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Archive for March, 2009

dyson
The New York Times
 did an article on physicist Freeman Dyson, who is often cited as one of most high-profile ‘climate change skeptics.’ Well-known for his award-winning books, and important earlier work in physics, Dyson is now being called “a pompous twit,” “a blowhard,” “a cesspool of misinformation,” “an old coot riding into the sunset” and, perhaps inevitably, “a mad scientist,” says the New York Times.

Dyson says climate change is nothing to be concerned about. He says global warming, which he doesn’t dispute is occuring, may be preventing another on-coming ice age, and any warming could be combatted by adding more trees. Naturally, C02 causes trees to grow at a faster rate, Dyson contends, so climate change may lead to a rapid growth in trees worldwide. Dyson estimates that an extra one trillion trees would be needed to bring the earth’s temperature back down, and is interested in engineering ‘carbon-eating’ trees that could sequester more carbon than existing ones. Dyson also sees solar energy affordable and widespread within 50 years.

Dyson thinks worries about climate change take focus away from real problems such as species loss and the collapse of biodiversity in many ecosystems. Dyson says the factors driving these trends are too complicated to be solely linked to climate change. 

Dyson seems unconcerned by climate change because he has faith in ‘human ingenuity’ and the ability for new technologies to provide a solution. In the article, former Caltech president Marvin Goldberger said Dyson exemplifies that ‘human ingenuity':“You point Freeman at a problem and he’ll solve it,” Goldberger says. “He’s extraordinarily powerful.”

Read the article

Photo credit: Eugene Richards for The New York Times

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iPhorest

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Design Under Sky wrote about iPhorest, an iPhone application that enables users to plant trees virtually and contribute to The Conservation Fund. Everytime a tree is planted virtually, The Conservation Fund will plant a real tree along the Gulf Coast. The iPhorest takes you through a virtual tree planting exercise, and builds on the motion detection features in iPhones. According to iPhorest, steps include:

  • Dig a hole:  shovel and scoop with your iphone until your seedling appears
  • Touch the seed to plant the seedling
  • Shake your phone to create a storm and when the sun comes your tree begins to grow

The iPhorest was developed by iPhactory and Ecolife, and launched at the recent TED Conference. Ecolife Apparel planted one tree per TED attendee (2,200 trees in total) as a donation.

Read the article

Image Credit: iPhorest

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mozambique
Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Sciences’ blog, Environment 360, published a report on the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to support the protection of forests and strengthen biodiversity conservation programs. Google Earth and satellites are increasingly being used to find potential sites for conservation activities, support advocacy efforts and target on-the-ground action. Furthermore, the widespread availability of tools like Google Earth has armed “arm-chair conservationists” and local activists with better weapons for fighting environmental degredation. “Citizens and environmental groups are now using Google Earth to tracks threats to pristine rivers from hydroelectric projects, catalogue endangered species, help indigenous people in the Amazon protect their land, and alert citizens and government officials that boats are illegally fishing off the Canary Islands.”

Scientists and conservationists are using these tools to map deforestation in real time. “In the past several years, one of the chief uses for satellite imagery has been to accurately quantify the loss of tropical forests from the Amazon, to the Congo, to Indonesia. In Brazil, scientists and state environmental protection officials can now monitor fires and forest clearing almost in real-time and take action to combat the deforestation.” Additionally, governments are investing in sophisticated environmental monitoring tools. Investment in these tools not only yields environmental benefits, but also, potentially, economic benefits. Developing countries will need to track baseline levels of deforestation activity to earn potential carbon off-set credits that may be provided through the UNFCCC process. Negotations are underway on international financing for developing countries that successfully prevent additional deforestation. According to Environment 360, Brazil now has one of the most advanced satellite systems for monitoring the scope of Amazon deforestation.

