If you'd told me a year ago that the City of Los Angeles would close off almost 8 miles of primary city streets to let cyclists have free rein for a day I never would have believed it. If I hadn't seen it actually happen with my own eyes yesterday, I'd still be suspicious. But it's true: thanks to the amazing efforts of the die-hard volunteers
behind the project, yesterday the first ever CycLAvia
(a riff on the South American Ciclovía
idea) took place and some 100,000 residents
took to their bikes and got a glimpse of what the city might be like if at least some parts of it were car-free.
As an avid cyclist living in LA, I've long said this is an amazing city to bike in and that it takes on a whole new life when you see it from a bicycle. But most often the reaction I get from non-cyclists is that I must be crazy to ride a bike in LA. I'm not, and judging by the photos on flickr
and reactions on twitter
a ton of people now see the city a little differently. With any luck this is just the first of many upcoming bike-friendly events in the city. I know I can't wait to see where this leads! (Follow @Cyclavia
for future details)
Photos by Tara Brown and Jory Felice Read the rest
Greenpeace produced this clever (and grotesque) "ad" for milk
to draw attention to the destruction of South East Asian rainforests to sustain industrial-scale dairy farming in New Zealand. (thanks, Nick Young) Read the rest
Urban foragers across the US are picking fiddlehead ferns, plums from public trees, and even edible flowers sprouting from sidewalk cracks. Researchers from the Institute for Culture and Ecology studied the old but growing practice, focusing on several dozen Seattle foragers. From National Geographic:
This tiny group of foragers--just a small percentage of the people in Seattle who gather wild plants--together picks a whopping 250 different species of plants, year-round. Some have been gathering in Seattle for over 60 years. Most act as caretakers for their favorite spots, which they return to year after year.
Read the rest
Foraging can be a risky business: in some municipalities, it's not allowed in public parks. Earlier this year, the New York Times' urban foraging columnist suggested that would-be gatherers pick day lily shoots from Central Park; the Times had to quickly post a clarification that picking plants from city parks was against the law.
"If 15 people decide to go harvest day lilies to stir-fry that night, you could wipe out the entire population of day lilies around the Central Park reservoir," Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe told the Times.
There's another risk: chemicals. "Most of the foragers we have talked to are expressing concerns about toxicity," Poe said. Public park managers aren't necessarily interested in preserving the edibility of the wild things that grow there--don't even start on whatever might grow in a median or alley. Park managers and city planners could make it easier for foragers, Poe suggested, by minimizing the chemicals sprayed or, at the very least, putting up signs to alert would-be foragers when pesticides are at their most potent.
Via the BB Submitterator, Marilyn Terrell of National Geographic says,
Scientists studying the water surface near the BP rig explosion spotted relatively huge particles of sea snot, a mucus-like substance that phytoplankton produce when stressed. "It's possible that exposure to the Deepwater Horizon oil caused them to pump out more of the sticky stuff than usual." Sinking quickly en masse to the sea floor, the clumps of mucus may have temporarily wiped out the base of the food chain in the spill region. Adding oil to the snot makes marine mucilage, which can grow 100 mi. long.
"Sea Snot" Explosion Caused by Gulf Oil Spill?
(Image: National Geographic News / Arne Diercks) Read the rest
Video: Samantha Pleet SS 2011, Starring Victoria Legrand, Directed by David Black.
Mercedes Benz Fashion Week might have a new location this year at Lincoln Center, but the freshest and most creative fashion presentations arguably were found off-site. A perfect example was Samantha Pleet's Spring/Summer 2011 presentation, which was part of the Greenshows downtown. A film created by Pleet's friend David Black featured BeachHouse singer Victoria Legrand as a star-crossed lover. The film and still images were projected onto the walls surrounding models styled by Christina Turner in jewelry by Bliss Lau and shoes designed specially for Pleet by Osborne.
Nothing about the clothing looked particularly eco-friendly, ethically sound or fair trade, but it was nice to know that fantastic design and styling can be all those things without screaming "green." To top off the evening, Pleet gathered friends and fans at the Classic Car Club, where she and I grabbed a seat in 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder for a quick interview... Read the rest
Video link: not for the queasy of stomach.
David Kuria runs EcoTact Limited, an organization with a groundbreaking approach to a difficult issue. In many poor parts of Africa, basic sanitation is nonexistent, and open sewers drain untreated waste directly into the water supply, causing 80% of the disease.
Kuria quotes Gandhi: "Sanitation is more important than independence," adding, "We want to do a social transformation, where people don't think this is a toilet, where they think a toilet is a dirty place. So for us to change that community and social mentality of a toilet, then we want to put in more activities in the toilet. Then they start interacting with the facility not as a toilet, but more of a community convenient point."
Amenities include a small kiosk with snacks and personal items for sale. Kenyan comedian Makhoha Keya even worked up an act to make learning about basic sanitation entertaining. Ecotact provides safe drinking water at no cost, and the toilet usage fee is about five cents a day, usually recouped through fewer doctor visits and lost days of work.
EcoTact Limited website Read the rest
Saul Griffith is an inventor and entrepreneur. He did his PhD at MIT in programmable matter, exploring the relationship between bits and atoms, or information and materials. Since leaving MIT, he has co-founded a number of technology companies including www.optiopia.com, www.squid-labs.com, www.instructables.com, www.potenco.com, and www.makanipower.com.
