Hugh sez, "This school in Bangladesh has tunnels for reading and playing and sunny, colorful porches. They can be built by hand by the people of the village (including the kids who will attend). The young designer, Anna Heringer, is a finalist for the Curry Stone Design Prize, given to individuals or groups for design solutions that addresses social justice."
Dominic from CBC Radio sez, "Darren Atkinson is a husband, a father, a musician... and a dumpster diver. If he's not playing drums for a living, he's diving into industrial waste bins, looking for treasure. This is work. This is his 'job'. He sells what he can, or trades thrown-away goods for services and favours. But can a self-confessed - and possibly obsessed - 'dumpsterologist' make a living from the cast-offs of our consumer society?"
Darren is an old pal of mine, and I've written about his amazing life and ethic for Wired and Forbes. This is fantastic radio documentary on him!
Over at Wired's Danger Room blog, news that an environmental nonprofit has obtained photos of the Department of Energy's "specially designed trucks" used to transport nuclear material around the United States. They pretty much look like any other transport truck, which is a little creepy, considering what they contain while they're rollin' down the highway. Just this week, a similar vehicle carrying missiles overturned -- so, safety concerns are in the air right now. Snip:
"The trucks carrying nuclear weapons and dangerous materials such as plutonium pass through cities and neighborhoods all the time and the public should be aware of what they look like," says Tom Clements of the Friends of the Earth group based in Columbia, South Carolina, which obtained the photos through a Freedom of Information Act request. "Release of these photos will help inform the public about secretive shipments of dangerous nuclear material that are taking place in plain view."
Los Angeles County Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Martin said, "We are going to burn, cut, foam and gel. And if that doesn't work, we're going to pray. This place is worth a lot, but it's not worth dying for. "
In a worst-case scenario, firefighters were expected to retreat to the safety of the observatory parking lot or seek refuge in the concrete and steel basement of the 105-year-old, 100-inch telescope observatory. A Martin Mars air tanker, also known as a Super Scooper, dropped 7,500 gallons of water on Mt. Wilson.
(Photo: Dave Bullock, more here, click image to enlarge). Yes, they come every year, but the 2009 fires are now being reported as the largest ever in LA County's history. 122,000 acres and counting (the land mass of San Francisco and Las Vegas combined, with room to spare). Watching the blaze from a seaside rooftop last night was like gazing out at a distant, roiling Mordor.
Some of what I'm following: On Twitter, hashtag #stationfires. @LATimesfires is doing a nice job. And Load this KML in Google Earth for a comprehensive data set. Please share other resources of note in the comments.
Nothing new in here for slow/sustainable food junkies, but it's wonderful to see this discussion expand beyond alt.food.michael.pollan. Noteworthy in that it's an easy item to forward to friends and relatives who won't have the patience or inclination to read through a dozen Boing Boing posts on the matter, or subscribe to Ethicurean. Snip:
Somewhere in Iowa, a pig is being raised in a confined pen, packed in so tightly with other swine that their curly tails have been chopped off so they won't bite one another. To prevent him from getting sick in such close quarters, he is dosed with antibiotics. The waste produced by the pig and his thousands of pen mates on the factory farm where they live goes into manure lagoons that blanket neighboring communities with air pollution and a stomach-churning stench. He's fed on American corn that was grown with the help of government subsidies and millions of tons of chemical fertilizer. When the pig is slaughtered, at about 5 months of age, he'll become sausage or bacon that will sell cheap, feeding an American addiction to meat that has contributed to an obesity epidemic currently afflicting more than two-thirds of the population. And when the rains come, the excess fertilizer that coaxed so much corn from the ground will be washed into the Mississippi River and down into the Gulf of Mexico, where it will help kill fish for miles and miles around. That's the state of your bacon -- circa 2009.
Matt sez, "Sasha Pohflepp created a wonderful counter-factual history of a USA where Carter beat Reagan and created a 'space-race' for renewable energy and planetary engineering. Regine from We-Make-Money-Not-Art has the story..."
