Tag Archive: environment


I wrote this article for Living Green Magazine.

It’s about a brilliant documentary that premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. Directed by Hustwit, it is a part of a trilogy of documentaries describing the creative process of contemporary design. The first two were Helvetica (2007) – about typography and graphic art, and Objectified (2009) – about manufacturing and product design.

I’ve seen parts of Objectified and I liked Hustwit’s perspective on things and his eye for detail so I was curious how he applied that to the design of cities.

Urbanized explains how the changes in the development of modernism influenced the changes in architecture and city planning. The film frames a global discussion on the future of cities by examining a range of urban design projects around the world: in New York, New Orleans, Bogotá, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago de Chile, Paris, Bristol, Mumbai, Beijing, Masdar, Cape Town, etc.

It was very cool watching the documentary from a perspective of a traveller, an urban geographer, and.. a cyclist, ha.

Modern town panning is not based on achieving idealistic layouts, it entails redeveloping and restructuring areas that need improvements and adapting them to challenges, such as accommodating urban population growth and economic fluctuations. Everywhere there are general difficulties in managing housing, mobility, public space, civic engagement, and environmental policy.

So, with world urban population projected to reach 75% by 2050, the question is:

how to do it sustainably?

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I wrote this article for Living Green Magazine, click the link for full article.

Renewable energy options are increasingly being promoted in response to the global challenges of climate change.

Wind power is a clean, sustainable and renewable source that doesn’t produce emissions that contribute to the greenhouse effect by absorbing radiation, unlike fossil fuels from non-renewable sources that emit carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

Wind is an abundant natural resource available worldwide, and clustered wind turbines have great capacity to make electricity for population needs and industrial activities.

Wind currents can be very strong offshore, stronger than on land and along the coasts, and with water covering 70% of the planet’s surface, offshore wind currents are a generous source of airstream.

Wind and tidal energy in offshore wind farms work on the principles of transfer of thermal energy from natural resources into usable power and commercial utilization.

The turbines use natural airflow to create mechanical energy that is converted to electricity.

Offshore wind power is yet to show greater potentials for electricity supply in order to be fully competitive with carbon-based energy sources, focusing more on population clusters as opposed to outlying territories where suitable offshore sites near the coast may be scarce.

But, in order to minimize ecological damage from wind farm projects, during the implementation, construction and initiation stages, all environmental strains must be considered.

Wind and their supporting mechanisms can severely intrude on regular ecosystem cycles, thus causing some species and entire populations of animals and organisms to dislocate, triggering a chain of order which effect certain food levels and production rhythms, impairing future progress.

The turbines are embedded directly into the ocean floor, and thus their construction, assembly and wiring that allows the energy to be stocked and re-supplied can damage the area in terms of natural surroundings of animals, plants and other organisms inhabiting it and depending on it. Consequently, the seabed is always disturbed during decommissioning as the removal of sediments leads to the direct loss of habitats and the increase of local water muddling from suspended solids, as well as redistribution of contaminants.

I wrote this article for Living Green Magazine.

Uneven distribution of resources has resulted in entire communities being malnourished due to unavailability of food in the developed world, but what’s even more staggering is the amount of people in the developed world ill and obese from poor food choices, even if there is nourishing sustenance available.

Twenty five years ago most food we ate was fresh and locally grown. Now, it is mainly processed, full of sorts of additives, ingredients and stimulants that cause us to spin in confusion.

The problem is not only in the food we eat. The problem also lies in mass manufacture. Marketing and production are creating unnatural demand. The industry is fuelling our demand.

Only after we tackle the fundamental problem of the state of our mental and physical addictions to food – and consumption in general – can we achieve our principles and improve social morale.

The solution is quite simple: reducing overall consumption, switching to natural, whole, unprocessed foods straight from the Earth, and physically moving more.

Where we go from here will not only determine the quality and the length of individual lives but the world as a whole.

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More information:

Bittman, Mark. TED Talk: “What’s wrong with what we eat”.