To make Google Earth (which is available for download free) more accessible to non-profits, Google has created Google Earth Outreach, which came out of a project by one of its own developers, and focuses on helping organizations develop visual and data support for advocacy and programs. “Rebecca Moore, a programmer at Google, used Google Earth to document a planned logging project near her home in Santa Cruz County, Calif. Working with members from her community, Moore created a virtual map of the area that would be affected. Her subsequent data animation, which took users on a virtual flyover across the proposed logging zone, generated a firestorm of protest and led to the cancellation of the project.” In another example, Environment 360 explains that the Jane Goodall Foundation is using Google Earth to generate three-dimensional images that can show Tanzanian villagers forests are the source of their water, and enlist their help in identifying chimpanzee habitat and elephant paths.

Read the article
Go to Google Earth Outreach

Image Credit: Yale Environment 360

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Les Territoire Des Sens is a bilingual French-English blog by Andrée-Anne Dupuis-Bourret, a visual artist and printmaker, who “questions the brief and complex relations between the human body and it’s immediate space, with the individual mind and it’s ever changing territory, with the memory and the matter allowing it’s existence.”

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Dupuis-Bourett offers photos of global landscape, topographical and land art, as well as videos and links to exhibits.

Go to Les Territoire Des Sens

Photo credits: (1) Camil Tulcan, (2) Chris Engman and (3) Motoi Yamamoto

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Landscape Architecture Magazine Goes Digital

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ASLA announced that Landscape Architecture magazine has introduced its digital format with the April 2009 issue.  Landscape Architecture will now be available through Zinio, which offers a number of architecture and design magazines, and will be searchable and search-engine-optimized, increasing the magazine’s usefulness for research and archiving.  Interactive and multi-media capabilities will also be embedded in the digital issues, allowing readers to link directly to related online information. 

Annual subscriptions to the digital version of Landscape Architecture may be purchased for $44.25 per year and single issues may be purchased for $5.25 each, 25 percent off the newsstand price.  In addition, knowing that many readers keep their magazines for several years for research purposes, past issues of Landscape Architecture going back to May 2006 are being uploaded for single-copy purchase. 

Editor, Bill Thompson, FASLA, said: “Landscape Architecture magazine was founded in 1910, and as we near the 100th anniversary, its online presence brings it fully into the 21st century.”  

View a free copy of the April issue
Subscribe to Landscape Architecture digital

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jerseycity
The Jersey City Waterfront Parks Conservancy released a conceptual master plan for public review earlier this month.  Landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse and nArchitects created a master plan designed for the “protection of waterfront parkland and dramatic Manhattan views via passive lawns, kid’s play elements, interaction with water and nature, combined with natural erosion protection and promotion of aquatic life.”

The master plan is the result of considerable community input gathered through surveys and meetings with local residents. The master plan seeks to link disparate parkland surrounding the Little Morris Canal Basin, and ‘connect the parks,’ while promoting wildlife habitat. The new waterfront will feature a man-made vegatative island designed to bring aquatic life. According to the Jersey City Waterfront Conservancy, “currently, the separate parcels of parkland are in a state of disrepair, eroding at a rapid pace or, in some cases, not available to the public.  The plan also includes gardens, a slide mound, swings, water features and a dog run. To promote nature and our children’s interaction with the natural world, a floating aquatic vegetative island promoting aquatic life, a wet meadow and several points of access to the waters edge are also featured in the plan. In place of the corrugated steel bulkheading used to the north and south of the park, this Conceptual Master Plan incorporates a cost effective, visually appealing and less obtrusive means of erosion control, via a natural protection system.”

The master plan project, sponsored by the Waterfront Parks Conservancy, received significant financial support from the local community and corporations. Matt Johnson, Board President, said: “this is a great plan for Jersey City as it provides a destination which will increase property values, provide traffic for local businesses and ultimately increase tax revenues. And even better than that, it’s good for the environment.”

Go to the Jersey City Waterfront Parks Conservancy for more details and photos

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thanet
In Kent, Thanet Earth plans to produce 15 percent of the UK’s salad vegetables using high-intensity greenhouses (some covering almost 10 hectares), and reduce imports from the Netherlands. 

Thanet Earth has devoted three of the seven glasshouses they have planned for tomatoes. Steel columns support a layer of ‘high-transluncency glass,’ according to Icon magazine. While the floor of the greenhouses are compacted earth, the plants grown in rockwool. “No soil is used for growing. The plants are carried in troughs that are suspended from the ceiling, hanging a metre above the floor. This height means that they can be picked without the workers bending over. They are planted in Rockwool, an inert substrate, and fed with nutrients through the irrigation system.”

