Links for the week of November 26th, 2010

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Cradle to Cradle + Renewable Energy = Material Autarky

Somehow, in the course of watching this talk by Orville Schell on China and long term thinking, I was finally struck by the potential consequences of really doing Cradle to Cradle design, and scaling up renewable energy.  It would mean the possibility of material autarky.  Today a swarm of idle container ships hovers around Singapore, because of a little recession.  If we completely weaned ourselves off of non-renewable resources, if we closed the world’s landfills, any nation could check out of the world’s material economy.  What would still flow?  Renewable resources, like food, and non-food agricultural products, and to some degree water.  Labor might also flow, if its price were significantly different in different places — or maybe the stuff would flow to the cheap hands — but more likely I think, those labor price imbalances would “relax to equilibrium” in time.  You’d still get material flows happening if there were, on balance, growth happening: new buildings, bridges, dams, etc., or if the material were being re-distributed around the world (dismantling eastern Europe to build a booming Turkey?).  Most important, information would flow.  Processes and technology would be developed, and then implemented in new places, without any container ships at all.  How much would culture flow?  Would this help or hinder the preservation of our polyglot planet?

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Shared Links for May 24th

  • Math and the City – The same scaling laws seem to apply to both cities and organisms: infrastructure requirements per capita (or per unit body mass) go down as population (size) go up. Not so surprising, since both cities and bodies are connected to themselves by networks of wires (neurons) and tubes (pipes, transportation, blood vessels) (tagged: urban design economics sustainability transportation infrastructure biology )
  • Sustainable Transport that Works: Lessons from Germany – A 60 page report on how Germany has transformed its urban transportation systems over the Post-War period, moving toward more public transit and bicycle infrastructure, the costs, benefits, effects, etc. What has worked, and what hasn't. (tagged: bicycle transportation policy urban design system:filetype:pdf system:media:document )
  • NASA Gets Out of Satellite Servicing Business – And good riddance. Yes, the capability was amazing, but expensive and unnecessary. For the price of *each* Hubble servicing missions, we could have launched an entirely new Hubble-class telescope on a rocket. The shuttle is a solution in search of a problem. Someday we'll have a real reason to send people into space — e.g. long term scientific exploration of Mars, or if we're lucky, the beginnings of a two-world civilization — but until then, we're just going around in circles, and forking over hundreds of billions unnecessarily to the aerospace industry. Better them than the banks… but that's really no argument to stand on. (tagged: space nasa politics policy )
  • Buying farmland abroad: Outsourcing's third wave – I don't know how anybody can think this is going to work long term. The whole point is to have food when there's a crisis, but in case of crisis, these deals are going to go down hard, unless those on the receiving end are willing to deploy their militaries on foreign soil to protect their investment. Which isn't impossible, but certainly doesn't seem like a great deal for anyone. (tagged: agriculture food china africa sustainability economics trade )
  • Crack Gardens – No, not gardens in which you grow crack, gardens growing out of cracks. A little creative jack-hammering opened up some fissures in this concrete slab, out of which a garden now grows. An homage to the tenacious plants that will take our cities apart when we leave. (tagged: gardening urban design art )

Shared Links for Apr 10th