Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Dynamically Animated and Responsive Structures

By Randall Scott Hornung

Throughout the globe severe flooding displaces millions of species, causes structural and vital infrastructure damage and spreads disease from lack of sanitation. On November 15, 2007, tropical cyclone Sidr forced two and a half to three million people to flee and become homeless or fear of flooding from heavy rains, the low-lying Ganges-Brahmaputra River Delta and a 16 foot storm surge. Functional protection, clean potable water and agriculture are the first and primary necessities for continued survival during and after a catastrophic flood event. I propose a transforming system which aims to place architecture toward the future of dynamically animated and responsive structures from environmental water inputs.

Using the performative techniques of absorption from wetlands and flexibility from lily pads, the system will adapt to the environmental water changes placed upon it. The absorption qualities of wetlands will allow the system to intake water to grow and become rigid. The system’s flexibility will allow movement through the turbulent water, similar to the lily pad flexile motion through water.

One cannot stop nature, one must live in conjunction w ith nature. The goal of this proposed system is to produce an architectural prototype to aid in the relief efforts of flood victims by negotiating through turbulent waters by absorbing excess liquid to make the architectural system rigid and animated. The proposed architectural system will use the excess flood water to strengthen structural stability, harness power, provide potable water and agriculture for flood victims. This growing shelter will provide education as an institute during normal means, but function as a disaster relief shelter during turbulent times in water.

Free to be steady in continuum, but fluxing in turbulence; a modern day Noah’s Ark securing habitable sites for humans and other species. Turbulent times will have the dynamic system in tension bunched together, geometrically joined as a union to gain structural integrity. Gentle times will have the deflated system broadly arranged and geometrically relaxed. The mechanism will adapt to the set of inputs placed upon its exterior skin and feed those inputs throughout the structure as a whole.

Concentrating on the harsh and forceful side of water, flooding will occur in a natural state of turbulence, in which these aggressive structures will provide utopian disaster relief environments, rising above the landscaft for a safer and secure surroundings. The evolving structures will become increasingly rigid from the increase in force exerted upon itself infinitely. As storm waters rise, the system will increase in scale with structural integrity, appearing to levitate across the turbulent waters.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Solar cells of the future

A new material, nano flakes, may revolutionise the transformation of solar energy to electricity. If so, even ordinary households can benefit from solar electricity and save money in the future.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Buoyant Agritecture

Experts believe that weather patterns such as heavy monsoon rains and droughts will only increase with global warming. ‘Though greater Dhaka experiences flood[s] almost in every year, flood management policies are mostly based on structural options including flood walls, dykes, embankments, etc.’ {WRMJ} Bangladesh experiences intermittent water shortages because of falling water tables in the northern and central parts of the country. Bangladesh only has about 7.5% of its land covered by water during non flood times. The elevation of the city of Dhaka lies between 2-13 meters above sea level; flood prone areas have 2-4 meters of flooding that extends to the edge of the city. “The area of expansion of Dhaka has been governed largely by the physical configuration of the landscape in and around the city, particularly the river system and the height of land in relation to the flood level.” {Islam 1996, pg. 62.63} Most of the western side of the city has been urbanized, generally lying at elevations of 6-8 meters above sea level. Due to the higher stability of infrastructure in the western section of Dhaka, we have chosen two neighborhoods as test sites: Pallabi and Kamrangirchar. Currently the country has 55.39% of arable land with only 3.08% available for permanent crops. By localizing the effects and attributes of seasonal flooding in a densely populated, metropolitan city, we are proposing an architectural intervention that will be implemented into the environment to mediate the outcome of seasonal flooding. Dhaka, Bangladesh is an excellent area to test our thesis due to its high population and growth rate which is also prevalent throughout Asia.