Harcombe, Zoe. The Obesity Epidemic: What Caused it? How can we stop it? New York: Columbus, 2010

Oliver, Jamie. TED Talk: “Teach every child about food”.

BogotA, a city of graffiti

Bogotians take really well to foreigners. Most are proud that Colombia elicited some distant traveller’s interest and seems worthy of a visit.

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My first impression of the city was, however, pollution and traffic, followed closely by the prevalence of graffiti. Some elaborate and skillful art spanning walls and blocks not infrequently yielded to slogans: existimos porque necesitamos.

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deforestation

Listen up: already today we are using 25% more resources than our planet can provide sustainably (source: WWF).

How are we supposed to build a future around that?

We have to be willing to take action, collectively and immediately.

We must reduce our ecological footprint, and keep it to an absolute minimum.

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Deforestation is currently responsible for 20% of all emissions, contributing twice as much to global warming as was thought. Our goal should be to prevent greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation by raising awareness and taking whatever action we can.

Forests are rich ecosystems and significant pools of biodiversity – important breeding grounds for millions of species of flora and fauna.

Their role in maintaining climate functions regionally and globally, and the regulation of regional climate patterns through hydrological cycles is of immense importance.

The trees which absorb carbon dioxide are a great tool to combat global warming: stopping deforestation could cut global carbon emissions by as much as three billion tonnes a year – the equivalent of more than 1/3 of all fossil fuel emissions.

The Amazon is the single largest remaining tropical rainforest in the world, housing at least 10% of the world’s known biodiversity, including endemic and endangered flora and fauna. The world depends on this rainforest basin for carbon storage: it has the capacity to sponge 90-140 billion metric tons of carbon (source: BBC).

Main deforestation threats are as follows: burning forests to create grasslands for cattle, mechanized agriculture expansion resulting in soil erosion, river siltation and aquatic contamination with agrochemicals, poorly planned transportation and energy infrastructure, oil and gas spills from hydrocarbon exploitation, and illegal logging.

Unfortunately, immediately after announcing that deforestation is down since conservation efforts began in 1988, the authorities in Brazil voted yesterday to approve a controversial legislation which will alleviate strict fines for some illegal forest clearance and ease overall rules on deforestation.

The reason is a necessity for arable land to feed the growing population and to meet the growing demand for food, stimulating economic development. Farmers are arguing that environmental protection harms their sector and the entire food production system.

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Leading environmental agencies are warning that the changes will spoil Brazil’s significant environmental achievements of recent years and dangerously impair global efforts to fight climate change, reduce carbon emissions, and speed up the loss of biodiversity.

The changes are also expected to expose native tribes and poorer regional settlements to larger risks from floods and droughts.

Another December, another UN Climate Change Conference..

Whether the expectations are realistic or not, an agreement of any kind seems to be out of reach. Or is our ability to save the planet from climate change effects beyond our reach?

COP are annual conferences that assess progress in dealing with climate change. (What progress?) The annual convention, known as Conference of the Parties gathers signees of the Kyoto Protocol. It’s held in Durban, South Africa this week.

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Climate change is far from being a simple problem; its consequences affect or are affected by various global issues – poverty, economic development, population growth, sustainable development and resource management, although it is an environmental issue.

A “climate-safe” future includes:

  • A robust and legally binding international climate agreement
  • An establishment of a fund for climate finance from rich to poor countries
  • A drastic reduction of CO2 emissions
  • Commitment to energy efficiency

More info: user guide and expectations.

The end of consumerism as we know it.. a distant dream or a possibility?

Social researcher Rachel Bosman has some interesting ideas about a new movement called ‘collaborative consumption’. The rise of collaborative consumption is a cultural and economic force, reinventing, not just what we consume, but how we consume.

We’re bartering, trading, swapping, sharing, but they’re being reinvented into dynamic and appealing forms.

We have actually wired our world to share.

Many big concepts were emerging — from the wisdom of crowds to smart mobs — around how ridiculously easy it is to form groups for a purpose.

