World Changing 29/09/2010 20:30
The market for clean energy products is growing among Indias rural poor, a massive segment that consists of 114 million households and more than 60 percent of the nations population of 1.15 billion, according to a new report. Nearly half of Indias rural poor do not have reliable access to electricity and more than 85 percent largely rely on firewood or dung for cooking and heating. As a result, Indian companies are increasingly seeing a market opportunity in providing alternative cooking and electricity products including solar lanterns, energy-efficient stoves, biomass gasification, and small-scale hydropower to the nations rural market, says the report published by the Centre for Development Finance and the World Resources Institute. Since 2004, the market for green energy products in rural India has grown at an average rate of 36 percent a year and this market could eventually grow to more than $2.1 billion annually, the report said. In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the continued emergence of this market could have profound effects on human health in rural India, as firewood and dung fires produce sooty emissions linked to health problems and premature death.
This post originally appeared on Yale Environment 360.
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(Posted by Yale Environment 360 in Energy at 10:30 AM)
World Changing 29/09/2010 20:00
This book presents a wide range of projects in container architecture - a contemporary architectural phenomenon. It features container structures used as pop-up stores and temporary exhibits as well as sophisticated housing and office spaces that provoke and inspire while setting new standards in functionality and aesthetics. But the book is not only visually inspiring. Because it documents plans, describes associated costs, and suggests concrete solutions for common problems, it is a practical reference for architects, planners, and cultural activists as well as event and marketing managers, to guide them in deciding what types of containers are best suited to their upcoming projects.
Adam Kalkin, 12 Container House
Here's one book i picked up thinking i'd have nothing but a moment of harmless fun. The kind you find inside coffee table books with spectacular pictures and next to no text. How wrong I was! The word "Practical" in the title should not be underestimated. Container Atlas contains indeed plenty of information for anyone willing to live or work inside a container: transportation, construction laws, ecological impact, hidden costs and other economic aspects, even construction physics.
Interestingly, the volume opens on the history of container transportation. It's not exactly a fairy tale. The man responsible for the standardization and worldwide adoption (nowadays, some 90% of non-bulk cargo transits by sea inside containers) of the metal box. Malcom McLean is depicted as a man keen on achieving maximum profit and efficiency. He was a brilliant businessman, not a philanthropist. For example, he would crush the habits of giving names to trucks and of placing name tags inside the driver's can. Convinced that a company that allowed employees to develop a personal relationship to one particular truck could not run efficiently, he gave trucks numbers.
Containers have since then been used as emergency housing for asylum seekers, temporary buildings in disaster areas or as construction site offices.
LOT-EK, Uniqlo container store, 2006
The dozens of architects, designers and artists whose work is presented in the book managed to, at at last!, bring emotion and personality to the stern container. And that's where the fun i was expecting begins. Whether they are used as part of a more 'traditional' architecture or as the sole building blocks of a dwelling, whether they are used as a cheap and quirky way to advertise how edgy a company (cf. Freitag's flagship store in Zurich and that pop Puma City) or to bring culture on a city square, containers prove that they can outdo the stigma of the standardized box:
A spectacular 100 square-meter tea pavilion suspended above the ground overlooking the Sea of Japan.
Bureau des Mésarchitectures, Sky is the Limit, 2008, in Yang-yang, South Korea
Sculp(IT) did the most brilliant job at turning a space only 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) wide into a living / working space as well as a light installation. They are located in Antwerp's red light district after all.
Let's fire up the pictures:
Angela Fritsch Architekten's Gold Pavilion in the park of The Alice-Hospital vom Roten Kreuz in Darmstadt, Germany. The container box is covered with a wallpaper made out of sheet metal. The light comes through the cut-out ornamental leaves.
Angela Fritsch Architekten, Gold Pavilion
The Cancer Center in Amsterdam is a semi-permanent structure erected while the research and treatment clinic was rebuilt and enlarged. The 7 storey building was built within a year.
Just added to my wish list:
Castor Design, the Sauna Box
Not sure my eyes will ever recover from the brashness of these sanitary facilities:
Views inside the book:
This post originally appeared on Regine's blog 'we make money not art.'