In order to combat these flood and drought conditions that affect a majority of the country’s population, we are proposing a system of floating terraced farms that will, with the help of various governmental organizations, have the ability to facilitate in the alleviation of seasonal flooding. It will do so by means of water absorption through structure, filtration/water purification through organic plant life and an increase in the production of sustainable crops, rice in particular. The system will be incorporated into the various already existing programs located along the river banks to allow for a relatively seamless transition. All of this would perform keeping in mind Bangladesh’s ever apparent need for fresh water, sustainable agriculture practices and agricultural exports to increase the nations GDP.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Reinterpreting The Edge

Coastal flooding and erosion is but one of the
many factors that plays into the entire climate
crisis. This one specific aspect deals with erosion
of the perimeter between what is land and sea.
Honing in even further, we observe a prime
example of this crisis front taking hold at the
coastline of the Gulf of Mexico (for research
purposes, specifically coastal Louisiana). The
issue at hand isn’t just how to control the rampant
erosion, but how to create a new methodology
within architectural design and implementation.
The goal is to ultimately synthesize a new form of
urbanism rooted in an architecture system
capable of mediating between natural and urban
fronts in response to coastal crisis.

The system that we are proposing is not meant
to solve all the problems that arise from coastal
flooding and erosion, as this is not our intention,
but rather it will offer a design and reallocation
potential. The system is aimed toward taking
advantages of the following: sediment transport,
flooding, changes in sea-level rise that results in
coastline erosion, and harboring wetlands. The
methods of interaction between sea, coast, edge,
and land in correlation with the system are
meant to be dependent on a mapping of both the
natural front and chosen site.

This ideal offers a new critique on the way that
architecture is often deemed ‘responsive’, as it
will need to be systematically responsive to
environmental needs (floor diversion, sediment
capture/redistribution, wetland rehabilitation,
sustainable energy) as well as intellectually
responsive to human needs (of growth and

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Rethinking Resource Infrastructure

by: Natasha Harper, Katie Adee, James Baldauf

When a tribe comes to a clearing and discovers a pile of timber, two possibilities exist for providing warmth. The power operated solution is to create a campfire, enjoy the warmth of the fire and then move on. The structural solution is to create a rain-shed or wind break from the timber. [1] While the campfire solution is much more nimble and responsive, it requires the existence of additional timber when the fire is out. Today, we find ourselves in a world where the pile of timber is rapidly decreasing and in danger of running out. This calls for a new kind of solution, one that considers using resources that are renewable, and not in danger of running out and re-thinking the way we use the resources that are available. The time has come to re-evaluate our relationship with our resources. We are proposing a more hybridized system between the structural and power-operated solutions, a more sustainable solution. It becomes necessary to radically transform what it means to capture and distribute energy. Investing now in these critical issues will decrease the burden currently being placed on the planet, and will save money in the long-term. Traditional practices will become more expensive as regulations on carbon emissions continue to increase in the face of a global crisis.
Many of the problems caused by global warming originate in the melting of the arctic. Permafrost (perennially frozen soil) in the arctic has been melting at increasing speeds in recent years. Because of the sensitivity of the active layer of permafrost, a one to three flux in average ground temperature foreshadow larger trends in the global climate. As permafrost melts, the methane trapped underneath the surface is released into the atmosphere. Methane, as a greenhouse gas is thirty times more effective. However, if that methane is captured, it can be burned for use as a renewable fuel source. In order to extract the gas hydrates from the permafrost, carbon must be pumped in, the process of which, releases the methane. This process not only sequesters carbon,

it collects a renewable fuel source, and slows global warming by not allowing additional greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. A
nomadic system that is minimally invasive is the best way to deploy a methane capturing, carbon sequestering system in the Arctic. The border of the permafrost is changing as it melts, making the most critical permafrost the discontinuous, the isolated, and the sporadic as it is melting the fastest. The ecosystems that are the most navigable and occupiable are crucial when looking at the most ideal locations for deployment of the system. [1] Reyner Banham, “The Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment” pg.19

Monday, December 3, 2007

NPR Climate Connections

Another resource with plenty of information about climate change, alternative energy, and stories about the climate crisis:

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Algae Power

another great one from BLDGBlog:

A proposal in Iceland for alternative energy created from algae pond gases. Be sure to check out the full range of drawings and analysis with your own presentations in mind.

