Thursday, December 10, 2009

Jerm IX

gone fishing
Originally uploaded by jerm IX
JermIX is a street artist active in Vancouver.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Peter Clegg and low energy design

Last night the Cascadia Region Green Building Council sponsored a talk by Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios . Peter dicussed a number of low energy design projects his firm has worked on.

The first one he discussed in depth was the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The building design took into account natural light and air flows into its design. One of my favorite aspects was the use of natural light which allows the building to be lit at times without using artificial lights.

One of the other projects he discussed was the Headquarters of the National Trust in Swindon. The building is located in a highly industrialized area. It is designed to take advantage of light and wind ventilation as much as possible. The shape of the building attempts to reflect this history of the site while allowing for sustainable features. Read more about the design and construction of the building here.

The Headquarters of the Woodland Trust were also discussed. The project aim was to create a highly innovative and sustainable building within a market rate budget, and to achieve a BREEAM (the LEED-like standard in the UK) Excellent rating with the hope that the building will strengthen the Woodland Trust core cultural values.

One of the interesting facts that was brought out in the lecture is that 5-7% of CO2 emssions worldwide come from the concrete industry. By using wood in the construction, 9 years of operation emssion were saved in the construction of the building. This emphasizes why it is important to think about materials when designing sustainable structures.

Another great feature of this buildin is its spiral design to represent shapes that appear in nature. 

Peter then went on to talk about some of the residences he has worked on including Accordia, which won the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2008 and One Brighton Housing. In Accordia, one of the amazing features was that the typical "English garden" was changed to fit on 3 stories of house thus allowing more public space in the development. What I loved about One Brighton was that for 140 units, the development included only 10 car spaces which are reserved for share cars - including 2 electric cars.

At the end of the lecture, Peter brought up the One Planet Principles of design which include 10 principles of sustainable living.  These principles have been developed by BioRegional - an entrepreneurial charity, which initiates practical sustainability solutions, and then delivers them by setting up new enterprises and partnerships around the world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

And they're off!

Well it has started. The climate talks in Copenhagen have officially begun. If you'd like to follow the talks online, a number of news sources have set up sites dedicated to the conference which is very promising in itself.

The New York Times

The New York Times have set up their own page on the Copenhagen Climate Talks (UNFCCC). This page features lots of useful information and interactive features like Global Emissions by country, energy consumption, GDP, etc., a timeline on the science and politics of climate change, and a video, Copenhagen 101, which gives a basic overview of what the climate talks are and why they are important.

The Guardian is another resource with up-to-date information on what is going on in Copenhagen. Their site offers information on the key players, a glossary of terms that will be used during the conference, video, audio and photo galleries of the conference, and a special feature on Copenhagen media coverage.


Reuters is also having extensive coverage of COP15 including a climate panel addressing the key questions for the conference, a live blog feed from journalists at the conference, and a series of fact boxes and related articles for greater understanding.

Other international sites that are extensively covering the conference include Spiegel Online (in English), Le Monde (in French), Al Jazeera (English), and Xinhua Net (English).

Friday, December 4, 2009

It's coming...

Unless you've been stuck in a hole, I'm sure you realize that next week is COP15 - the climate conference in Copenhagen.

The following are a list of resources to learn more about what COP15 is and why it is important:

  • The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has released a four-page briefing called COP15 for journalists: a guide to the UN climate change summit. This gives a very nice basic guide on the background and the key points.
  • Visit Hopenhagen. Hopenhagen is a movement and a chance at a new beginning. The hope that during the United Nations Climate Change Conference a better future for our planet can be built. It is the hope that we can create a global community that will lead our leaders into making the right decisions. The promise that by solving our environmental crisis, we can solve our economic crisis at the same time.
  • Visit and learn why COP15 is being called the most complex and vital agreement the world has ever seen.
  • Visit the official COP15 website.
  • Read updates from who will be on site at the Copenhagen conference.
This next week will be a very interesting and critical time for the future of our planet. Even Google has helped launch a new tool to give people a vote on the outcome of the crucial meeting."Show Your Vote" allows people to register in a virtual ballot box that can be embedded into any website (see below).

If you have any stories from Copenhagen, please let me know. I'd be very interested to hear them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The New York Times just released a very interesting opinion article called Bio-Diversity.

Aveling Artworks

Martin Aveling is a wildlife artist originally from the UK. He developed his passion for wildlife art in Africa, stimulated by the Continent’s sharp tropical light and dramatic colour palette. Through his paintings, Martin strives to raise the profile of endangered wildlife around the world and to generate support for conservation. Martin has travelled to Indonesia on an award from the Society of Wildlife Artists thus fulfilling a long-lived ambition of seeing orangutans in the wild.

To learn more about recent projects that Martin has worked on, visit his blog at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A couple of exciting weeks!

For the past couple weeks I have not been blogging about what has been going on in sustainability, international development and design because SO MUCH has been going on in those fields and I have been running around trying to get to all of them!

