"But when mayors and developers focus on technology rather than people, smart quickly becomes stupid, threatening to exacerbate inequality and undermine the social cooperation essential to successful cities."
"After researching leading cities around the world, we’ve concluded that truly smart cities will be those that deploy modern technology in building a new urban commons to support communal sharing.
Unfortunately, “sharing” is often too narrowly conceived as being primarily about economic transactions. The poster-children of the sharing economy are being co-opted by the interests of venture capital and its insatiable demands for rapid growth and high-value exit-strategies. "
What can we do as community citizens to promote ecologically sensible urban planning projects in our communities?
What role should crowdfunding play in our cities?
"By allowing citizens to donate small amounts of money to projects of their choosing, urban planning can become a more participatory and inclusive process. These platforms also open up a new source of capital for projects that may not otherwise be funded.
However, civic crowdfunding also presents risks. While it can make planning more participatory, it may exclude citizens who lack the ability to make significant donations. Further, it is unclear whether governments will turn to civic crowdfunding instead of funding projects that should be paid for with public funds. Finally, most civic crowdfunding projects remain small, and it is unclear whether the model will effectively scale up.
Still crowdfunding is gaining momentum around the world. While is it most common in wealthier countries, it also has strong potential for opening up new capital in middle and lower income countries. It is already growing quickly in India, where a variety of crowdfunding platforms are emerging to fund arts and business ventures.
Crowdfunding is growing as a tool being used to fund a variety of projects, including investments in start-up companies, real estate ventures, and alternative energies. Still, these innovative funding models are early in their growth. In time, civic crowdfunding may help reshape our cities to be more sustainable and responsive to citizens’ needs and desires."
"Meet the Neurotoxins"
June 2014 is now on record as the hottest month EVER since we started tracking this stuff in the 1880's. May was the hottest "May" ever recorded, too. All the more reason to start getting serious about ecosteading.
(Graphic from: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/global/)
Interesting infographic about the (slowly) shrinking size of the typical American home. Homes < 800 square feet aren't even an option? Let's change this.
Algae is the new crude. It converts CO2 into triacylglycerol and can break down into a sludgy form of organic crude material (biomass), that can then be further broken down, chemically converted into ethanol and biofuel.
The question of whether algae will replace fossil fuels is the wrong question; the question is how much of earth's "oil producing" capabilities can be sped up by using algae?
"Well, it is a basically simple process that uses temperature, pressure, and time to accomplish the chemical conversions ... A lot of people think of fossil fuels as, you know, dinosaurs and giant ferns and things. There is some of that, but the bulk of the organic matter was algae. Gradually the organic matter converts into slightly different forms, which make up the material that comes out as crude oil or natural gas.”
"One of the biggest single sources of greenhouse gases and other pollution to our atmosphere are landfills. They decompose over time creating methane and other greenhouse gases."
"In urban areas as much as 40 percent of all trash is food waste."
-- Modern Marvels Environmental Tech II
In nature this process takes months, but with an indoor composter supercharging waste for the perfect oxygen, moisture content and temperature, compost can be made in as little as two weeks.
Know of any eco-friendly mail-order house companies around today?
"From 1908 until 1940, Sears offered 370 models to choose from. Houses available ranged from the modest "Starlight" to the stately "Alhambra." One option was a sweet little bungalow, called "the Osborn."
"It was one of their best selling homes," says Thornton. "I've seen 'Osborns' all over the country."
After you picked out the house of your dreams, Sears would mail it to you in 30,000 pieces. The kit included 750 pounds of nails, 27 gallons of paint and varnish, 10 pounds of wood putty, 460 pounds of window weight, 27 windows, 25 doors and a 75 page instruction book.
By following the instructions, you could build "the Collingwood," "the Chatham," "the Maytown," "the Vallonia" or "the Chelsea." A home could be brought for $500 and up.
Sears Roebuck promised that a man of average abilities could build one of their homes in 90 days. "
architecture, prefab, lean
Interior of the Vo Trong Nghia Architecture
Vo Trong Nghia Architects have designed a multi-unit dwelling whose front and rear facades are aesthetically-pleasing spaced concrete planters.