Ice Cube

From BLDGBlog:

Last week, New Scientist reported that a neutrino detector called IceCube, once constructed, might just do exactly that.
Because the Earth rotates, we read, distant neutrino sources – such as black holes – will be blocked at certain predictable moments by the Earth's core; piecing together all these temporary blindspots, we can then infer the shape of the core itself.
It's an absence that generates absences elsewhere.

According to The Daily Galaxy, building the IceCube is less an act of construction than a kind of archaeology in reverse; the process will consist of entombing "glass-globed sensors the size of basketballs on 1-mile-long strings, 60 sensors per string, in 80 deep holes beneath the polar surface."

For more on the IceCube and Antarctic science in general give this article in The Economist a quick read – then check out NOVA's round-up of weird detectors.
Then, if you're looking for a good book on Antarctica itself, consider picking up a copy of Terra Antarctica: Looking into the Emptiest Continent by William L. Fox (a book previously mentioned on BLDGBLOG here).

Time-based mapping

Beautifully done mappings and visualizations of flight patterns by Aaron Koblin, part of the Celestial Mechanics project. Video of the animated map here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Forum: Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development

The Forum is an excellent resource for information on current research being done by people with specific technical and methodological skills. It is a clearinghouse of published work from international researchers, scientists, engineers, and social scientists working in the fields that related to issues of sustainability ranging from water and sanitation to agriculture to urbanism.

"The Forum on Science and Innovation for Sustainable Development is an attempt to outline the burgeoning field. Rather than looking broadly at sustainability, the Forum focuses on the way in which science and innovation can be conducted and applied to meet human needs while preserving the life support systems of the planet. It highlights people and programs that are studying nature-society interactions and applying the resulting knowledge to create a sustainability transition around the world."

NY Times Environment Section Online

The Times Science section has a new Environment subsections that is a clearinghouse for a number of different ecology and sustainability articles.

Also, be sure to take a look at their blog in our links section.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The World Technology podcast

PRI and the BBC's regular radio program, The World regularly features a technology report. Many of these reports deal with sustainability, new technologies, and green issues. Their technology podcast conveniently packages them all in short audio programs which are all available for download at their website.

Some highlights below:

Who needs a car that goes over 25 mph anyhow? The all-electric car is back! What's so great about biofuels? Oil issues in Iraq an Russia. Checking in with the Iraqi blogger Riverbend. And two stories about HIV in Mexico and South Africa. Download mp3

The UN’s panel on climate change issues their third report this year: This one looks at what role technology can play. What about ocean sequestration to remove carbon from the air? Will it work? How Germans are slashing energy use. Biofuels in Denmark. A discussion about design concepts to help the other 90 percent. And, the world is moving too fast! (It’s scientifically proven.) Download mp3
A new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change looks at the impacts of global warming. This podcast explores how climate change is affecting our world: from Africa, to South America, to Europe. And what global warming could mean in your neck of the woods. Download mp3

The power of the ocean: Wave Energy takes off in Portugal. A high-tech solution to, sadly, abandoned babies in Italy. Work from home? Ever get lonely? No longer the case in France. And cars are catching on in Vietnam. Download mp3
Gas hydrates... hot new fuel source or environmental menace? A blanket of pollution covers a village in rural China. And the role of immigration in American hi-tech startups. Plus the return of The Plastic People of the Universe. Download mp3


Euro-Supergrid with a EU-MENA-Connection: Sketch of possible infrastructure for a sustainable supply of power to EUrope, the Middle East and North Africa (EU-MENA).

" The Trans-Mediterranean Renewable Energy Cooperation (TREC) is an initiative that campaigns for the transmission of clean power from deserts to Europe. Since it was founded in 2003 by The Club of Rome, the Hamburg Climate Protection Foundation and the National Energy Research Center of Jordan (NERC), it has developed the DESERTEC Concept and researched it in cooperation with the German Aerospace Center (DLR). Now TREC is making this concept a reality in cooperation with people in politics, industry and the world of finance.