You might have just driven home. When you filled your car with gasoline, most likely you didn't even see the fluid as it was pumped into your gas tank. Once home, you probably turned on some lights, some music, your computer, and maybe even heat, so you could read this web page. You can't see the power running through the electrical lines that lead to your light bulb, and you don't feel it, but you do enjoy the results. Our society has made energy invisible. This invisibility makes energy convenient to use -- and the modern age is arguably wonderful as a result -- but it also makes it easy to take it for granted. Here we try to make our appetite for energy visible.
Climate change is a phenomenon we now recognize as one of the most important challenges to ever confront humanity. Like energy use, it is also mostly invisible to us, and in two important ways. Firstly, the enormous volumes of green-house gases -- carbon dioxide, methane, CFC's etc, are quite literally invisible to our naked eyes. Secondly, the changes in climate progress so slowly that they seem invisible amidst the hustle and bustle of our daily lives. Read the rest
[Image: Koala, a CC-licensed photo by Mshai]
The Australian Koala Foundation reported this week that koala populations are declining because we humans continue to invade their habitats. Wildfires and global warming aren't helping, either. They could become extinct within a few decades. More: BBC, Reuters. Read the rest
Ape Lad sez, "The bowling alley I once enjoyed as a child (in Riverside CA), is now furniture."
An abandoned bowling alley finds a second life in this beautiful series of furniture by LA-based designer/woodworker William Stranger. Crafted from reclaimed strips of wood salvaged from a local defunct Tava Lanes Bowling alley, the collection springs to life in a variety of forms including a series of wall hangings and a low coffee table.
Recycled Bowling Lane Furniture is Right up Our Alley
(Thanks, Ape Lad!
) Read the rest
Our friends at Good have a post up with striking images by photographer Mathieu Young. These photos were shot during harvest time (last year) in California's Mendocino County region, where an awful lot of marijuana is grown.
"On the one hand it seems like an illicit activity," Young told Good. "But on the other hand, you have a bunch of people who are living off the land, which is beautiful."
Picture Show: The Harvest [GOOD]
Full gallery here, in larger rez: The Harvest [ mathieuyoung.com ] Read the rest
Let's start this off with a quick clarification. When I say "LED light", I'm not talking about the nifty, little blinky things that are frequently part of the ingredients list in Make projects. I'm talking about the Big Show: An LED light that can replace the incandescent bulbs and/or CFLs you have lighting up your home right now. To do it right, you don't just need a single LED that works, you need an array of them...and you need them to produce enough light, and the right color of light, reliably enough that people can buy an LED bulb and know what they're getting into.That ain't easy. But it is getting easier.
LED lighting really is more than a toy. This is the library of the new Wit Hotel in Chicago. It's not lit entirely by LED, but lighting designers Lightswitch Architectural did use the technology in the coves around the ceiling and walls. Unfortunately, getting this look at home isn't as simple as it's often made out to be.
Trouble is, they're being oversold, like whoa. For about two-and-a-half years, I've been reporting on LED lighting for a trade magazine called Architectural SSL*. During that time, I've watched mainstream press and enviro blogs tout LEDs as the green energy miracle light. Often, with a level of enthusiasm seldom seen outside rooms full of puppies. Don't get me wrong. LEDs are pretty cool. There are places where they're useful now, and places they probably will be soon. But if you're just hearing about the awesome, you aren't getting the full story. Read the rest
The Freakonomics guys have apparently either really dropped the ball when it comes to understanding science, or they're willfully ignoring it. Either way, I'm pretty disappointed.
The sequel's contrarian take on climate change--and the bad science it's steeped in--have been analyzed in exquisite detail by everybody from Paul Krugman, Berkeley economist J. Bradford DeLong, to the Union of Concerned Scientists, to various climate scientists spread hither and non about the Web.
That's a lot of links, but they're there so you can go back and read page-by-page breakdowns of the mistakes and inaccuracies, by experts, if you want. I think that's important, because I know at least some of you are going to assume that any criticism of this book and its contents is all about some violation of pseudo-religious orthodoxy. I want you to be able to go see that this is about science. If you just want a quick summary, though, read on... Read the rest
Giant underwater logging machine
Poison ivy invades America
As a huge fan of FlowingData, NPR and electricity, I'm super excited about this interactive map that gives you a clear view of the structure of the U.S. power grid. Clicking through, you'll see how areas of the country currently are (and aren't) connected to one another, what's in the works to improve the system, and why that matters (a lot) when you start talking about alternative energy sources. Good stuff.
In this picture, you can see the yellow lines that really seem to do a good job of efficiently linking up the whole country. Those power lines haven't been built yet. In the interactive part, you can take those off, revealing a clearer view of our current transmission infrastructure that looks more like a series of occasionally connected river systems than a grid. Read the rest
John Muir, Sierra Club founder and Yosemite savior featured in the new Ken Burns docoumentary
, was a fantastically creative maker too! The Sierra Club has posted details about several of his inventions, including an alarm clock that knocks the leg out from under the bed, and his mechanical study desk, pictured above, that "would automatically light his lamp and fire, open the right book to study, and then change books after half an hour." "Was John Muir a Mad Scientist?" (Thanks, Orli Cotel!) Read the rest