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Solutions & sustainability - Mar 15

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage


“Living on the edge”, the balcony garden designers guild

Jude Measures, Permaculture Research Institute
Living on the Edge is about being part of creating a cutting-edge sustainable culture, of being powerful, creative and daring. It’s about empowering Melbourne’s inner-city residents to create and maintain lush balcony gardensEdge gardens bring you to the’ ‘happening’ edge between private and public life- extend your boundaries physically and socially, as you get together with others to create.

Edge gardens happen on balconies, verandahs, window boxes. They happen at the back door, on porches and in courtyards, anywhere plants and living things need you, and you need them.
...

The Future as it could be:

Inner-city residents create balcony gardens in which they spend time each day sitting, eating breakfast, diary writing or debriefing after work.

These balcony or ‘edge gardens’ are an expression of the owner’s character and maybe their fantasies, they could be the single area in the persons life where the total environment is under their control and

Their balcony gardens are sustainable as gardens: they have healthy soil, a constantly available water supply (pond, hose, full watering can) and a place for the resident to sit comfortably. They have plants, vines, flowers or art features that delight or are useful to the owner. Because they satisfy the owners real needs , the owner will continue to invest attention and care on them. A ‘Virtuous Circle’ is created
(13 March 2006)
Check out original for some great photos! -AF


Landscape architects and global warming

Bill Thompson, Land Matters (Landscape Architecture News Digest)
In a preview of the January column for Landscape Architecture magazine, Bill Thompson, FASLA, looks at Ed Marzia’s work on the design and construction industry’s contribution to global warming.
--------------
...Here’s the kicker for landscape architects: Designers are part of the problem [of global warming].

That’s what Santa Fe architect Ed Mazria, author of The Passive Solar Energy Book, found out when, in preparation for a talk on green design, he started studying the Department of Energy statistics on energy consumption. The doe’s pie chart of total U.S. consumption, Mazria found, lacks a slice devoted to buildings. Its biggest slices are those for industry (which includes mining, manufacturing, and construction) and transportation.

Mazria decided to see how the pie would slice if he reapportioned some processes that were lumped under industry—the manufacture of construction materials, for example—into a new category that included all buildings. Apportioned that way, buildings claimed an even bigger slice of the pie—and a resulting share of greenhouse gas emissions—than even industry or transportation (see “Turning down the Global Thermostat” at mazria.com).

“Unknowingly,” writes Mazria in an open letter to the architecture, landscape architecture, planning, and building community, “we are responsible for half of all global warming emissions annually.” Because he’s an architect, Mazria is concerned primarily with buildings, but as all landscape architects know, site elements are a major portion of any development. Hence, landscape architects share complicity with architects in Mazria’s chart of greenhouse gas emissions. But Mazria’s outlook isn’t fatalistic. If architects and landscape architects share the blame for a big chunk of greenhouse emissions, they can also—if they make wise design and material choices—greatly reduce emissions from the construction sector. In fact, Mazria says, “It is time for designers to lead in the race to prevent dangerous climate change.”

As an immediate target, Mazria proposes that “all new buildings, developments, and major renovation projects be designed to use half the fossil fuel energy they would normally consume.” This, of course, would require a huge change in the day-to-day design operations of most mainstream landscape architecture offices. They’d have to think, as a matter of routine, about specifying recycled materials, reducing paving in the design of roads and parking lots, decreasing the use of conventional storm drains, and deciding when to recommend not to build.

But Mazria’s call to action doesn’t stop there...
(19 December 2006)
According to reader R, the print edition of Landscape Architecture Magazine has an article in the Shared Wisdom section:" Design as if survival mattered: Why designers hold the key to the global thermosta," making the case that the building industry apparently contributes more to global warming then transportation and industry.

Related:
Letter to Building Industry Professionals: Build Green Or Else by Ed Mazria
Mazria Inc.
architecture2030
American Society of Landscape Architects
Landscape Architecture Magazine


Urban renewal: getting cars out of the city center

"peakguy", The Oil Drum/NYC

Despite some lip service against the evils of Robert Moses type highway building, public policy has focused on facilitating as many automobiles into the central business districts as technically possible. Great sums of money and planning effort are still spent on trying to allieviate traffic congestion, only to find that once one bottleneck is "fixed" many other arise. We see this in the timing of traffic lights, the widening of roads at the expense of sidewalks, pedestrian barricades, the number of traffic police used to facilitate traffic at bottlenecks, etc. And yet where has it all ended - more and more automobile traffic constantly congesting the scarce public space of our urban centers.

Building on the last post on 21st Century Urban Renewal, the new study "Necessity or Choice? Why People Drive in Manhattan" released by NYC's Transportation Alternatives and Interloafer's fairly detailed list of policy fixes (which I agree with 100%), I would like to start a conversation about auto-dependency by debunking many of the traditional assumptions about automobile traffic in the urban environment. It's time to revisit the thinking and assumptions that got us here.
(12 March 2006)
Related: Getting Nowhere: Diehard singles, we commute, clog, stall, rage and refuse to change (Seattle Times).


More news outlets, fewer stories: new media paradox'

James Rainey, LA Times via Common Dreams
A "new paradox of journalism" has emerged in which the number of news outlets continues to grow, yet the number of stories covered and the depth of many reports is decreasing, according to an annual review of the news business being released today by a watchdog group.

Many television, radio and newspaper newsrooms are cutting their staffs as advertising revenue stagnates, but blogs and other online ventures lack the size or inclination to generate information, reports the Project for Excellence in Journalism, a research institute affiliated with the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

The study depicts the media in an interregnum — with the reach of print, radio and television reduced, but the promise of an egalitarian online "citizen journalism" unfulfilled.

"It's probably glib and even naive to say simply that more platforms equal more choices," project Director Tom Rosenstiel said. "The content has to come from somewhere, and as older news-gathering media decline, some of the strengths they offer in monitoring the powerful and verifying the facts may be weakening as well."

As a result, consumers need to get information from a variety of sources to understand the world around them, the study concludes.
(13 March 2006)
Good current information is essential for handling the energy crisis. The Web is invaluable, but we need the conventional media too. Somehow, we have to find ways to support good research, analysis and journallism - especially about energy. Individuals can help by supporting information sources they like, through subscriptions, donations, encouraging letters and email. -BA

Related:
Now the little guy is the true pit bull of journalism ("The blogosphere's ability to include the whole planet in an immediate dialogue makes it the US's most vital news source") by Arianna Huffington


Why isn't there more new urbanism?

David Roberts, Gristmill
It is conventional wisdom in enviro circles that a big part of a green future is green cities, and a big part of green cities is dense, mixed-use development, wherein people interact with their neighbors, walk or bike to amenities, and generally have a much smaller environmental footprint than suburbanites. In other words: new urbanism.

Supporters of new urbanism face a daunting challenge, though: namely, the apparently overwhelming preference of Americans for sprawling, single-use suburbs. If dense, mixed-use urban communities are so great, how come there just aren't that many? How come nobody seems to want to live in them?

There are two basic schools of thought on this question...
(14 March 2006)

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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