The DESERTEC Concept of TREC is to boost the generation of electricity and desalinated water by solar thermal power plants and wind turbines in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and to transmit the clean electrical power via High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) transmission lines throughout those areas and as from 2020 (with overall just 10-15% transmission losses) to Europe. The technologies that are needed to realise the DESERTEC concept are already developed and some of them have been in use for decades. Several studies by the German Aerospace Center (DLR) confirm the viability of this concept and the usefulness of realising it very soon."

Monday, November 12, 2007

Circle of Blue

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This past week's edition of On the Media, the weekly WNYC program on media issues featured a segment on Circle of Blue, a coalition of journalists who donate their time and resources to produce news stories about water issues, drought, and desertification. It's an extraordinary group doing important and fascinating work that calls attention to stories about the water crisis.

The segment is available on their website:

Listening to the segment, I was reminded of the potential of the media to bring visibility to a set of issues and raise their level of prominence in the culture. The notion of constructing the conditions of visibility is certainly something that all the projects in the studio have the potential for as well. Many of you are dealing with fairly fluid and ephemeral forces and effects and more than a few of you are dealing with the movement of an edge or other aspects of a crisis front that may benefit from the responsive potentials of architecture as well as architecture's capacity for institutionalization, for marking position and establishing new datums.

The site also provides a rich history of journalism and journalists bringing visbility to drought issues going back to Dorothea Lang and the dust bowl and beyond. This is an excellent resource especially for those interested in water issues, but really for all you.

[C]Space Pavilion at the AA

"Architects Alan Dempsey and Alvin Huang have won a competition to design a temporary, freestanding pavilion that will be built in front of the Architectural Association school in London early next year.

The competition celebrates the 10th anniversary of the AA’s Design Research Laboratory. It was open to all students and graduates of the DRL and called for designs that made innovative use of Fibre C, a glass fibre-reinforced concrete panelling material produced by Rieder.

Dempsey and Huang have set up a blog to chart their progress as they prepare to build their [C]Space pavilion."


Wind Dam

Wind Dam
via Pruned-a proposed wind dam in Russia

"The dam, which would be located over a gorge at Lake [Ladoga] in north-west Russia, includes a cup-shaped spinnaker sail, believed to be the first of its kind, which will generate renewable energy by funnelling the wind through an attached turbine.

The spinnaker shape is similar to the mainsail of a yacht, and is thought to be particularly effective in capturing wind."

Brownfield Restoration


"After years of industrial pollution on the shores of Syracuse's Onondaga Lake, the Solway Settling Basins is now setting a precedent for the restoration of contaminated brownfield sites, or parcels of land that previously housed industrial facilities.

Rather than fencing off the area, capping it with clay and plastic, and then posting "Keep Out" signs, a partnership of engineers, scientists, and new corporate owners decided to restore the ecosystem, remediate the environmental concerns, and turn the site into something beneficial."



various geo-engineering schemes

Talk about potential for unexpected effects. Treehugger reports on a general warming to the idea of geo-engineering and other unorthodox methods that might slow global warming ranging from seeding the stratosphere with aerosol particles to simulate the cooling effects of a volcano to seep sea and bedrock carbon sequestration.Rather interesting that so many of the studio's geo-engineering topics are represented in this image.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

California Sues EPA

From the NYT: California and 14 other states are demanding urgent action on global warming from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Landscape Architecture Blog

I found this blog called PRUNE - it has a lot of interesting blurbs about new and emerging ideas in landscape architecture and related fields. A good portion in the MAY 2007 section deal with flooding. Most of the articles contained in other sections touch base on some sort of disaster solutions, global warming and new energy sources.

Times Roundup - Something for Everyone

Quite the big news day. Below, a number of interesting articles from today's New York Times

From the Front Page, a biggie:

"Carbon Calculus" A proposal in Congress to put a price tag on greenhouse-gas emissions could overturn the economics of energy Article Here.

Also Inside:

Salt Lake city finds that sound environmental policy has emerged as a central organizing principle of the city's economic growth. Article Here.