These planters protect residents from noise and pollution while providing a wam streaming sunlight filter on the interior. A green roof on top of the building also lower energy costs and reduce the amount of city-street runoff.
"More and more Americans are discovering the truth about solar: It saves money and helps the planet. In fact, every four minutes another American family installs solar panels on their home. A clear indication that solar energy has become a cost-effective energy option for homeowners .
But mistaken beliefs about solar persist—it’s too expensive, too complicated, too unreliable. Going solar really is far easier and less costly than most folks think. Below we debunk the most persistent myths about solar panels."
"What we know from history is that [we] need a really small group of innovators ... that can demonstrate how to do things differently and once that gets mainstreamed, change happens really quickly." - Edgar Pieters Urbanized
Future Clothes Washing Technology
Award: $20,000 USD
Deadline: January 11, 2014
Conventional washing machines cause excessive damage and wrinkling to clothes primarily during the water removal step. With the introduction of high efficiency washers, not only has cleansing performance been improved, but water and energy consumption has also decreased. What if you were able to clean your clothes at home without using any water? The Seeker desires to revolutionize the laundry process with a novel technology that uses no liquid, creates no wrinkles, and does not damage clothes.
This Challenge requires only a written proposal. The Seeker may consider further collaboration with Solver(s) who receive an award for this Challenge.
GlobalCarbonProject.org posted data for the 2013 Global Carbon Budget on November 20, 2013. Key findings are listed here: - Global emissions due to fossil fuel alone are set to grow in 2013 at a slightly lower pace of 2.1% than the average 3.1% since 2000, reaching a level that is 61% above emissions in 1990
1) Growth rates for major emitter countries in 2012 were 5.9% (China), −3.7% (USA), −1.3% (EU28), and 7.7% (India).
2) The 2012 carbon dioxide emissions breakdown is coal (43%), oil (33%), gas (18%), cement (5.3%) and gas flaring (0.6%).
3) Atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased in 2012 at a faster rate than the average over the past 10 years because of a combination of continuing growth in emissions and a decrease in land carbon sinks from very high levels in the previous two years.
4) Dr. Mike Raupach of CSIRO: "A continuation of the emissions growth trends observed since 2000 would place the world on a path to reach 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times in 30 years"
Sources: GlobalCarbonBudget.org CDIAC 2013 Global Carbon Budget
Can we build happiness into a city via urban planning?
"The pursuit of happiness may be an unalienable right, but are the technologies we are designing really helping its users to be happy? Take the simple example of a web map. It usually gives us the shortest walking direction to destination. But what if it would give us the small street, full of trees, parallel to the shortest path, which would make us happier? As more and more of us share these city streets, what will keep us happy as they become more crowded?"
"In 2003 jeffery S. Dukes, who at the time was a postdoctoral fellow in biology at the University of Utah, calculated that every gallon of gas we burn today represents the transformed remnants of almost a hundred tons of prehistoric plant material -- roughly the same quantity of biomass to be found in a forty-acre wheat field, including the stems, leaves and roots." Green Metropolis p. 68 David Owen
"The US is the world's leading consumer of oil. We use over 350,000,000 gallons of gasoline every day.
It's very important that the number of fossil BTUs that go into a gallon of fuel be significantly less than the number of renewable BTUs that come out of that gallon. If it's not -- let's not do it.
We have about 133,000 BTUs worth of energy in every gallon of biodiesel. When you add up all our inputs we need to end up being less than 133,000 BTUs, or we probably shouldn't be making that gallon. (1 BTU ~ the amount of energy in one wooden matchstick)."
Our main sources of energy are still petroleum, coal and natural gas. With global energy consumption predicted to increase 56 percent by 2040 the continued use of non-renewable fossil fuels comes at a great cost to the environment and to our health." QUEST: America's Energy Future
Infographic on composting courtesy of PBS's Nature