1. West Coast Green

The West Coast Green conference took place in San Francisco from October 1st - 3rd and I had the opportunity to attend under scholarship. It was amazing. The quality of speakers was incredible and I was inspired at every turn! A couple of the highlights from the 3 days include:
a. Cameron Sinclair with Architecture for Humanity was one of they keynote speakers and I had an opportunity to sit with him in a more intimate discussion afterwards. I also purchased his book Design Like You Give A Damn which showcases some of the incredible designs and work done by architects and designers around the world to promote sustainable development. Ethics is Aesthetics!
b. John Knott discussing the Noisette Company discussing his work with the Noisette Community and his learning that social durability is at the foundation of economic durabiltity.
c. Ray Anderson from Interface on the new civilization and incorporating happiness into the the impact equation.
d. Sim Van der Ryn discussing human evolution and the great shifts in human kinds history.
e. Dewpoint's revolutionary water from air techonology
f. Many other really incredible speakers and ideas which can be found on the West Coast Green website.

West Coast Green garden

2. Metro Vancouver's Sustainable Community Breakfast on October 7th

Metro Vancouver's breakfast series on Exploring Rail Transporation featured Michael J. Shiffer from Translink, Steve Hall from Bombardier and Dale Bracewall on the new Olympic Line street car. Michael has recently relocated to Vancouver from Chicago after transforming Chicago's public transport systems into one of the greenest in the world. He discussed the history of public transport in his breakfast talk. Steve Hall with Bombardier discussed the major trends and growth areas in public transports - specifically rail. Dale Bracewall was happy to discuss the role of streetcars in urban areas and announce the streetcar that is being brought over from Europe for the olympic games. The presentations from the breakfast can be found on "">Metro Vancouver's website.

3. STOP: Steps to Overcome Poverty, October 17th

STOP: Steps To Overcome Poverty was a day-long public forum at Vancouver Community College to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The day featured guest speakers, panel discussions, and opportunities to learn and share strategies around ending local and global poverty. The event was also an opportunity for people to Stand Up and Take Action against poverty.

4. Inhabitat talk with Tom Hicks of the US Green Building Council

Inhabitat has been offering a number of free webinars called Inhabitat Green Talks. These talks are with a number of different people who are working in sustainable issues in their communities. On October 19th the talk was with Tom Hicks from the USGBC on how to build performance initiatives into the LEED rating system. Some of the key points that emerged from this talk was the need for an occupant satisfaction survey and the potential to include a year's proof of performance before gaining LEED certification.

5. “RE-MEMBERING” the WORLD: How We Can RE-SET, RE-CLAIM and RE-NEW our Future

Cascadia Regional Green Building Council sponsored a talk by Dianne Dillon-Ridgley on October 22nd. Dianne gave an inspiration talk on the importance of taking a global view into account when making decisions for the future. She touched on the role of the corporation and the need to encourage leadership in and of communities not to just rely on specific leaders. Sustainability is an orchestra and for it to work well, all parts have to play together.

6. October 24th - Global Day for Climate Action

On October 24th, people in 181 countries came together for the most widespread day of environmental action in the planet's history. At over 5200 events around the world, people gathered to call for strong action and bold leadership on the climate crisis. Vancouver had Bridge to a Cool Planet where Cambie Bridge was closed off so that 10,000 people could parade from the bridge to Science World to show their support for climate action. This marked the biggest advocacy mark in Vancouver since the peace march in 2003. Fantastic!

Canadians Care -Climate Action Now!

Anyway, now that the month of sustainability action has wound down, I should be able to blog more regularly about exciting upcoming events, new designs and fantastic actions that are taking place around sustainability.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

West Coast Green Conference

I recently learned that I received a full conference scholarship from West Coast Green. West Coast Green is the largest interactive conference on green innovation for the built environment and is taking place in San Francisco's Fort Mason Center, October 1-3, 2009.

West Coast Green attracts thousands of the brightest minds in green building, business, and technology.

West Coast Green is a feast of innovations, ideas and opportunities:

* 125 speakers – hear from the industries top leaders – including Ray Anderson, Mayor Gavin Newsom, Michelle Kaufmann, Hazel Henderson, Bill Reed, Dan Kammen, Andrew Tang, Josh Becker, and more!

* 300 exhibitors – see the emerging breakthroughs, clean tech showcase, and the coolest innovations in green

* Entrepreneurship Series – launch your concept to the next level with one-on-one expert business consultation

* Network like crazy – build your future and meet your next business partner at dynamic, topic-specific networking sessions

* More! Experience the Green Jobs Pavilion, Self-sustaining Show Home, Hanging Storm Water Gardens, and more

Register now to gain the tools you need to express your brilliance!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

BIXI Bikeshare Montreal is Fantastic

Bixi Bikes in a row

I was recently on holiday in Montreal and had the pleasure of experiencing another city's bike-ability. Montreal is a fantastic city for bikes. First of all, they have implemented a fantastic bike sharing service called BIXI.