On Staten Island, a boggy green break in one of the city's most industrialized stretches of waterfront is being preserved. Article Here.

For decades, Japan pursued economic development at all costs, but in an effort to protect the environment it is aiming to reverse destruction along the Kushiro River. Article Here.

Mum's the Word: We Found a Greener Gas. What's greener than HFCs for refrigeration? Carbon dioxide. Enter a public relations problem. Article Here.

The United States is the fastest-growing market in the world for wind power. Despite a patchwork of laws and regulations, many European energy companies would like to plant their windmills here. Article Here.

Fiji Water plans to become carbon negative -- that is, to more than make up for the greenhouse gases released in the creation, transportation and sales of its product. Article Here.

Photographs of Soil&Water Management in Japan

Interesting photography on various soil & water management practice in Japan. The book titled "Landscape" by the photographer Toshio Shibata features a lot of these practices.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Disaster Vernacular

The Times reports on a new Post-Katrina housing vernacular, Post Storm or Disaster Vernacular. A useful article for all of the various flooding groups.

"The result is precisely the hasty, haphazard aesthetic that some planners warned would emerge unless officials seized on Katrina as an opportunity to rethink the Crescent City in a more systematic fashion. But to many people who live here, some construction is better than none, whatever form it takes. Although about a quarter of the population has yet to return, at least some people are coming home."

Monday, November 5, 2007

NASA Artic Melt Video

Al Gore Video

May 2006 SNL opening


Dwell Magazine's blog looks at Agro-Housing, projects that incorporate agricultural production and housing. Above, a project for China.

more at BLDGblog

Algae Fuel Cells

algae, biofuel, biocrude, LiveFuels, algae-based fuel, bio-based fuel, biodiesel, Solix, Greenfuels, NREL, US DOE, Department of Energy
Image by John MacNeill, commissioned by Solix Biofuels

If you think algae is just that green grime that dirties up your pool, think again: it’s also a surprisingly viable source for biofuel. The LiveFuels Alliance, funded by LiveFuels Inc based in Menlo Park, CA, is tapping into the oil producing potential of algae with an ambitious initiative to replace millions of gallons of fossil fuels with algae-based biocrude by 2010.


Friday, November 2, 2007

On desired and unexpected effects

Something that came up repeatedly in the review this week is the importance of not assuming that the effect of any implemented system or approach is either neutral or exclusively beneficial. Sediment transfer, water diversion, carbon sequestering, may have a number of unexpected consequences. It is important that to not assume that the best intentions always produce the best results. This is useful to us in two ways. It is desirable to explore and speculate on what those other effects might be in order to further define the performative parameters of the systems, but there is also an opportunity to explore the social effects and feedback that may be possible. This is unquestionably a significant aspect of the all of the projects and one that cannot be solved by any proposed technical program alone. It will require some speculation which will in turn open up new avenues of exploration.

I'm reminded of a fairly light but potent example. Below is the text of a the opening skit from Al Gore's appearance on SNL a few years ago. The video has been pulled from You Tube due to copyright, but the transcript is still pretty effective. The premise is a presidential address in a parallel universe where Gore won the 2000 election.

President Al Gore on Saturday Night Live

AL GORE: "Good evening my fellow Americans. In 2000 when you overwhelmingly made the decision to elect me as your 43rd President, I knew the road ahead would be difficult. We have accomplished so much, yet challenges lie ahead.

In the last six years, we have been able to stop global warming. No one could have predicted the negative results of this. Glaciers that once were melting are now on the attack. As you know, these renegade glaciers have already captured parts of upper Michigan and northern Maine. But I assure you, we will not let the glaciers win.

Right now in the second week of May 2006, we are facing perhaps the worst gas crisis in history.

We have way too much gasoline! Gas is down to nineteen cents a gallon and the oil companies are hurting. I know that I am partly to blame, by insisting that cars run on trash.

I am therefore proposing a Federal bail-out to our oil companies because hey, if it were the other way around, you know the oil companies would help us.