Related stories in the Worldchanging archives:
- Buses, Kegs, and Cranes: Visions of Radical Reuse from Architect Aristide Antonas | Geoff Manaugh, 8 Jun 10
- Turning Shipping Containers Into Customizable, Affordable Housing | Julia Levitt, 26 Feb 09
- Andrew Maynard's Newest Brainchild: Corb V2.0 | Sarah Rich, 20 Feb 07
- Disaster Relief in a Box | Hassan Masum, 20 Jan 05
- More Container Architecture | Alex Steffen, 11 Mar 05
- Shipping Container Urbanism | Jamais Cascio, 17 Aug 04
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(Posted by Regine Debatty in Green Building at 10:00 AM)
World Changing 29/09/2010 19:30
Can technology help put a stop to child sex trafficking? A new anti-trafficking tech task force, organized by the DNA Foundation, is working towards eliminating online sex trade transactions.
Last week, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore announced the launch of the "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) on behalf of their DNA Foundation and their partners at the NoVo Foundation. I was at the press conference and surprised to learn that:
- 12.3 million people are enslaved today worldwide
- 2 million of those people are children bought and sold in the global commercial sex trade
- Between 100,00 and 300,000 of those children are bought and sold in the United States
- The average age of entry to the commercial sex trade is 13 years old
And, according to Moore, "there is a statistic that says 1 in 5 men have engaged in the commercial sex trade." The "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign aims to change cultural stereotypes that allow this market to exist; to educate people about the problem; to recruit successful and visible male role models for young boys to emulate; and to get, in Kutcher's words, "people to stand up and be real men and women and say that what is happening in the world today is not okay." As Moore continued, "real men protect, respect, love and care for girls. Real men don't buy girls."
In addition to the "Real Men" public awareness campaign, the DNA Foundation has brought together an "anti-trafficking tech task force" of leading technology companies, including Microsoft, Google, Twitter, and Facebook, with Internet Service Providers, government and law enforcement officials to dismantle the online market for child sex slavery, which is where 76% of transactions for underage girls in the commercial sex trade are made. "The purpose of this tech task force is to create technology solutions to end human trafficking online," Kutcher said. "We believe that, together, we can create a trafficking-free internet and that's our mission, that's our goal." Pamela Passman, Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Global Corporate Affairs, shared one way that Microsoft is helping: They've donated their "Photo DNA" technology to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), which will assist them to track, identify and remove illegal and exploitative images online.
If you'd like to view the press conference and hear more about the "Real Men Don't Buy Girls" campaign, as well as learn more about the efforts the tech task force is undertaking, click here. Kutcher makes a particularly impassioned speech about the need for this campaign between 22:23 - 25:14 in the online video.
Note: Click here for my other posts from CGI.
Related stories in the Worldchanging archives:
- TED Global 2010: Sheryl WuDunn Empowering Women, Defending Development Aid | Ethan Zuckerman, 16 Jul 10
Of obstacles to gender equality, WuDunn sees sex trafficking as the most serious. In the 19th century, slaves were worth about $40,000 in todays dollars. Girls trafficked for sex are sold for a few hundred dollars. Theyre more disposeable than African slaves were.
- Kids With Cameras' Zana Briski is WorldChanging | Cameron Sinclair, 23 Nov 04
By 2002 Briski had formed Kids with Cameras, a non-profit organization to help educate the children of Calcutta's prostitutes and to empower other marginalized children worldwide through learning the art of photography. ¶ In 2003 Briski and co-director Ross Kauffman completed their first film, Born Into Brothels, a snapshot (sorry, bad pun) into the groups work in Calcutta. In the past year the film has won over 17 film festival awards, including the 2004 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Audience Award and being shortlisted for the IDA award, the press are already talking about a possible Oscar nod for this stunning film. ¶ Following the success of Born into Brothels, Zana Briski and the Kids With Cameras staff are mounting a campaign to provide a combined educational and residential facility for the children whose lives were touched by the workshops, and for children like them around the world.
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(Posted by Amanda Reed in Movement Building and Activism at 9:30 AM)
World Changing 28/09/2010 23:34
It's geek bait, really: a new study purports to solve transportation problems by using network models to let traffic lights self-organize into an optimal pattern. Over the last week, the blogosphere's been buzzing a bit about the idea:
We're fixed on the idea that lights should cycle on and off in a regular and predictable way, but this idea, they say, is unnecessarily restrictive. And less orderly patterns could be far more efficient... making traffic jams far less frequent.
