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