On a positive note, we worked hard to save welfare, fix Social Security, and of course, provide the universal health care we all enjoy today. But all this came at a high cost. As I speak, the gigantic National Budget Surplus is down to a perilously low 11 trillion dollars. And don't get any ideas. That money is staying in the very successful lock box. We're not touching it. Of course, we could give economic aid to China or lend money to the Saudis again, but right now we are already so loved by everyone in the world that American tourists can't even go over to Europe anymore without getting hugged.

There are some of you would like to spend our money on some made-up war. To you I say, "what part of lockbox don't you understand?" What if there's a hurricane or a tornado? Unlikely I know, because of the anti-hurricane and tornado machine I was instrumental in helping to develop…but what if? What if the scientists are right and one of those giant glaciers hits Boston? That's why we have the lockbox.

As for immigration, solving that came at a heavy cost, and I personally regret the loss of California. However, the new Mexifornian economy is strong and El Presidente Schwarzenegger is doing a great job.

There have been some setbacks. Unfortunately, the confirmation process for Supreme Court Justice Michael Moore was bitter and divisive. However, I could not be more proud of how the House and Senate pulled together to confirm the nomination of Chief Justice George Clooney.

Baseball, our national pastime, still lies under the shadow of steroid accusations. But I have faith in Baseball Commissioner George W. Bush when he says, "we will find the steroid users if we have to tap every phone in America."

In 2001, when I came into office, our national security was the most important issue. The threat of terrorism was real. Who knew that six years later, Afghanistan would be the most popular spring break destination, or that Six Flags Tehran is the fastest growing amusement park in the Mideast, and the scariest thing we Americas have to fear is … Live From New York, It's Saturday Night!"

Erosion closer to home

The Times looks at loss of beaches due to erosion and storm surges in the South.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Sustainability and Materials

As you all begin to propose material dimensions of performative or geometric strategies, it's useful to think about sustainability at that level as well. For instance, the New York Times is reporting on Co2 and concrete:

Cement and Pollution From Making It: "As cement plants emit 5 percent of all carbon dioxide emissions, the main cause of global warming, making cement means making pollution."

How can we reconcile the potential negative effects of certain material manufacturing and production processes with the desirable ecological effects that all of you are expecting from your systems? If some properties of concrete whether plasticity or weight or some other factor are identified as desirable for performative reasons for instance, we must not only consider the use of other materials and the effect of that selection on the geometry and performance of the system, but we would also have to evaluate a proposed alternate material and its ecological effects as well.

Regardless, this fact about concrete is interesting and certainly demands a finer and more intricate set of geometries when developing the prototype systems into more robust material formations. Surely this speaks to the need for all of you to declare how you will define and evaluate the issue of sustainability within the work.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Matsys Variations

Some nice material/structural/computational explorations by way of matsys:

Definitely worth looking at. There are some interesting mapping and computational techniques, intriguing material issues and prototype structures ranging from inflatable pneumatic enclosures to cellular/modular gradient structures to circle packing patterns with local hierarchies.

"Design Probes" and Building Skins

+ Philips Electronics carries out a lot of research into design that will eventually be significant to mainstream living and business by way of Design Probes that look into specific areas. One such project that will be highlighted during Dutch Design Week is Off The Grid: Sustainable Habitat 2020. This project explores the integration of electronics and biochemical functionalities into building, in order to deal with cities that will continue to grow unchecked. The goal here is to outfit buildings with “skins” that act to harness air, water and light.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Agriculture. Biomass. Energy

The New York Times reports of some measure that are designed to increase the effectiveness and potential of green measures enacted in China. There are some great examples of local feedback loops, the relationship of agricultural production and energy production, etc. For those of you who have read William McDonough's book Cradle to Cradle and have some interest in this waste=food notion, it is an interesting read.


How to Cool the Globe

NYT Op-Ed piece on alternative mean of reducing global temperature...