Jams can arise, obviously, if traffic entering a road overloads its capacity. To avoid this, Helbing and Lämmer gave each set of lights sensors that feed information about the traffic conditions at a given moment into a computer chip, which then calculates the flow of vehicles expected in the near future. It also works out how long the lights should stay green in order to clear the road and thereby relieve the pressure. In this way, each set of lights can estimate for itself how best to adapt to the conditions expected at the next moment.
The problem is, great streets have many jobs, and moving cars is only one of them. Nothing is said here about the effects of this system on pedestrians or bicyclists. Indeed, no mention is even made of the fact that in many urban settings, cars moving at slower speeds makes everyone much safer (since cars moving faster get in more accidents, while drivers hitting pedestrians are much more likely to kill them when driving 40 miles-per-hour than 20). What optimizes an urban landscape for drivers may in fact make it dangerous, unpleasant, even unworkable for other people using the streets. Indeed, I suspect it's likely that this system is the very opposite of deep walkability.
Seeing only nails, traffic engineers scramble to build a better hammer. The problem may be with the very job description traffic engineer, an outmoded concept which seems to define the responsibilities of those planning our roads only by the speed of the cars passing over them.
What we need are planners who see land use, housing, transportation and quality of life as interwoven aspects of the same system, and plan accordingly. We can't build bright green cities by hacking the stoplights.
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(Posted by Alex Steffen in Transportation at 1:34 PM)
World Changing 28/09/2010 23:30
From hunting gear to shoes, ancient artifacts once covered by ice are being unearthed in Norway. Now scientists face a race against time to preserve them
by Robin McKie
Norwegian archaeologists Norwegian archaeologists Trond Vihovde, left, and Elling Utvik Wammer use a GPS marker to register the location of sticks used in reindeer hunting from before the Viking Age. Photograph: Alister Doyle/Reuters
Archaeologists have gained an unexpected benefit from global warming. They have discovered melting ice sheets and glaciers are exposing ancient artifacts that had been covered with thick layers of ice for millennia.
The discoveries are providing new insights into the behavior of our ancestors but they come at a price. So rapid is the rise in global temperatures, and so great is the rate of disintegration of the world's glaciers, that archaeologists risk losing precious relics freed from the icy tombs. Wood rots in a few years once freed from ice while rarer feathers used on arrows, wool or leather, crumble to dust in days unless stored in a freezer. As a result, archaeologists are racing against time to find and save these newly exposed wonders.
A perfect example is provided at Juvfonna in Norway, where reindeer hunting gear used by the Vikings' ancestors has been found littering the ground as the front edge of Juvfonna's ice sheet has retreated. A section more than 60ft wide has disappeared over the course of 12 months, exposing several hundred artifacts. "It's like a time machine... the ice has not been this small for many, many centuries," says Lars Piloe, the Dane heading a team of "snow patch archaeologists".
Bows and arrows, specialized hunting sticks used to drive reindeer towards archers and even a 3,400-year-old leather shoe have been found at the site in the Jotunheimen mountains, home of the "ice giants" of Norse mythology. These finds have been logged with a GPS satellite marker before being taken for examination. From these measurements, archaeologists reckon people using hunting sticks each about a meter long with a flapping piece of wood attached by connecting thread were set up about two meters apart. They then drove reindeer toward hunters who needed to get within 60ft of an animal to have a chance of hitting one with an iron-tipped arrow.
Such a hunt would require 15 to 20 people, Piloe adds, indicating that Norway had an organized society around the start of the dark ages, 1,500 years ago. "Our main focus is the rescue part," according to Piloe. "There are many ice patches. We can only cover a few. We know we are losing artifacts everywhere."
Similar discoveries have been made in glaciers or in permafrost from Alaska to Siberia. Italy's iceman "Ötzi", killed by an arrow wound approximately 5,000 years ago, was found in an Alpine glacier, for example.
Patrick Hunt, of Stanford University in California, who is trying to find where Carthaginian general Hannibal invaded Italy in 218BC with an army and elephants, says there is now an alarming rate of thaw in the Alps: "This is the first summer since 1994 when we began our field excavations above 8,000ft that we have not been inundated by even one day of rain, sleet and snow flurries. I expect we will see more ice patch archaeology discoveries."