BIXI is a very simple concept. There are hundreds of BIXI bike racks around the city. You can have an annual membership for about $78, or if you're just visiting Montreal, you can pay $5 and have access to the system for the day. In order to get a BIXI bike, you just have to walk up to one of the bike racks solar powered panels, put in your credit card and you get a code that you can put into any of the bikes on the rack and take out. When you're done with the bike you simply put it in any other BIXI bike rack in the city. It is genius and I highly recommend it.

Montreal is very bikeable. During the summer, sections of main roads are sectioned off for bicycle use only. So bikers don't have to ride with the cars. They also have a number of non-BIXI bike racks around the city. For example, on a street with parking meters, the bike racks are in between the bike meters.

Bike hook up by parking metres

This creates an area that is as bike friendly as it is car friendly - pretty unusual for a North American city.

Montreal - a fantastic city for bikers, at least in the summer months.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


TckTckTck is a global movement for a unified voice against climate change. The combined efforts of millions of people and member organizations hope to deliver a clear message that we demand meaningful leadership and action against climate change.

TckTckTck calls on the leaders of the world to come together at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, a meeting of world governments in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7, 2009. TckTckTck unites people from around the world, from all walks of life, to tell the leaders that climate change is already costing lives. The poorest countries are suffering the most even though they didn’t create the problem. The world has the ability to turn this around and the solutions are available. We have the opportunity to create a new, strong economy based on clean jobs and energy for all. An ambitious, fair and binding climate agreement by world leaders is our single best hope.

Learn more and sign up at

Monday, August 3, 2009

Around the World on Solar Power

A Swiss engineer is attempting to lead the first expedition to sail around the world on a catamaran powered entirely on solar energy. The catamaran, designed by Raphael Domjan, is called "Planet Solar". The boat is being built in Germany and the round-the-world attempt will launch in 2011.

The boat’s deck will be covered in 470 square meters of solar panels and its skippers hope to average a speed of eight knots. To take advantage of the most sunlight possible, the tentative route is largely around the equator. In case of bad weather, batteries on board will be able to store solar energy to power the boat for three days. Domjan hopes the $11.5 million project will prove that boats can travel at high speed without emitting any carbon dioxide.

Source: Thomson Reuters

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Green Police

A short video on the 'green police' of New York. I personally think the 'green police' shouldn't be driving an SUV, but I definitely like the idea of them and think we need more.

Source: Thomson Reuters

Monday, July 20, 2009

Iceland is green

Iceland’s mountains, glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs allow the country to harness 100% of its electricity and heat from renewable sources. Iceland's fishing fleets, as well as public and private transport, are the only remaining sectors to use fossil fuels. Over the next 20-30 years, Iceland plans to use geothermal electricity to split hydrogen from water and use hydrogen fuel cells to power its vehicles and fishing trawlers. The Guardian has put together a slideshow that demonstrates Iceland's renewable energy efforts.

Recently, Iceland has attempted to make their energy sector even greener in an experiment that will see CO2 exhaust gas from one of Iceland's geothermal power stations pumped below ground into the bedrock.

Source: Reuters

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Flatpack the Opera

Flatpack is an innovative and experimental opera composed by Tom Lane and, in this production, is being staged by Mammoth Music Theatre, directed by Rebecca Lea. The Opera explores issues encountered in everyday modern life and how our consumer decisions and domestic interaction with others are indicators of more profound life choices and personalities. Practically, this focuses on a selection of scenes taken from the lives of a cast of characters, which relate to furniture, living and lifestyle. The marriage of music and drama and the important role of passion, adventure, humour and love are consistent with the traditional elements of the medium. Where it differs is in the setting, its specific content and its performance. The opera also seeks to be as inclusive of the public as possible: by performing Flatpack in a public place, during the official opening hours of IKEA in Wembley, UK, the hope is to attract audience members previously unfamiliar with opera, to catch them unawares, transforming a conventional furniture shop into an unforgettable experience.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Carbon Neutral Games

This morning's Sustainability Community Breakfast was entitled "Carbon Neutral Games VANOC and Offsetters". The breakfast featured Linda Coady, Vice President of Sustainability at VANOC and James Tansey, President and Co-founder of Offsetters as speakers as well as a presentation by Project

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver are to be the first Games in Olympic history to have a carbon offset sponsor. The locally-based Offsetters Clean Technology is working with VANOC to neutralize the carbon footprint of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games with projects that showcase BC leadership and innovation on climate solutions.

VANOC provided an update on their sustainability planning for the Winter Games and launched the new Vancouver 2010 Sustainability Journey video:

The video aims to cross language, cultural and inter-generational barriers in describing the sustainable features of the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. A summary of these features can be seen here. However, I am not entirely sure that someone without a background in sustainability would be able to fully understand what the video is trying to portray.

While I do find most offsetting companies to be suspect, I did like how Offsetters works to help individuals and companies understand, reduce, track, and offset their climate impact, rather than just offering a financial solution of being able to buy offsets and continue on with 'business as usual'.

