survival and obliteration for countless other civilizations, as detailed in Jarod Diamond's book "Collapse". But change is hard, whether you drive an SUV and have managed to shave your lifestyle requirements down to 8 earths from 10, or whether you're the child of a prostitute in Calcutta. We are creatures of habit, quite literally. (tagged: sustainability film energy green stuff money )
- The Need for Geoengineering – A WSJ op-ed advocating near term geoengineering, of the stratospheric sulfate aerosol variety. It would be fast acting, relatively easy to reverse, and of the options on the table today, is the least mysterious, since it's not so different from the effects of a large (historically speaking) volcanic eruption like Mt. Pinatubo. The author cautions that even at best, all this would do is give us time: we still need to get the atmosphere back to ~350ppm. What a fascinating modern age it is we live in! (tagged: climate technology geoengineering )
- Early Reviews of NYC’s New High Line Park – A round up of several reviews of the High Line Park, which has just opened in NYC. (tagged: architecture urban design landscape garden parks nyc )
- The High Line – An abandoned elevated freight rail line in Manhattan is reborn as a long linear park three stories above the streetscape. I love how the design incorporates the rails and the overgrown feeling that the old line had developed on its own. This and the closure of Broadway at Times Square makes me want to visit New York. Inspiring to see that this kind of change is possible. (tagged: urban design architecture green garden parks nyc )
- Pedalpalooza 2009 – Wow, a two week long bicycle festival in Portland, spanning the summer solstice? Sounds like a wonderful way to start a bike tour! Hopefully it will still be going on next summer. (tagged: bicycle transportation oregon portland festival activism )
- The Story of Stuff – A 20 minute video on where "stuff" comes from, and where it goes, and a little bit on why, and how we might do it differently. Yeah, it's sustainability propaganda, but sometimes that's okay. (tagged: sustainability green economics politics energy environment recycling design )
- Russia makes major shift in climate policy – I will be amazed if Russia actually shifts its climate policy in any functional way. I suspect they feel free to make this politically advantageous statement because there doesn't appear to be any real threat of the world doing anything substantive about climate change, so why not get on the hypocrisy bandwagon and avoid any unnecessary conflict over it? Perhaps more than any other nation, Russia stands to benefit from climate change: gas and oil sales, and a massive unusable northern seaboard, as well as huge oil and gas reserves on its northern continental shelf, increased agricultural productivity, less harsh winters, no serious domestic population or water pressures, etc. This is normal Russian politics. (tagged: russia climate economics politics )
- Short version of the CEPHEUS final report – A Europe-wide study of passive houses and the passivhaus standard developed in Germany, for possible use as an EU-wide energy efficiency building standard. (tagged: architecture sustainability green energy europe policy passivhaus design system:filetype:pdf system:media:document )
- Automobile Dependency and Economic Development – A study on the economic costs and benefits of automobile dependency, showing that up to a certain point cars can have economic benefits, but that encouraging dependence on them to a greater degree than that actually ends up being worse economically. (tagged: transportation cars economics urban design science policy sustainability system:filetype:pdf system:media:document )
- Growing Power – A two acre farm in Milwaukee growing food for 2000 people in greenhouses and hoop houses year round, heated by decomposing compost, with fish producing fertile waters for the plants, and worms breaking down the incoming nutrient stream: 80,000 lbs of food scraps every week from restaurants and institutional kitchens. (tagged: sustainability urban food agriculture garden )
Why is it that new housing developments in the US are filled with giant cookie-cutter houses crammed in next to each other, and burdened with ridiculous covenant requirements of lawns and four car garages, without a grocery store in walking distance?
Why can’t we have places like Freiburg’s Quartier Vauban? (pictures on Flickr, and another, and another) 5000 people, and one main street with a speed limit of 30 km/hr, smaller side streets meant primarily for bikes and walking. No parking on private property – all cars have to be stored in the structures at the margins of the development. 40% of the households have no car. A light-rail connection to central Freiburg (which is all of 2 miles away). 600 on-site jobs of various kinds, including the grocery store that’s within walking distance of the entire community. Lots of different kinds of (mostly smaller) living spaces. Vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Public playing fields and parks.
Michelle and I just finished reading The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. It was good. He can get a little rambling at times, but overall it was entertaining and enjoyable. The book follows the relationships between people and four plants, through history. The four plants are: apples, tulips, cannabis, and potatoes. It pairs with them four desires, respectively: sweetness, beauty, intoxication, and control. The connections are more than a little tenuous, but the histories are certainly worth examining. The apple chapter in particular has inspired me to learn more about hard cider (since it turns out that’s largely what Johnny “Appleseed” Chapman’s apples were used for, all across 19th century America). And who can resist an examination of cannabis’s relationship with humans, written at least partially while stoned?
One theme Pollan has touched on repeatedly, in this book and his others, is the competition between Apollonian and Dionysian impulses in nature and society. Apollo representing order and control, Dionysus wildness and chaos, both being utterly necessary for civilization to be dynamic and persistent, for knowledge to increase and broaden through time. E.g. our Apollonian monocultures of Russet Burbank potatoes are vulnerable because of their uniformity, but are also productive and economically efficient. The Andean potato farmers of antiquity grew dozens of different varieties in different micro climates, all the while allowing the plants to hybridize with the local wild potatoes, maintaining a possibly less productive, but certainly more diverse and robust system of potato cultivation, in which new biological innovation was constantly taking place, and in which the farmers were well protected against catastrophic collapse in any one year… unlike the potato farmers of Ireland in the 1840s. The potato chapter in particular focuses largely on a very recent interaction with the potato: the introduction of a genetically engineered variety called the “New Leaf” by Monsanto, that produces Bt toxin to guard the plant against the Colorado potato beetle and other insect pests. Continue reading We need more Dionysian Science