Just how many others will be lost to science is difficult to assess, however.
This post originally appeared on The Guardian.
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(Posted by WorldChanging Team in Climate Change at 1:30 PM)
World Changing 28/09/2010 22:00
When officials gather for an international summit on biodiversity next month, they might look to remind the world why species matter to humans: for producing oxygen, finding new drugs, making agricultural crops more productive, and something far less tangible a sense of wonder.
by Richard Conniff
We live in what is paradoxically a great age of discovery and also of mass extinction. Astonishing new species turn up daily, as new roads and new technologies penetrate formerly remote habitats. And species also vanish forever, at what scientists estimate to be 100 to 1,000 times the normal rate of extinction.
Over the past few years, as I was working on a book about the history of species discovery, I often found myself coming back to a fundamental question: Why do species matter? That is, why should ordinary people care if scientists discover one species or pronounce the demise of another?
It may seem too obvious to need asking. In certain limited contexts, people clearly do care. We will go to great lengths to protect a boutique species like the giant panda, for instance. We also thrill to the possibility of finding the slightest microbial hint of life in outer space, hardly blinking when the U.S. government spends $7 billion a year largely for that purpose. Meanwhile, we spend pennies exploring the alien life forms that are all around us here on Earth.
Maybe its just human nature not to value or even see the thing thats right in front of our faces. And maybe its also a failure of communication. That is, scientists may need to explain their work on a far more basic level not Why do species matter? but Is food important to you? or Do you want your children to have effective medicines when they get sick? or even Do you like to breathe? None of these questions overstates the importance of species.
For instance, Prochlorococcus is an ocean-dwelling genus of cyanobacteria and among the most abundant life forms on Earth. Why should we care? Because it produces about 20 percent of the oxygen we breathe and yet until an MIT microbiologist named Sally Chisholm discovered it in 1986, Prochlorococcus was unknown. We need to understand in short that our lives depend on species most of us have never heard of species we otherwise tend to shrug off as obscure, trivial, even undesirable.
Vultures, for instance. When we cause a species to go into decline, we almost never know and hardly even stop to think about what we might be losing in the process. In truth, it may be hard to think about, because the cascading effects of our actions are sometimes freakishly distant from the original cause. So in India in the early 1990s, farmers began using the anti-inflammatory drug diclofenac for the apparently worthy purpose of relieving pain and fever in their livestock. Unfortunately, vultures scavenging on livestock carcasses accumulated large quantities of the drug and promptly died of renal failure. Over a 14-year period, populations of three vulture species plummeted by between 96.8 and 99.9 percent.
Black Vultures (Photo via Flickr / barloventomagico)
Losing these efficient scavengers meant livestock carcasses often got left in the open to rot. It was one of those ecosystem services manufacturing oxygen, soaking up carbon dioxide, preventing floods, taking out the garbage that species generally provide unnoticed, until they stop. But the impacts went well beyond the stench, according to a 2008 article in Ecological Economics. Moving into the niche vacated by the vultures, feral dog populations boomed by up to 9 million animals over the same period. Dog bites and the incidence of rabies in humans also increased, and the authors conservatively estimated that an additional 48,000 people died during the 14-year period as a result. Calculating the bottom-line worth of what we get from the natural world is notoriously difficult. But even pricing lives at a fraction of developed world values, the near-total loss of three insignificant vulture species has so far cost India an estimated $24 billion.
A diversity of species can also help prevent the emergence of new diseases, though we tend to blame, rather than credit, nature for this particular ecosystem service. We sometimes respond to Lyme disease, for instance, by trying to kill the major players, blacklegged ticks and white-footed mice. But the dilution effect, proposed by Rick Ostfeld at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, suggests counter-intuitively that having the broadest variety of host species in a habitat is a better way to limit disease. Some of those hosts will be ineffective, or even dead ends, at transmitting the infectious organism. So they dilute the effect and keep the disease organism from building up and spilling over to humans. But when we reduce biodiversity by breaking up the forest for our backyards, we accidentally favor the most effective host in this case, the white-footed mouse. And we free the undiluted disease organism to operate at full strength.