Project Bluesky put on an entertaining presentation on how athletes are working with the Olympic Committee, Offsetters, students and other professionals to reduce emissions by encouraging people to log the kilometres they walk, cycle, or ride on public transit and challenge their friends to do the same. They also presented the widget, which allows participants to log their own modes of transportation.

However, I feel that this widget is primarily only of use to people who frequently drive. If you already take public transport regularly, the widget does not account for changes in behavior, such as changing from riding a diesel bus every day to biking or walking.

ReBurbia Design Competition

With the current housing crisis, the sub-prime mortgage meltdown, and rising energy costs, the future of suburbia looks bleak. Suburban communities in central California, Arizona and Florida are desolate and decaying, with for sale and foreclosure signs dotting many lawns. According to the US Census, about 90% of all metropolitan growth occurred in suburban communities in the last ten years. Urbanites who loathe the freeways, big box stores and bland aesthetics stereotypical of suburbia may secretly root for the end of sprawl, but demographic trends indicate that exurban growth is still on the rise.

As limited natural resources force us to find better solutions for density and efficiency, what will become of the cul-de-sacs, cookie-cutter tract houses and generic strip malls that have long upheld the diffuse infrastructure of suburbia? How can we redirect these existing spaces to promote sustainability, walkability, and community? It’s a problem that demands a visionary design solution which is why Inhabitat and Dwell Magazine have teamed up to launch the ReBurbia design contest.

Winners will have their designs showcased in Dwell Magazine, & and receive a $1000 cash prize.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Pedal for the Planet

David Suzuki speaks
Coast 2 Coast: Pedal for the Planet, started in Victoria and passed through Vancouver with an event held on July 4th at the Vancouver Art Gallery. David Suzuki was on hand to comment about the Canadian government’s failure to take action on climate change and urged people to demand a commitment from the government. He also noted that those in developing countries are the least responsible for climate change yet face the greatest burden because of it.

Global T.V. was at the launch of the Vancouver leg, and you can watch the interview online at

Feel free to join C2C as they make their way to Ottawa or follow the progress on the blog:

Pedal for the Planet in a larger map

The Happy Planet Index

The Happy Planet Index (HPI) is an innovative measure that shows the ecological efficiency with which human well-being is delivered around the world. It is the first ever index to combine environmental impact with well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which country by country, people live long and happy lives. The second compilation of the global HPI, published in July 2009, shows that we are still far from achieving sustainable well-being and puts forward a vision of what we need to do to get there.

To measure the efficiency with which countries convert the earth's finite resources into their citizens' well-being, the HPI takes three separate indicators -- ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life-expectancy -- and then carries out complex calculations. One can explore these indicators on the HPI website.

While leaders of the developed world worry away at economic indicators like Gross Domestic Product (GDP), deflation and their implications for economic recovery, the HPI lauds alternative standards that provide a new twist on the old adage that wealth does not buy happiness. However, the HPI's sums have been criticised for not taking sufficient account of issues such as political freedom, but the index has also found followers.

Within two days of the launch of the first HPI, it was downloaded and read in 185 countries worldwide.

You may also calculate your own HPI score on the HPI website. I received a score of 62.4 which is above the world average of 46, but still below the target of 83, which represents a good life that doesn’t cost the Earth.

Source: Reuters

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reece Terris - Ought Apartment

The Vancouver Art Gallery is currently hosting an exhibit by artist Reece Terris. The installation, called Ought Apartment, consist of a tower that rises from the main floor to the full height of the central rotunda, in which sections from six apartments are stacked one on top of another. Each apartment is furnished with discarded items from the 1950s (on the lowest level) up to the present decade (at the top). Through this process of “making strange,” Terris invites viewers to consider their relationship to the consumption and construction of domestic space and the role this space plays in locating a public as social subjects.

Walking through the installation is like walking through time. What is most amazing is that Ought Apartment is made up entirely of reclaimed materials - thus showing how easy it is to furnish an apartment of any era with recycled goods.

World Changing Careers Symposium

From July 23-27 is the World Changing Careers Symposium at UBC. Come to design a sustainable future through your career - whether you’re interested in science, governance, education, business, health, economics, media, cleantech and energy, or agriculture. This is a rare opportunity to engage with the best minds, the brightest ideas, leaders of today, and visionaries of tomorrow. It’s your chance to learn skills and ideas to drive the world in an exciting new direction and give you the inside track on the jobs of the future. For more information visit

You can also view a poster for this event here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Melting Men

Although this installation is about 6 month old, I thought I'd bring it back to light as we are now in the northern hemisphere summer. Brazilian artist, Nele Azevedo's installation of frozen men attempts to show how the effects of melting ice can be felt worldwide. The artist metaphorically brings the Arctic ice melt to the equator by showcasing a number of thought-provoking figures, carefully sculpted out of ice, who seem to sit in contemplation as the midday heat slowly erodes their bodies.

Reference: Iconocast

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Pain of Bike Riding

I have recently started biking to work and around town a lot more often. In the past, I haven't had the best 'bike karma' - from passing out and landing in a gutter in Bali to flailing out of control and skidding down a dirt path in China. As such, I now tend to be a bit more cautious while riding my bike.

