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Video of modern dance piece inspired by John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent.

Valerie Green, United States Artists
Valerie Green, choreographer and executive director of Dance Entropy, a NYC modern dance company, created a piece inspired by “The Long Descent.” Here’s a brief video excerpt of the full work.

“Rise and Fall is a 40-minute abstract choreographic dance piece set for five performers. The work is based on the cycle of a civilization and is comprised of multiple sections, running the course of the following cycle: a new beginning, tracing footprints and remnants of the past, developing population, agriculture, industrialization, modernization, gross consumption, awareness, terror, population dissipation and knowledge to begin again.

The inspiration for this work developed after a visit to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico and a reading of the book The Long Descent by John Michael Greer. History has taught us that the collapse of civilization is a natural process. Archeologists’ state that the Mayan’s collapse was due to their civilization being built upon a nonrenewable energy source, resulting in agricultural failure. In our modern industrial society we have repeated this pattern by building a society on a nonrenewable energy source as well, OIL. This dance questions whether we are on a slow decline, or a rise to awareness…” For more information see
(18 October 2011)

Always ready for the fioods

Sirinya Wattanasukchai, Bangkok Post
Architect Chutayaves Sinthuphan’s design for an amphibious house enables occupants to cope with rising water levels

This is the way architect Chutayaves Sinthuphan sees life _ how it should be lived in the contemporary world where floods have become a regular visitor knocking at your doors, uninvited.

Thailand is encountering its worst flood scenario. Floods have hit 60 provinces, affecting more than eight million people. Ayutthaya has become a red-alert disaster zone with villages, agricultural land, temples and the historical park, which is a world heritage site, under water. More heavy rain is has been forecast.

While rescuers are supposed to be the first to arrive at the scene of a disaster and offer initial relief, it is the architects, who usually turn up much later, who have the task of correcting structures and making them sustainable. And this work Chutayaves sees as an essential first step in developing a long-term strategy to limit the effects of natural disasters.

Although rainfall has indeed been particularly heavy, modern-style architecture must shoulder its share of the blame for aggravating the extent of this year’s flooding. Traditional dwellings raised on stilts have been largely replaced by brick and concrete houses. Backyards, driveways and roads have been surfaced in impermeable concrete and asphalt. And water that cannot come in contact with soil, cannot be absorbed and percolate down to underground aquifers, so it must perforce flow elsewhere.

“It’s not possible to tell everyone to go back to the old way of living in stilt houses and commuting by boat,” conceded Chutayaves, principal officer of a firm called Experiments in Architecture and Technology, is also a visiting lecturer at Thammasat University.
(17 October 2011)

Drive a Car in the City? Time to Embrace Bike Infrastructure

Karen Lynn Allen, SF Streets Blog
Though I bicycle, walk and take transit for half my trips, the other half, which usually involve shuttling children in carpools, for now necessitate driving a car. So there are days when I am on the streets of San Francisco behind a windshield, sometimes for hours, negotiating city streets. I know exactly how complex urban driving is and how aggravating congested traffic can be. And I grew up soundly in the midst of our car culture.

… So how to convince well-to-do, aging urbanites who will drive until their car keys are pulled from their infirm hands that it is in their best interest to support the creation of good, safe bicycle infrastructure that allows people ages 8 – 80 to bike confidently and without fear, especially when at times this infrastructure will come at the expense of car parking or a lane of car travel? Such reallocations of space strike a chill in many a car driver’s heart. There will be traffic nightmares! The economy will collapse! If more space is given to bicycles, before you can say “Harvey Milk,” crazy liberal cities like San Francisco will outlaw cars altogether.

Or so the protestations go. But the truth is that even car drivers should welcome and support bicycle infrastructure. Here are six reasons why, drawing heavily from the theory of Other People.

1) Congestion is mostly caused by Other People in cars and will only grow the more Other People keep driving. When you drive in a city, what holds you up, slows you down, wastes your time, keeps you from where you want to go, are Other People. These Other People are sometimes on foot or bicycle, but mostly these Other People are in cars, though as car drivers we may not want to admit it.

… 2) Healthier Other People cost you less. When Other People ride bicycles instead of drive cars, they are healthier due to the exercise, and all the people around them are healthier due to breathing cleaner air. This means that your city’s health care costs, the nation’s health care costs, and your health insurance premiums will all be lower.

… 3) When Other People switch from cars to bicycles it improves the local economy.
(12 October 2011)

Design with the Other 90%: Cities

Cynthia E. Smith, The Design Observer
A year of field research in 15 different cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

… Clogged streets and overloaded public transport are typical in many of the cities I visited, and Dakar was no exception. A sea of motorbike taxis wove in and out of traffic. Often illegal and unregulated, motor-taxis, with minimal start-up costs, meet the growing demand for cheap transport in many cities in the Global South. [3] Rather than banning these illegal taxis, Oumar described an alternative system in which local governments register the drivers and provide brightly colored and numbered vests to identify them. Through this low-cost solution, motorbikes require no alterations, and their new visibility improves their perception and value within the city. [4] In Bangkok, Thailand, the government is going one step further with Prachawiwat, meaning “Progress of the People,” a new and evolving program where drivers and other informal workers get benefits like Social Security and bank loans. [5]

Designing with People

In 2007, the first exhibition in Cooper-Hewitt’s series on humanitarian design, Design for the Other 90%, helped spark an international dialogue about how design could improve the lives of poor and marginalized communities around the world. Professional designers have traditionally focused on the 10% of the world’s population that can afford their goods and services, but that has dramatically changed in this new millennium. A new wave of designers, architects, engineers, NGOs and philanthropists is working directly with people with limited resources, collaborating across sectors to find solutions, and using emerging technology that “leapfrogs” poorer communities into the 21st century. They are proving that design can play a significant role in solving the world’s most critical problems.

For the first time in history, more of us are living in cities than in non-urban areas. This massive migration into crowded, unhealthy informal settlements is the leading challenge of this century, pushing beyond the capacity of many local institutions to cope. Design with the Other 90%: CITIES was conceived to broaden exchanges of knowledge among the people living in our growing cities, on the one hand, and architects, engineers, designers, planners, policy-makers, and nongovernmental and funding organizations, on the other, with the goal of generating healthier and more inclusive cities. Placing people at the center of the solution is paramount to gaining the required insight to meet this challenge. In Triumph of the City, Edward Glaeser writes, “Cities don’t make people poor; they attract poor people. The flow of less advantaged people into cities from Rio to Rotterdam demonstrates urban strength, not weakness.” [6] The participation of slum dwellers and the urban poor is changing the dynamics of design at all levels.

… Collective Voices

In Buenos Aires, Argentina, I met with squatter families who mobilized, after being evicted from their homes, to form the Movimiento Territorial de Liberación cooperative. Rosa Batalla of MTL described a sort of epiphany, when she “started to realize the answer is not an individual, but a collective solution.” [42] The 326 families designed and constructed their own housing with the help of a prominent architect. The group has been so successful that it now builds social housing for similar cooperatives, employing construction workers and its own architects.

(17 October 2011)