The implications go well beyond Lyme disease. Around the world over the past half-century, researchers have tracked about 150 emerging infectious diseases, from Ebola to HIV, with 60 to 70 percent being zoonotic that is, transmitted from animals to humans. The question, says Aaron Bernstein, a Harvard pediatrician and co-editor of the 2008 book Sustaining Life: How Human Health Depends on Biodiversity, is whether humans are doing something to make these zoonotic diseases come out of the woodwork. Clearly, we are doing a lot of one particular thing knocking down forests and creating species-poor habitats with no dilution effect in their place. Thus the fear is that many more such epidemics may lie ahead.
And yet the value of even big, charismatic species remains so poorly understood that a Rutgers University philosopher writing in The New York Times recently proposed gradually wiping out cruel carnivorous species and replacing them with gentle vegetarians. He was upset that lions do not lie down with lambs, except to eat them for dinner. And he was apparently oblivious to the larger cruelty called a trophic cascade: Loss of predators strips a habitat of its diversity and leaves behind the animal equivalent of the civil service, or what writer David Quammen has called a pestilence of minor nibblers.
For instance, in the rocky world between high and low tides on the Pacific Coast near Seattle, the food chain (or trophic community, from the Greek trophikos, or nourishment) consists of barnacles, limpets, chitins, anemones, and particularly mussels. Starfish are the dominant predator. So mussels normally crowd up along the high tide line, where starfish are less likely to chomp them. In one study, a biologist removed the starfish to see what would happen. The mussels soon crept down toward deeper water, crowding out other species. Within a few years, only eight of the 15 original species still lived in that neighborhood. For all their apparent cruelty, killer species can be a means of fostering biodiversity.
So do individual speci
World Changing 28/09/2010 21:00
One of the prizes of the upcoming US elections is control of statehouses and governors mansions. The goal is not just the sheer number of Democrat or Repblican held seats, but the ability to control the redistricting process. Every ten years, in response to the shifts in population documented in the census, states redraw Congressional districts, adding or subtracting seats to ensure proportional representation, and, in the process, shaping seats to make them easier for the party in power to win and hold. Mara Liasson did an excellent story for NPR outlining the importance of redistricting and the resources being put towards races to win statehouse seats basically, one of the prizes at stake in the 2010 elections is the ability to gerrymander.
NY-28, featured in Michael Coopers NYTimes piece
Sundays New York Times Week in Review includes a great piece by Michael Cooper on gerrymandering Congressional districts, including five absurd districts created to stack elections, like the district above that spans more than 100 miles in upstate New York, packing as many Democrats as possible into one area to create Republican seats. The Cooper piece makes clear that redistricting is a dark art, involving detailed demographic data and algorithms capable of calculating partisan gains through packing and splitting.
Screenshot from The Redistricting Game
Ever wanted to practice those dark arts? An excellent simulation from USCs Annenberg Center and USCs Game Innovation Lab gives you the opportunity. The Redistricting Game requires you to draw five sets voting districts, optimized for different outcomes. (The game uses pop-up windows, and you may need to make an exception for your pop-up blocker to play it.) The first scenario simply requires you to create proportional districts, with roughly equivalent numbers of voters in each. The second and third get more cynical which is to say, more realistic. In one, you turn a state that has two Democratic and two Republican districts into one thats three and one. In the other, you dont switch control of any seats around you simply redistrict to ensure safe seats for all elected officials.
The fourth scenario brings in the Voting Rights Acts and requires a new 65% African-American district to be added to the map. Its extremely difficult to draw this district without damaging your two Democratic incumbents, wholl vote against your plan. In the fifth scenario, Representative John Tanners plan for redistricting has been adopted, and youve got to create districts without considering partisan issues. Play this scenario on the basic level, and all you need to do is create compact, contiguous districts with the right number of people in them. This seemed like a cop-out to me all we need to do is pass this legislation and good things will result, says the game as advocate.
Fortunately, the games designers are far more cynical than that. On the advanced level closer to actual political reality that compact, contiguous plan will be voted down by all your bipartisan panel members on partisan lines. You then need to figure out how to ensure partisan victory for one side, while having no information on the partisanship of the voters youre dividing. Good fun. While the game was created in 2007, it couldnt be much more timely, and I hope journalists will turn to it as a resource to help explain what actually goes on in redistricting in the coming year.