Bike riding is an incredibly efficient, clean and healthy way to get around. The video "Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop" from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo briefly discusses how efficient bike riding is.

However, due to the fact that bikers share the road with cars, buses, trams, etc. many accidents still do occur. The Guardian is running a discussion on What's your worst cycling accident? While this is not an attempt to scare bike riders off the road, it does point out that we all have to be careful when using our shared roadways.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Apartment Rooftop Wind Turbine in Sweden

A Swedish property developer goes green by powering an apartment building with a rooftop wind turbine.

Source: Thomson Reuters

Friday, June 12, 2009

Transformational Thought, Design, People

Cascadia has recently released their 2 Quarter 2009 edition of trim tab. Some of the articles that this edition features includes the South Lake Union Discover Center, how passion and the power of the individual can make transformative change, economic benefits and living buildings and thoughts surrounding density and sustainability.

In the article 'Density and Sustainability - A Radical Perspective', the author, Jason McLennan, asks the question, "What building heights and urban densities result in the maximum benefits to culture, society and the environment?" The author argues the excessive urban density is not the most sustainable answer and that there should be limits to the density of our cities and to the heights of the buildings. He discusses a "sweet spot" or optimal range that results in the kind of urbanity that best meets our needs and should guide our long-term vision of the cities of tomorrow and outlines that the "sweet spot" tends to be in the 4 to 8 story height range at densities between 30 and 100 units/acre. The author argues that In this proposed range, the best results are achieved: enough density to allow for car-free living in a city that is resilient and walkable, while keeping us close enough to the ground to maintain our relationship with the earth and with one another - thus looking at density from both a spatial as well as a vertical perspective.

To learn more about Cascadia and trim tab you may visit the following link.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mega Van #1 Electric Vehicle

A very cool little van...

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Bowen Island Eco-Shed

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to stay at the Eco-Shed on Bowen Island. The Eco-Shed was created by author James Glave with sustainability in mind. James Glave chronicles his journey toward building the Eco-Shed in his book Almost Green. The book discusses his challenges, skepticism and learnings of the project

Some of the sustainability features the shed boasts include a passive solar design, ventilation system for outside air, better-than-code insulation, electrically-fired hot water on demand, reclaimed or certified lumber, rainwater harvesting and a dual-flush toilet.

Overall the eco-shed provides a fantastic place to unwind and learn about one person's journey towards building sustainably.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Munem Wasif - Photographs of Climate Refugees

Bangladeshi born photographer, Munem Wasif, has created a set of photographs that give insights into the harships faced by the people of Satkhira. The rise in salinity has been caused by a shift from traditional agriculture to commercial shrimp farming. The latter can generate a lot of money for a fortunate few, but for most, its consequences are disastrous. Once-fertile land turns to brackish water and local people lose access to drinking water and their livelihoods.

The image above captures the daily routine of Shajhan Shiraj and his brothers as they drag their boats across the mud in a three hour journey to collect fresh water. Similar journeys are becoming more frequent across the region as accessible drinking water becomes increasingly hard to obtain.

In A tale of lost paradise: Climate refugees, Wasif has put together a series of photographs which aim to tell stories of people who have lost their livelihood and way of living due to climate change. In the last 10 years, farmers have had to disassemble and move their tin-and-bamboo houses five times to escape the encroaching waters of the huge Brahmaputra River in Kurigram. This river is swollen out of all proportion by severe monsoon that scientists attribute to global warming and melting ice in the Himalayas. Bangladesh, with a population of 140 million people all crammed into an area slightly smaller than the state of Illinois, is a target of the most vulnerable to climate change.

Ref: New Scientist

Monday, May 4, 2009

Melting glaciers around the world

The Guardian online recently posted a gallery of glaciers around the world. As temperatures rise due to climate change, glaciers are retreating at unprecedented rates. Some ice caps, glaciers, sea ice and even an ice shelf have disappeared altogether in this century and many more are retreating so rapidly that they may vanish within a matter of decades.

National Geographic also has their own gallery, Climate Change: Pictures of a Warming World.

By looking at historic photos, it becomes very clear that the glaciers are melting very quickly. The Guardian gallery shows enormous differences in just the past year as seen in their pictures of the French Alps near Chamonix.

However, this is by no means new information, in 2006 NPR released a story of Alaska's melting glaciers, providing a comparison of pictures taken 70 years ago to the glaciers in 2006.

The pictures are not only stunning, but also outline how climate change is having a real impact on our planet.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Seoul Commune 2026: Rethinking "Towers in the Park"

Seoul Commune 2026 is an alternative sustainable community designed to be viable in an overpopulated metropolis. By rethinking the division of private and public space, Seoul Commune 2026 creates a third intermediate space condition to accommodate spontaneous social interactions. The exterior skin consists of geotextiles and photovoltaic glass panels creating a complex network of private, semi public and public spaces.