As wind power gains popularity, the synchronized movements of windmills dotting large expanses are a pretty awe-inspiring sight. Artist Christoph Ernst takes the visual display a step further by installing colored LEDs in the wind turbine blades.
The innovative public art project he calls Windmove began last night, 22 October, and will light up fields outside of Berlin through the end of the year, 31 December 2007.
Spinning at speeds of up to 220 km/h, the lights transform into kinetic strips of color. Ambient, industrial music by Andre Unruh of Einstuerzende Neubauten, an experimental band out of Berlin, accompanies the installation, making it an audio-visual show.
For you cynics, there's no reason to fret about the effects on sustainable energy as extensive studies showed no decrease in efficiency of the wind turbines.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Nobel text

From the Nobel committee's announceement last week. full text available at:

"Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states."

Why Hay Is Fabulous (And Halting Erosion In Iceland)


It may seem too simple to be true, but to combat the spread of so-called “erosion escarpments” or rofabards (see above) Icelandic farmers have turned to spreading cut-up hay to halt the slow creep of desertification on the island. And so far, it seems to be working.

This sustainable practice has developed from what seems to be a happy accident during the seventies, when originally farmers wanted to get rid of unusable hay bales, which were then wrapped in plastic. Birds, attracted to a chemical component in the plastic, pecked holes in the plastic, allowing the hay to dampen and become unusable.

The farmers took the useless hay up to the highland pastures, chopped it up and left it at the foot of the escarpments. The wind blew and soil anchored around the hay amidst the escarpments and encouraging vegetation to take root – and hay also gradually transforms into soil and becomes another rebuilding constituent. (Parallels to no-tillage champion Masanobu Fukuoka’s documented usage of randomly-spread hay, done after harvesting to further enrich the soil, is something that certainly comes to mind.)

More at

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Drought-Stricken South Facing Tough Choices

Worst-case analyses indicate that Lake Lanier, the main water source for Atlanta, could be drained dry within four months.

"For the first time in more than 100 years, much of the Southeast has reached the most severe category of drought, climatologists said Monday, creating an emergency so serious that some cities are just months away from running out of water."

Carbon Neutral UNESCO resort in Libya

Foster's office is developing a carbon neutral resort in Libya in conjunction with UNESCO
"In an area the size of Wales centered on the Greek ruin here, the younger Qaddafi, a group of wealthy Libyans and a bevy of consultants are planning a carbon neutral green-development zone, catering to tourism and serving as a model for environmentally friendly design, they say.
The plan will protect Libya’s fantastic Greek and Roman ruins from haphazard developments as it protects the coastal ecosystem, one of the last remaining natural areas of the Mediterranean. Waters off Libya are the last remaining breeding grounds for a number of Mediterranean species, environmentalists say. The idea is that as Libya opens to the outside world it will not become “like the Spanish coast,” said the project’s financial adviser, Mahmoud A. Khosman. (It will also be a good investment.)But the intention is clearly broader than that. “They want to show the world that Libya has turned a corner, that they can fit into the modern world,” said George Joffe, a research fellow at Cambridge who specializes in the region. "

Monday, October 15, 2007

Radical Cartography

Not sure if you guys have seen this site...some interesting ways of thinking about maps and data.

Hydrogen Economy

One more post from Treehugger: Relevant to all groups interested in alternative energy market arrangements, especially emerging or not-yet-fully commercial design concepts and markets.


At this link is a 9-page conceptual design paper outlining a prospective hydrogen economy: one based primarily on solar and wind power. The paper's authors are Greg Blencoe of Hydrogen Discoveries, Inc. and Dr. James G. Blencoe of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The technical underpinnings of the paper are: 1.) a valveless fueling system that uses magnesium hydride to safely store hydrogen inside fuel cell-powered vehicles; and, 2.) Hydrogen Discoveries' piping system, which was designed to overcome the problem of embrittlement and leakage problems that ordinary steel pipes face. The intention is to overcome the "last mile" problems of safely distributing and dispensing hydrogen fuel, and, in this case, of reclaiming and recycling the Magnesium carrier media for continuous re-use.

Nanostructures and power generation

Another post from Treehugger on electricity-generating fabrics made with nanofibers. The post deals with the technology in a military context, but other applications are possible.

wearable batteries