Im often suspicious of games for change, socially responsible games, serious games I think a lot of foundations support the creation of games without much thought for whether they ultimately reach their intended audience, and sometimes make funding decisions based on the idea that funding games will be perceived as forward-looking, creative and edgy. I know of a number of games that had unimpeachable motives behind their creation, but failed to find an audience, either because the gameplay was mediocre or the subject in question wasnt well explained via a game.
Redistricting seems to fit the game model better than many other problems in a very real way, the people who draw constituencies are playing a computer game, so the process is easier to render on the screen than, say, the process of door-to-door campaigning. Playing for half an hour this morning, I felt like I learned something about the intersection of forces that was hard to get from Coopers piece.
Its possible that Coopers article illustrates a problem Im starting to see in a lot of advocacy advocacy from extreme examples. A trend in recent years in both conservative and progressive advocacy has been realizing the power of narrative. Telling a compelling human story of someone affected by a particular policy or problem can be far more affecting that marshaling statistics and analysis. In a climate where policy decisions seem to be less reality based than in (some idealized?) past times, offering a compelling narrative looks to be an essential aspect of advocacy.
To offer a compelling narrative, it helps to show an extreme miscarriage of justice for example, the arrest of 15% of the African American population of Tulia, Texas on fraudulent drug charges by a corrupt police sting operation. (Indeed, the story is so compelling that its been the subject of two documentaries, and a forthcoming film starring Halle Berry) The Tulia story sticks in the mind of anyone whos heard it but so do the extreme circumstances: the shocking credulity of police in accepting the accounts of a paid informant, the scale of the arrests, the aggressiveness of the prosecution, the large number of people affected. Progressive advocates want to use the story of Tulia to explain that there are systemic weaknesses in the criminal justice system that lead African Americans to be disproportionately arrested, especially for drug crimes.
We tell the Tulia story and back it with statistics that make the case that racial disparity in policing isnt as unusual as we might think policies like stop and frisk mean that many more African American and Latino men have contact with police than white men, and more opportunity to be arrested for possession of small possessions of drugs. But the extreme nature of the Tulia situation can distract us from more ordinary injustice the fact that a black man in certain precincts of New York City had a 30-36% chance of being stopped and questioned by police during 2006. I worry that theres a danger we get caught up with the extraordinary narrative and end up forgetting the more ordinary, commonplace facts.
Similarly, Im not sure Coopers five gerrymandered districts help me understand how ordinary and everyday the shaping of election districts to create partisan outcomes actually is. (I wrote this, and was about to write, After all, my Congressional district makes pretty good sense, and wasnt cre
World Changing 28/09/2010 20:42
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(Posted by WorldChanging Team in Transforming Business at 10:42 AM)
World Changing 27/09/2010 23:00
by Kristi van Riet
But ahead of the conference, Bjarne Ringstad, curator of the Triennalle, asked me to reflect on how the role of such set-piece events might evolve to match the new challenges design is facing.
Here is what I sent him:
We are facing an array of wicked problems that are simultaneously complex, uncertain and urgent. We have to learn how to adapt to unpredictable and possibly catastrophic disruptions to climate, financial systems, and resource flows.
A single-vision, top down approach to design and planning simply does not work in the face of so much uncertainty.
The new watchword is adaptive resilience a condition in which society, its experts, and its citizens, must learn how to adapt to change continuously.
In this situation, the design focus needs to evolve from the delivery of of large-scale hard-wired solutions, towards a focus on resource ecologies, land-use, and time-use.
The primary design activity, in this context, is more a conversation than the production of a blueprint.
Biennials and triennials are important ways to start these new conversations. They can bring new groups of people together to imagine sustainable alternatives to the way we do things now - and then identify design actions, some of them small, that would bring these alternatives closer.
To start these conversations the content of a design biennial and the kinds of people participating, needs to change.
Rather than focus on design objects or on urban visions, the focus needs to be on how, in practical ways, we will re-design the systems, institutions and processes that shape our daily lives.
Sustainable development requires a system discontinuity in the way we produce, consume and socially interact. A biennial should represent not resist that discontinuity.
As an example, consider land-use.