"Towers in the park" is a relatively new Asian urban spacial structure that has swiftly been gaining in popularity. It consists of two contrasting elements: the park represents the public space, while the rising towers are an accumulation of individual dwelling units and private space. The designers of Seoul Commune 2026 saw the lack of intermediary space as a problem in engaging these two opposing aspects. Seoul Commune 2026 solves this problem by connecting and balancing the two elements (the towers and the park) and creating a condition in which the towers become the park and the park becomes the towers

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Earth Under Fire

A couple months ago I wrote a blog about Gary Braasch's photography.

Gary Braasch has recently completed the book EARTH UNDER FIRE: How Global Warming is Changing the World. Through vivid pictures and compelling narrative, the book tells of his extraordinary 8-year journey around the world to document changes already underway to people, communities and ecosystems. The book promises to offer an upbeat and intelligent account of how we can lessen the effects of our near-total dependence on fossil fuels using technologies and energy sources already available.

Featuring more than one hundred photographs — including dramatic before-and-after comparisons — EARTH UNDER FIRE records species, cultures, and entire ecosystems at risk due to receding glaciers, eroding coastlines, rising sea levels, and thawing permafrost. The powerful, eye-opening images show glacial retreat from the Alps to the Andes, coastal erosion threatening native villages from Alaska to Bangladesh, and other direct evidence that global warming is happening right now.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day: Checking out the earth from above

April 22 marks the annual celebration of Earth Day. GeoEye is one of the premier providers of satellite and aerial imagery. Headquartered in Dulles, Va., GeoEye is commissioned by various defense, intelligence, urban planning and environmental monitoring groups to keep an eye on Earthly developments.

GeoEye's satellites have captured the millions of people who were in DC on Inauguration Day to erupting volcanoes and well known geological features such as Uluru in Australia.

Check out their Natural Features Gallery for some amazing shots of our earth!

Learn more about Earth Day and activities around the planet at the Earth Day Network.

Monday, April 20, 2009

The Rescue

The Rescue is a campaign put together by the organization Invisible Children to raise awareness around abducted children forced to be soldiers in the DR Congo and Northern Uganda.

For 23 years, the government of Uganda and a rebel group called the Lords Resistance Army, led by a man named Joseph Kony, have engaged in Africa’s longest war. In recent years, peace was seemingly within reach, largely due to the Juba Peace Talks that began in July 2006. However, despite a ceasefire signed between the LRA and Ugandan government, efforts toward peace through the Juba Peace Talks were stalled on several occasions by Kony’s refusal to sign the final peace agreement.

Kony’s absence at the peace agreement signing on November 29, 2008 proved his promises to be futile and ultimately disabled the peace talks. Furthermore, the ICC has obtained evidence that Kony used the ceasefire during the peace talks to regroup, regain strength and resume child abductions. Joseph Kony is the world’s first individual indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Since September 2008, hostility in the Orientale province in DR Congo and Western Equatoria in South Sudan has reached a feverish pitch. In apparent desperation and a renewed will to spread terror to DR Congo, the LRA murdered over six hundred and abducted more than 160 children to fight amongst its ranks. More than 104,000 Congolese have been displaced since Christmas in attempts to escape the LRA forces. A civil war, originally contained within Uganda’s borders, has now evolved into a widespread regional crisis. Invisible Children, in concert with other policy organizations, now believes an international effort to apprehend Kony and rescue his child soldiers is the most viable way to end the most neglected humanitarian emergency in the world today.

On April 25th, 2009 the international community will unite to deliver the innocent from Kony’s reign and ensure he is brought to justice. Thousands of participants will gather in 100 cities across the world to symbolically abduct themselves to free the abducted.

Aluminum pull tab bag

A bag can pull together an outfit and get you noticed! Check out this very cool bag hand-crocheted with over 700 recycled aluminum soda can pull-tabs! Designed by Escama Studio, the eco-friendly bag is also socially friendly being produced by the craftswomen of cooperatives located in Brasilia, Brazil. Inside each bag is a card containing the name of the proud artist who crocheted the piece.

As we are learning to consume less, this bag is both environmentally and socially responsible in reusing objects that would otherwise become waste and by providing an opportunity for a designer in a developing country.

Learn more at

Oxfam Canada's Climate Change Campaign Launch

Approaching Jericho Beach
Originally uploaded by ajfis2
On Saturday, volunteers and members of the community gathered to launch Oxfam Canada's Climate Change Campaign in Vancouver. Participants marched 6kms from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Jericho Beach Park.

The average distance that people in developing countries walk each day for clean water is 6 km. - a distance that is growing due to climate change. Oxfam walked with buckets of water to symbolize what millions of citizens in the developing world (mostly women) have to go through every day just to access clean drinking water.

There is a deep injustice in the impact of climate change. Poor communities around the world are the least responsible for emissions. But they are suffering the greatest effects – increased droughts, floods, disease and hunger. Poverty and isolation makes them the most vulnerable and the least able to adapt. Within poor communities, women suffer the most.

Volunteers collected signatures and educated the public on issues surrounding climate change, the food crisis and women's rights.