We started moving from passive consumers to creators, to highly-enabled collaborators. The Internet is removing the middleman, so the peer-to-peer revolution is happening at phenomenal rates. We now live in a connected age where we can locate anyone, anytime, in real-time, from a small device in our hands.

There is a renewed belief in the importance of community, the usefulness of real-time technologies, the pressing environmental concerns, and a global recession that has fundamentally shocked consumer behaviours: all collectively define collaborative consumption.

There are thousands of examples from all around the world of collaborative consumption, organized into three clear systems.

The first is redistribution markets based on ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, repair and redistribute’ mantra.

The second is collaborative lifestyles – the sharing and resources of money, skills and time.

The third system is product service systems. This is where you pay for the benefit of the product — what it does for you — without needing to own the product outright.

These three systems are coming together, allowing people to share resources without sacrificing their lifestyles, or their cherished personal freedoms.

The site, the book, audio & video of her lecture at the RSA, her presentation at the TED.

Even though BP Oil representatives have persistently tried to put down speculations of long-term environmental damage as a result of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, almost a year ago, there is sufficient research that shows otherwise.

The BP Oil Spill disaster impaired the productivity and resources of the habitat and its ‘carrying capacity’, weakening its potential in meeting the needs of the region and impeding its ability to renew and restore own resources.

I wrote about it here when it happened a year ago.

The delayed emergency response and the long-drawn-out cleanup have contributed to a virulent state of the region, which some critics called hopeless. The delicate Gulf ecosystem was devastated and entire chains of perfectly symbiotic habitats disrupted.

The injuries that the region is already facing and will be facing in the future may include direct impact on food stocks and fisheries, their economic and tourism losses due to environmental constraints such as contamination and pollution of waterways and land, and the many changes of policies as a result.

The cleanup was only an immediate solution, the true impact is seen and felt only after the emergency steps have been implemented, so in the long run, the spilled oil may produce oxidized compounds which increase dissolution, dispersion, emulsification and formation of tar, contributing tot he toxic exposure for the ecosystem.

The extent of it will be only visible when the damages can be measured and recorded, however it has already been almost a year since the event and the ecological schism may already manifest itself. At the rate the oil is breaking down, some of it could still be there a century from now!

can-arctic

As an area of growing strategic and economic importance, the navigable passages of the Canadian High Arctic should be unconditionally secure. Uninterrupted monitoring, consecutive patrol, and the capacity to take action when needed are top priority in terms of safeguarding. Economically, an accessible high Arctic passage facilitates maritime trade between Canada and our Northern neighbours. Combine Canada’s sparse Northern population and spotty surveillance of vast territorial waters and the world’s second largest country is limitless.

Moreover, due to bordering international waters, inhospitable climate, and isolation, infrastructure and population density are minimal. The limited availability of community resources, remoteness, and austerity restrict the growth of communities and the development of businesses.

The Canadian Forces have recently become more aware of the need for persistent surveillance of extensive proportions to cover the Canadian waters and the network of passageway within our jurisdiction.
Lack of facilities for a comprehensive and interminable monitoring of the entire area is a factor that can compromise our security.

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In 2010 London implemented a new action plan, introducing a bicycle hire program, aimed to encourage more cycling, relieve overcrowding on public transport, improve its efficiency, help cut traffic congestion, and eventually significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

The great potential of cycling is that it is low-impact, requires less road capacity, is non-polluting, and recreational.

The plan’s long-term objective is to make cycling an equitable and sustainable solution for cities looking to overcome the socio-spatial segregation and even out the distribution of public services across greater territorial expanses in an attempt to lessen burdens on traffic and mass use of private car on short journeys.

Imposing central congestion charges in main cities, along with minimal parking spaces and high parking charges has contributed to reduced private car use in the central core.

New and improved measures that promote cycling conditions are important: properly planned cycle lanes, safe streets with slow-moving traffic, parking at transit stations, etc.

The scheme’s effortless procedure, procurable on the spot, online and at numerous tourist points shows flexibility and openness.

This program was inspired by the Parisian Velib which has worked wonderfully there, remodelling not only its transportation and tourism scene, but also the Parisian lifestyle.

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