Cities need to re-conceive themselves as elements of a bioregion in which human settlements co-exist with, and are wholly dependent on, natural systems as well as human communities.
Some enlightened cities, such as Toronto, have already started to put the interests of these natural assets ahead of traditional planning priorities such as transportation infrastructures.
The practical way to achieve this re-ordering of priorities is to put foodsheds, and watersheds at the top of the agenda. A biennial is a perfect place to begin this reordering.
Another example could be time values. Norway, for example, must soon decide whether to invest a large part of its oil revenue endowment in high-speed rail links between several cities.
A traditional biennial would focus on infrastructure, stations, and glamorous buildings. This made sense when the energy costs of a train system and the loss of biodiversity involved in their construction - remained off balance sheet.
Now, however, the value of biodiversity and natural resources are beginning to appear in the plus column of national accounts. A biennial would be a perfect context to discuss the relative value to society of speed, and biodiversity.
What would one see, and talk about, in such a biennial?
The boat belongs to the Norwegian architect Sami Rintala near their office in Bodø in Norway.
A first step would be to use a biennial as an excuse to make a fresh evaluation of the assets and resources are already there, in their territory.
These assets can be hard or soft: natural assets such as wind, or sun, with the potential to generate energy; materials, and the skills needed to use them; abandoned spaces with the potential to be re-purposed; food and systems.
These asset maps are needed to complement, at the least, those maps used by planners or economists that tend to focus on hard things, such as roads or buildings.
Sustainability asset maps would make natural biodiversity their starting point with special emphasis on bioregions, foodsheds and watersheds.
In mapping such assets, it would be important to represent the interconnectedness and interdependence of systems.
This is where new creative design skills will be valuable and on display.
New forms of representation are needed to communicate energy and nutrient cycles, or biodiversity - and to show the different ways that healthy social systems depend upon, and are intertwined with, healthy economies and ecosystems.
The next generation biennial will not be a spectacle, nor a place of entertainment and distraction from realty. It can be spectacular, and fun, but have a practical focus on real-world outcomes.
One such outcome is resource efficiency. A priority in design for sustainability is to make it easier to share resources - resources such as energy, matter, time, skill, software, space, or food.
Resource efficiency is a social process, not a technical one.
The identification of individuals and groups who are already out there, and active, is therefore key.
[This was the approach John Thackara took with Designs of the Time (Dott) in North East England (where he was program director), and with City Eco Lab, the nomadic market of projects from St Etienne region produced for the city's Design Biennale].
In these kinds of event, community projects are developed with people from the region in response to two questions: what might life in a sustainable world be like? and, how can design help us get there?
When presented in a biennial context, their focus is on connecting people to new people, and helping them learn from each others other experience.
This connecting is itself a form of innovation.
Every city-region needs a market place in which people can present grassroots projects, exchange experiences, and involve fellow citizens in ever larger numbers as participants in these experiments.
The search for Net Zero Impact solutions, and the creation of interesting social alternatives, can be as exciting and engaging as the buzz of new technology used to be.
By keeping the question open by conceiving the biennial as a place for conversation and creation - energy and commitment can remain positive and productive.
This post originally appeared on Doors of Perception, a blog by John Thackara and by Kristi van Riet.
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(Posted by WorldChanging Team in Sustainable Development at 1:00 PM)
World Changing 27/09/2010 22:30
by Morgan Clendaniel
Cambridge, Massachusetts (my home town) seems to be doing a lot of cool things these days. They have recently installed a work by conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta: a streetlight powered entirely by dog droppings, called the ParkSpark Project.
It works simply: You put the dog poop into the large container, where it is digested by bacteria, creating methane gas, which can then be used to light a lamp. Biogas digesters like this are often used on landfills or for large amounts of cow manure, but it's unusual to see it on such a small, human scale.
Dog parks, as you know if you've ever been to one, create a lot of excrement. This new street light helps people connect their actions to the larger power system (poop in equals power out). But more importantly, it highlights the idea that there are potential energy sources all around us. If we're going to use much less oil, there isn't going to be a one-stop solution. It will be a combination of every available scrap of energy, from wind to solar to, yes, dog poop.
Photos by Matthew Mazzotta.
This post originally appeared on GOOD.
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(Posted by WorldChanging Team in Arts at 12:30 PM)