For the past year, South African photographer Pieter Hugo has been photographing Agbogbloshie, a dump of obsolete technology in Ghana. It’s a wasteland, where people and cattle live on mountains of motherboards, monitors and discarded hard drives, is far removed from the benefits accorded by the unrelenting advances of technology. It’s a haunting and dismal glimpse at what becomes of the 50 million tons of digital waste produced each year in the Western world. The exhibit, called Permanent Error, opens tomorrow at the Michael Stevenson Gallery in Capetown, South Africa and runs until September.
Category : environment
German photographer Robert Voit has taken a terrific series of photos of what he calls New Trees, examples of cellphone antennae camouflaged as trees.
You think times are tough for you? At least you don’t own a mall. Once a bulwark of American economy, culture and probably its soul, the shopping mall has fallen on hard times. And to see the decline close up you should check out the site deadmalls.com. So what should we do with this new surfeit of empty big boxes surrounded by oceans of asphalt? There are a few good ideas submitted to Reburbia, a design competition to re-imagine suburbia. One suggestion from the Alabama-based architecture firm Forest Fulton suggests that perhaps the mall should see a reversal of a function and go from being:
a retailer of food – food detached from processes from which it came to be – to producer of food. The parking lot becomes a park-farm. The inside of the big box becomes a greenhouse and restaurant. Asphalt farming techniques allow for layering of soil, compost in containers on top of asphalt. The big box store’s roof is partially replaced with a greenhouse roof. Other details, such as the reversal of parking lot light poles into solar trees that hold photovoltaics can be implemented. One can imagine pushing a shopping cart through this suburban farm and picking your produce right from the vine, with the option to bring your harvest to the restaurant chef for preparation and eating your harvest on the spot.
See more finalists in the Reburbia design competition.
Where y’at New Orleans? Four years after Katrina, architects, planners and builders have made messy, heterogeneous efforts at rebuilding the Crescent City. There’s a great article in the recent Atlantic Monthly profiles some of the approaches to rebuilding that are underway.
In the absence of strong central leadership, the rebuilding has atomized into a series of independent neighborhood projects. And this has turned New Orleans—moist, hot, with a fecund substrate that seems to allow almost anything to propagate—into something of a petri dish for ideas about housing and urban life. An assortment of foundations, church groups, academics, corporate titans, Hollywood celebrities, young people with big ideas, and architects on a mission have been working independently to rebuild the city’s neighborhoods, all wholly unconcerned about the missing master plan. It’s at once exhilarating and frightening to behold.
If only for a day or two, horrible dust storms have given Sydney a J.M.W.Turner-meets-Mad-Max sky.
There’s growing evidence that going to a 4-day, 40-hour workweek has great benefits for workers and the environment. For the past year, more than 17,000 state employees in Utah have shifted to a Monday to Thursday schedule.
For those workplaces, there’s no longer a need to turn on the lights, elevators or computers on Fridays—nor do janitors need to clean vacant buildings. Electric bills have dropped even further during the summer, thanks to less air-conditioning: Friday’s midday hours have been replaced by cooler mornings and evenings on Monday through Thursday. As of May, the state had saved $1.8 million.
With less people commuting on Friday, the state estimates the new hours have reduced air pollution by an estimated 12,000 metric tons of CO2. And after surveying workers over the past year, there were other surprising findings: 30 percent surveyed said they exercised more, took fewer sickdays, and increased volunteerism.
The Sears Tower in Chicago is about to undergo a $350 million-dollar retrofit that will add wind turbines to its 110th floor roof and upgrades to windows, lighting and cooling systems. It’s estimated that the retrofit will reduce the building’s electricity demand by 80%. And for a 4.5 million square foot building, that’s a big deal– estimated to be equal to 150,000 barrels of oil a year. Read more details on the renovation on the Sears Tower site.
Yesterday a stretch of Broadway around Times Square between 42nd and 47th Streets and another near Herald Square between 33rd and 35th Streets was closed to automotive traffic and more than 3 acres of new open space was added to the heart of Manhattan. Officially, a $1.5 million pilot project that will be evaluated throughout 2009 for a final approval, the Green Light for Midtown project has turned Broadway into a pedestrian mall that will soon be dotted with cafe tables, slacking smokers, tourists with rollybags and Chinese delivery guys on bikes. While Mayor Bloomberg might get all the glory (or grief) for this and other bike- and pedestrian-friendly civic plans (180 miles of bike lanes have been added in New York since 2006), it turns out that the bold genius behind turning Broadway into the newest park in New York is Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s Transportation Commissioner since 2007. Oddly, closing Broadway, and removing its diagonal slice through the Manhattan grid, is going to have a beneficial effect on auto traffic through Midtown. With no more 3-way intersections at 34th and 42nd Streets, Midtown traffic models predict a 37% improvement in travel times for cars traveling north on 6th Ave. and a 17% improvement to travel times when traveling downtown on 7th Ave. New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff sized up the first day without cars down Broadway this way:
Walking down the cramped, narrow sidewalks, a visitor could never get a feel for the vastness of the place. Now, standing in the middle of Broadway, you have the sense of being in a big public room, the towering billboards and digital screens pressing in on all sides.
See photos of the day Broadway was given back to pedestrians.
Spend some time exploring the amazing map of the Mannahatta Project. If you zoom in and click around, you can explore every damn block on the island of Manhattan and see what was there before 1609. After nearly ten years of research, landscape ecologist Eric Sanderson, working through the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, has used old maps and modern spatial analysis techniques to map every hill, valley, stream, spring, beach, forest, cave, wetland, and pond that existed on the island of Mannahatta. It also lists all possible animals, humans, and plants that could have been in there– on every damn block! The project claims the GIS database for the project is the most complete description of a landscape ever attempted. This year marks the 400th anniversary of of Henry Hudson’s arrival in New York Bay and other coinciding history goodness includes the exhibit Mannahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City, at the Museum of the City of New York and the publication of Sanderson’s book, Mannahatta: Natural History of New York City.
Ingrid Newkirk, founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals India, is going to be very busy after she’s dead.
Generating heat and power from the sun doesn’t have to involve huge projects like the new 5 megawatt Kimberlina solar thermal power plant in Bakersfield. Conserval Engineering, which has offices in less-than sunny Buffalo and Paris, developed SolarWall panels decades ago which are made from simple corrugated and perforated galvanized steel. The panels are attached to the outside of the south-facing walls of industrial and commercial buildings and the sun-warmed air that is created in this cavity is vented up and into heating ducts. This simple technology generates six times the power of similarly-sized photovoltaic solar panels, but costs one-tenth the price.
A Twelve year-old boy has solved the earth’s energy crisis. William Yuan, a seventh-grader from Beaverton, Oregon, has developed a new 3D solar cell which provides 500 times more light absorption than commercially-available solar cells. Yuan’s design increases the efficiency of electron movement through carbon nanotubes and enables light absorption from visible to ultraviolet light. He was awarded a $25k scholarship from the Davidson Institute and got on local Portland TV.
And then Google took over the road too. Working with PG&E, Google has launched an initiative to add extra batteries to store energy from the power grid and get double the mpg.
That 60mpg you’re getting from your Prius just not good enough? Then slap some solar panels on it. SEV, a Southern California solar company has developed a system that improves the fuel economy of Toyota hybrids by up to 29% by putting high efficiency mono-crystalline photovoltaic cells on the roof of the car. The SEV system also qualifies for Federal renewable energy tax credits of up to $2,000.