The project asks how visions like these are being created in the public imagination but also how they are being reflected by the economy and by individuals. In the case of weather modification, people are modifying their cars into lightning harvesters to participate in the experiments, both scientifically and commercially. The car presented in the model below is a modified Chevrolet El Camino that has been fitted with a lightning rod and various electrical equipment like variable resistors and capacitor banks to store the electricity from a lightning strike. Drivers are then able to sell the stored electricity at any one of the drive-through energy exchanges, which have opened around the zone.
The Golden Institute found a way to modify freeways and harness the energy which would otherwise be lost through braking when a vehicle exits the freeway at a velocity of about 55 miles per hour. Now, vehicles are equipped with magnets. As they exit the freeway at high-speed, the cars are gradually slowed down employing the Lorentz force as they pass through a series of induction-coils. The coils are typically operated by a franchise like Chuck's Café and if used effectively can get the driver a discount on a cup of coffee.
I have a fiancee and a son to provide for, so I decided to take a hard look at our prospects for survival if our consumer safety nets went away. For now, my green lifestyle choices at my remote 41-acre outpost in the American Southwest are optional. You know, growing lettuce instead of buying Chilean. Using organic cotton diapers instead of buying Pampers. But what if one morning in, say, 2049, I wake up to milk my goats and find out that supplies are no longer streaming in from China and California? What would I do if both box stores and crunchy food co-ops suddenly were no more?
In other words, I'm examining my place in a hypothetical post-oil, post-consumer society 40 years in the future.
Now, I'm not rooting for such a thing. Slave labor, forest depletion, climate change and global resource wars aside, globalization has a lot going for it. I love that I can email a musician in Mauritania and ask to download his latest album. And anyway, lots of people still see globalization as the economic model for the foreseeable future. But when I was covering the former Soviet Union as a journalist in the 1990s, every single person I met told me that they'd thought pigs would fly before the Politburo crumbled.
Here's Kim Stanley Robinson, author of the stupendous Red Mars books, in the Washington Post explaining why we shouldn't go to space -- and why we should.
The creation of a cosmic diaspora is just one argument for putting humans in space -- a bad one. But now, as human-made climate change has thrust us into the role of stewards of the global biosphere, new reasons, good ones, have emerged. Indeed, keeping our space ambitions relatively local -- within our own solar system -- can help us find solutions for the climate crisis.
It has been said that space science is an Earth science, and that is no paradox. Our climate crisis is very much a matter of interactions between our planet and our sun. That being the case, our understanding is vastly enhanced by going into space and looking down at the Earth, learning things we cannot learn when we stay on the ground.
Studying other planets helps as well. The two closest planets have very different histories, with a runaway greenhouse effect on Venus and the freezing of an atmosphere on Mars. Beyond them spin planets and moons of various kinds, including several that might harbor life. Comparative planetology is useful in our role as Earth's stewards; we discovered the holes in our ozone layer by studying similar chemical interactions in the atmosphere of Venus. This kind of unexpected insight could easily happen again.
Chemist Eric Stroud is the proprietor of SharkDefense, a company that develops new shark repellents. His aim is to protect sharks from people, keeping them away from trawling nets and fishing lines. Apparently, approximately 12 million sharks are accidentally ensnared each year. Some of Stroud's experimental repellents are extracted dead sharks themselves. The odor, which smells like stinky feet, is quite abhorrent to the sharks. From Smithsonian:
Magnets made from iron, boron and neodymium are another promising repellent being developed by SharkDefense. Eric Stroud discovered their repellent potential by accident. According to Stroud, he and colleague Michael Hermann were playing with magnets near a research tank containing lemon and nurse sharks. After spotting a broken pump, Stroud set a magnet down on the tank’s side, and the sharks took off. He thinks that the magnets may overload the sharks’ Ampullae of Lorenzini. These tiny pits found along a shark's head are used to detect faint electrical signals emitted by prey, in the same way a doctor uses an EKG to detect the electricity generated by your pumping heart. The magnets are unlikely to cause pain, says Richard Brill, a SharkDefense collaborator at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. He and others hypothesize that it’s equivalent to a bright flash of light. You wince because it’s overloading the visual receptors in your eyes. “It’s the same idea with the sharks, except it’s overloading these electrical receptors, “ Brill says. Stroud has been using stationary magnets so far, but he also sees potential in spinning magnets, which generate a greater magnetic field.