The day ended at Jericho Beach Park for the annual Evergreen Earth Day celebration where the global impact of climate change was put in context with local measures to reduce Canada's impact on climate change.

Learn more at

Free-range Furniture

Ryan Frank is a South African born furniture designer living and working in the UK. His free-range furniture collection makes good use of sustainable materials while also including cultural references to his African roots. The frequent use of natural and salvaged materials has resulted in a series of functional, unique and eco-sensitive designs.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Going Green When Remodeling: Good For Your Wallet and Your Health

The following is an article submitted by Richard Moyle, the National Awareness Coordinator for the Mesothelioma Cancer Center (

"Going Green" When Remodeling: Good For Your Wallet and Your Health

We all know that "going green" is great way to conserve energy and even save money. Many people have begun taking measures to cut back on water and electricity usage. But there are many who are not aware of the fact that you can receive tax credits simply by remodeling your existing home using energy efficient and eco-friendly materials.

Homeowners can get credits for installing efficient air conditioners and heat pumps; gas or oil furnaces and furnace fans; and gas, oil, or electric heat pump water heaters in new or existing homes. They can also get credits for energy improvements to their homes, such as windows, insulation, and envelope and duct sealing.

In some cases, making these types of modifications to your home are not only better for the environment, but for your health and safety as well. Asbestos, for example, was consistently used as insulation in houses for most of the 20th century. Exposure to asbestos is the only known cause of an aggressive type of cancer known as mesothelioma. A person with mesothelioma usually wonít exhibit symptoms until 15 to 25 years after exposure. By the time they are diagnosed and sent to a mesothelioma doctor to be treated, it is usually too late for any type of treatment to be effective.

Eco-friendly products can cut energy costs by 25 to 35% per year. Instead of expensive and mal-treated wood, interior walls can be made from steel and concrete. This avoids many of the problems associated with asbestos and other insulation methods. Green alternatives to asbestos include cotton fiber, lycene foam and cellulose.

There are a number of other alternative types of insulation that can be used that are more eco-friendly than asbestos and donít pose any danger to your health. The United States Department of Energy has a list of insulation "Energy Savers" you can use when making plans to remodel your home.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Future Trends in Climate, Development and Security

As an alumni of Boston University I have access to their alumni webinars. Today the webinar was presented by Adil Najam, Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future. He served as a lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), work for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore. On the nomination of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Professor Najam was recently appointed as a member of the United Nations Committee for Development Policy (CDP), a subsidiary of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In his talk, Future Trends in Climate, Development and Security, Adil Najam discussed what global climate change means in the context of other big challenges of our time with specific reference to global development and global security and posed three questions for review:
1.) Why should we be viewing climate change as a development and security issue?
2.) What is the nature of 'globalness' in our globalized world?
3.) What are the key future trends for global climate change policy and practice.

In order to answer these questions he tackled different aspects of climate change and development. One of the first aspects he looked at was our planetary design.

In order to put our planet in context he asked the question, if the world was one country, what sort of country would it be?
a. It would be a very poor country;
b. It would be a very divided country;
c. It would be a very degraded county;
d. It would be a very insecure country;
e. It would be a poorly governed country;
f. It would be an unsafe country.

If our world were just one country, our world would be a developing country. Therefore, the challenge of development has to be thought of in the context of developing planet. This matters because the connectedness of environmental challenges forces us to confront otherwise neglected aspects of our global connectedness. Therefore we must realize that many environmental issues are global; climate is the quintessential global challenge of our times, environment is “where we live” and cannot be understood except through multi disciplinary lenses, and environmental challenges are essential challenges for security.

This in turn has allowed for us to think of the idea of 'Sustainable Development' - we can not continue to have global ponzi scheme in terms of development because the people we will be taking from will be future generations.

However, how do you fulfill the needs of development while also fulfilling the needs of environment?

We need to turn the environment pictures around to be not just of wildlife and conservation, but also a picture of development and people. The story of climate change has been one of a Conceptual Evolution - evolving from looking at just emissions to looking at efficiency and how things can be run better and more economically. From questions of efficiency it expanded to questions surrounding climate policy and that in turn lead to questions of equity and development which have now evolved into sustainability and the ways in which people live.

Human development is linked to human security, because people only think about security when they are insecure and insecurity impacts the environment. For example the Liberian Civil War on Guinea has had a significant impact on the environment in the Parrot's Beak Region of Guinea.

A 2x2 matrix was provided on the types of conflict with the scope.

He then tied different environmental aspects into this matrix discussing how all types of insecuity are equally important, the first example being that of water.

Water and War: Isn’t as much water war in world, major source of conflict but not of war.
Water and Civil Strife: Water remains a major cause of civil violence.
Water and Institutional Failure: Crises of governance can manifest as serious social conflict.
Water and Human Security: Water triggers human insecuirty through livelihoods as well as lifestyles. Each year more people die from dirty water than from war.

How can we tackle climate adaptation?