The greenhouses are climate controlled and monitored for performance. Steve McVickers, Thanet Earth’s managing director told Icon: “Temperature, humidity, the amount of water in the Rockwool; we’re looking at the growth of the plants, we’re looking at the ventilation, we’re looking at where the sun is, we’re looking whether it’s raining, we’re looking at the wind direction. The greenhouse is constantly adjusting itself.” The farm is also green, using a CHP plant, and reservoirs that store water for use in summer.

Read the article and see more photos

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logo_tagline
EDAW, a leading landscape architecture firm, has annouced the Urban SOS: Distressed Cities, Creative Responses competition, which is open to individual students or teams of up to four undergraduate and graduate students at all levels from all countries in the design and planning fields – including landscape architecture, urban design, architecture, landscape urbanism, economics, planning, geography, engineering, environmental studies and related fields.

EDAW explains: “We are in an urban age. Most of us today live in cities. Is there a place or a neighborhood in your city that needs a good fix? Do you know of an unplanned settlement, a displaced community, economic uncertainty that has driven away business, environmental degradation that has reduced quality of life, an area enduring the aftermath of natural calamity, a derelict urban site? Have a plan that could turn things around? The competition is open to submissions that solve these common urban problems, on any site, within any city or town, worldwide. If you’re passionate about improving the quality of the world’s communities, then this competition is for you. Today’s built environment needs creative, thoughtful ideas. If you have them, this is your chance to let them shine.”

The competition offers $20,000 USD in prize money. The top four submissions will be invited to present at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona, Spain, in November 2009. To participate, students must register and provide statements of intent by May 15, 2009. Final board submissions are due July 31, 2009. 

Go to EDAW for details

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darwin_nature
The New York Times
wrote about a new exhibit at the Yale Gallery of British Art, “Darwin’s Endless Forms,” which demonstrates the impact of Darwin’s evolutionary theory on the visual arts. Evolution has long been a source for artistic inspiration. “French Impressionism is shown to have been under the influence. (Degas was fascinated by Darwin’s study comparing facial expressions of animals and humans.) So, too, were the aesthetic movements of the late 19th century, with their visions of feminine beauty. (Sexual selection was one of the themes Darwin turned to in exploring the power of plumage.)”

According to The New York Times, Darwin regretted that his mind had become “a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of facts” which had led to the “lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes.” However, one of the questions that interested Darwin later in life was how “the beautiful could arise of natural accident.” Darwin was amazed by the ‘endless forms’ that occur through natural variation, saying: “The notion that the male argus pheasant’s exotic feather designs could have evolved from the females’ selection of variations over time seems as incredible as that one of Raphael’s Madonnas should have been formed by the selection of chance daubs of paint made by a long succession of young artists, no one of whom intended at first to draw the human figure.”

Endless Forms runs through May 3, 2009 at the Yale Gallery of British Art.

Read the article and view the photo slideshow

Go to the show’s web site – www.darwinendlessforms.org

Photo Credit: National Gallery of Art (via New York Times)

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ecopark_brazil1
Inhabitat wrote about a new eco-park in Sao Paulo, Brazil, which was once a contaminated brownfield site. The 13,000 square-foot site for the eco-park was previously used for a garbage incinerator, so the firms involved, Davis Brody Bond Aedas and Levisky Arquitetos, built the deck three feet above ground to avoid soil excavation. According to Inhabitat, Victor Civita Plaza includes solar panels, reclaimed wood, and a museum that explains the sustainable aspects of the project.

The site’s wood was sustainably sourced. Inhabitat says: “It is constructed of Brazilian hardwood that was sourced from distributors that follow stringent rules on extraction and reforestation. The deck is supported by a steel structure which allows it to float above the contaminated soil below.”

The site also focuses on improving the social and environmental health of the nearby neighborhoods, while letting park-goers know that the site is reclaimed. “The deck’s elevation literally exposes the history of the landscape as a reclaimed site.”

Read the article and view more photos

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