Stroud and his team are also working with electropositive metals, which produce a current when placed in seawater and also possibly affect sharks’ electromagnetic sense organs. Scientists are testing the metal repellents as a solution for the dogfish bycatch problem. Researchers found that the metals, when attached to fishing lines, reduced shark bycatch by 17 percent in Alaskan fisheries. But when the experiment was repeated in the Gulf of Maine, the results were negligible. “We think the dogfish are just going after two different preys,” says Stroud, who is completing a Ph.D. in chemistry at Seton Hall University. Rice speculates that the metals may not affect Northeast dogfish because the sharks are using smell more than their Ampullae of Lorenzini to detect prey.
Photo credit: scrapthispack @ FlickrNote: Each week we'll be bringing you a roundup of fresh green topics from our friends over at TreeHugger. Enjoy!Packaging Design At Its Worst
Poor packaging design and ridiculous examples of over-packaging come in all shapes and sizes, but it doesn't get much worse than these individually-wrapped bananas.
Human Shrub Attacks Town
Citizens of Colchester beware! Take to your houses. A creature from the swamps has been filling empty planters and baskets with brightly-coloured marigolds and begonias, last seen wandering the streets carrying a sign saying "Save the Roses."
Your Eco-Wood Might Be Illegal
Thinking of buying sustainably harvested wood from Brazil? Check the label, could be illegal wood passed off as eco-certified.
6 Ways To Defuse Anti-Cyclist Road Rage
If you are a cyclist and the victim of Auto Road Rage, there are a number of things you can do to keep the peace. I like #5, don your best plumage.
We've just released our 2009 "Attention Philanthropy" grants, our effort to shine a light on awesome work that's undeservedly obscure. 100 nominators from around the world helped us find amazing projects in fields as diverse as human rights, urban planning, citizen media and renewable energy. There's a day's worth of interesting reading just going down the whole list, but even a quick visit will probably turn you on to some cool things you didn't know existed.
Attention philanthropy is a gift of notice. In a noisy world, deluged in advertising, overrun with PR flacks and crowded with the superficial, one of the biggest barriers to success for a small, good idea or noble enterprise can simply be getting noticed in the first place.
Here's your chance to do a simple, good thing. If the work you find on these pages inspires you, learn more. Visit their websites, contribute to their projects and, above all, help us spread the word far and wide.
A textile company and coffin manufacturer are jointly introducing a new line of coffins made from wool or organic cotton. From a press release:
This is an innovative coffin and something completely new for the alternative coffin market, but the use of wool in burials is nothing new. The Burial in Wool Act of 1667 made it a legal requirement for the dead to be buried in woollen shrouds in an attempt to boost the struggling woollen industry of the time. With the current social eco agenda, rising concerns on the environmental impact of burials and this innovative product, the industry has come full circle.”
And from the description of the casket seen here, the Swaledale model:
The Swaledale coffin is made in Yorkshire using pure new wool, supported on a strong recycled cardboard frame. Wool is a fibre with a true "green" lineage that is both sustainable and biodegradable. The interior is generously lined with cotton and attractively edged in jute.
Independently tested and accredited for strength and weight bearing, the Swaledale's unique design combines the highest environmental standards with an attractive and soft feel. Designed to differ from the traditional wooden coffin, it offers a contemporary style with comfortable handling. The concept is completed with a personalised embroidered woollen name plate. All the materials used in the Swaledale coffin are readily biodegradable and suitable for cremation and all types of burial.
The news release from Sandia National Laboratories says the SunCatcher power system (above) unveiled at the National Solar Thermal Test Facility today is the result of a design partnership with Stirling Energy Systems and Tessera Solar. But I think they really designed 'em with Belgian surrealist painter René Magritte. Yes, I know he died in 1967, but the gubmint's secret art-zombie time travel machines address that matter. Duh.
The Obama Administration will lend Tesla Motors $465 million to build an electric sedan and the battery packs needed to propel it. It's one of three loans totaling almost $8 billion that the Department of Energy awarded today to spur the development of fuel-efficient vehicles.