In order to tackle climate adaptation we must first get closer to the problem and determine where the future stresses lie.
Seven potential future stresses were cited:
1. Water Stress
2. Food Stress
3. Energy Stress
4. Disease Stress
5. Disaster Risks
6. Ecosystem Degradation
7. Mass Migrations (creates new stress on larger cities)

In conclusion, Adil Najam gave 5 Propositions to how to tackle climate change, development and security:
1. The environment is too important to be left to environmentalists alone and needs to be picked up by businesses, government, science, etc.
2. There is a new energy economy in the making and it will not be stopped. The future of energy will be increasingly climate constrained.
3. Climate change will hit the poorest first, the poorest the most and the poorest dispropotionately.
4. The climate of business has changed, so must the business of climate.
5. Climate policy was predominantly energy policy, increasingly it will become water policy.

The presentation should be available online in upcoming days at

Monday, March 30, 2009

China counts down to Copenhagen

Greenpeace China projected a giant ticking clock on Beijing's old city gate in a bid to bring climate change back onto the nation's agenda. The glowing projection, which spread across the giant gate, read: "Time is Running Out to Stop Global Warming."

Ticking down the minutes to the UN climate meeting in Copenhagen at the end of this year, the clock was displayed for just one night on Yongding Gate in southern Beijing.

The main message of the evening was to call on China to play a strong leadership role at the UN meeting in Copenhagen in December.

“We urge President Hu Jintao to personally attend the Copenhagen climate meeting," Greenpeace China Climate and Energy campaigner Li Yan told media at the press event.

"As the largest global greenhouse emitter, China can and must take a leadership role in tackling global warming,” she added.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Earth Hour, Saturday 8:30-9:30 Worldwide


Take part in an amazing global event tomorrow. Earth Hour is asking everyone around the world to turn off their lights for just one hour. From 8:30-9:30pm local time people of all ages, nationalities, race and background have the opportunity to use their light switch as their vote – Switching off your lights is a vote for Earth, or leaving them on is a vote for global warming. WWF are urging the world to VOTE EARTH and reach the target of 1 billion votes, which will be presented to world leaders at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen 2009.

Sustainability in Metro Vancouver – how do we measure up?

This past Wednesday Metro Vancouver hosted another Sustainability Breakfast entitled: “Sustainability in Metro Vancouver – how do we measure up?“

The breakfast hosted three speakers discussing the current state of sustainability in the greater Vancouver area. The featured speakers include:
Johnny Carline, Commissioner/CAO of Metro Vancouver on the 2009 Metro Vancouver Sustainability Report;
David Marshall, Executive Director of the Fraser Basin Council on the 2009 State of the Fraser Basin Report - Sustainability Snapshot 4; and
Lidia Kemeny, Director, Partnerships & Projects, Grants & Community Initiatives of the Vancouver Foundation on the Vancouver Foundation’s Vital Signs for Metro Vancouver 2008.

The main concerns about sustainability in the region centered around transport and social sustainability - namely homelessness and affordable housing.

Other interesting statistics emerged surrounding environmental sustainability. Although people in Vancouver use significantly more water on average than other Canadians and even Americans, the per capita water use has been dropping since 1986. While the amount of waste that is recycled continues to grow, so does the amount of disposed solid waste. The trend in the weight of solid waste generated reflects the growing population and the economic prosperity of the region.

One of the interesting statistics that emerged from the Vancouver Foundations report surrounded the question that was asked, "Give an example of a specific event, action, or other thing that has improved the quality of life in metro Vancouver over the past 12 months?" 55% of respondents could not think of anything that had improved their lives in that time:

While all the reports are a bit lengthy, they do provide a number of interesting statistics surrounding sustainability in both greater Vancouver and the Fraser Basin.

Learn more about upcoming community breakfasts here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Amphibious Community/Health Center

The Hope Floats Initiative- Amphibious Community/Health Center is currently in the design process in Atlanta. It is hoped that if the prototype of the floating community center/clinic is successful it will then move to Makoko - a slum settlement of about 30,000 on the Atlantic coast within the city of Lagos, Nigeria

The team is currently in the process of finalizing all necessary permits. However, since the project is located within an illegal slum settlement, formal consent from the government may not be necessary. This shoreline slum includes some 30,000 diverse inhabitants most of which are illegal immigrants or the working poor. At present there is only one other known public health facility operated by a non-governmental organization (NGO) in the area.

This project is the next phase of Holcim Awards 'Next Generation' 1st prize 2008 Africa-Middle East entry 'Amphibious Dwellings in informal Settlements, Lagos Nigeria' The anticipated outcome of this project will be not only a free healthcare facility but also a clear demonstration of alternative means of developing informal settlements. With the joint effort of all stakeholders the module will thus become a catalyst for overall redevelopment of similar settlements which will utilize the energy and creativity of people to produce healthy and ecologically sound solutions to the housing crises in Lagos.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Solar clothing

The Guardian has a new slideshow called Best in show: Solar Clothing. The slideshow tracks the history of solar fashion so far. From bags that provide enough juice to power a laptop to umbrellas that gather solar power while you're enjoying a picnic. Innovative and creative ways to incorporate solar power into everyday wear.