CLIMATE ADAPTATION

I want to punch climate change in the face. A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.


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Secretary Jewell personally welcomes back furloughed employees from Dept. of Interior.

70,000 Interior employees are back on the job, as national parks, wildlife refuges, public lands, energy bureaus, and BIA offices begin to re-open.

Drones to scan cities, Google Street View style? The future is here. But, how could this identify vulnerabilities in cities?
architizer:

Eco Drones   |   Christopher Geist
By capitalizing on the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which created guidelines for the introduction of unmanned aircraft, drones could be introduced to Manhattan.
Free of the traditional limitations of the street grid, the drones’ paths could evenly spread seeds throughout the city, thereby bridging the ecological gaps within the urban fabric.
Better able to mitigate the urban context, the drones will do what natural processes could not: re-introduce plant life to the city and aid in sustainability.

EcoDrones

Drones to scan cities, Google Street View style? The future is here. But, how could this identify vulnerabilities in cities?

architizer:

Eco Drones   |   Christopher Geist


By capitalizing on the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, which created guidelines for the introduction of unmanned aircraft, drones could be introduced to Manhattan.

Free of the traditional limitations of the street grid, the drones’ paths could evenly spread seeds throughout the city, thereby bridging the ecological gaps within the urban fabric.

Better able to mitigate the urban context, the drones will do what natural processes could not: re-introduce plant life to the city and aid in sustainability.

EcoDrones

Lovely architecture article in this morning’s NY Times’ Sunday Review. It covers “good design” - designs that help people or have a person’s comfort at its core.

The above is a hospital in Rwanda. It caters people recovering from war and has quite a beautiful campus with comforting views.

This new breed of public-interest designers proceeds from a belief that everybody deserves good design, whether in a prescription bottle label that people can more easily read and understand, a beautiful pocket park to help a city breathe or a less stressful intake experience at the emergency room. Dignity may be to the burgeoning field of public-interest design as justice is to the more established public-interest law.

Careful listening is an integral part of this human-centered approach to design. IDEO.org — a nonprofit spinoff of the premier design and innovation firm IDEO — has made radical listening its hallmark; IDEO.org associates observe and grill would-be clients and sites with so much rigor that they could easily be mistaken for anthropologists. An IDEO.org team assigned to redesign sanitation in Ghana, for example, spent weeks slogging from home to home asking families intimate questions about their bathroom habits before they began designing a system that would safeguard against cholera and other waterborne diseases.

The relatively young field of public-interest design already faces a crisis: interest in human-centered design far outpaces the formal opportunities. Over 500 people applied for the four spots in IDEO.org’s fellowship program this year. The Enterprise Rose Architectural Fellowship is one of the few opportunities for aspiring architects to work on affordable housing and other development projects in poor communities; the program, which lasts three years, has 12 spots. The San Francisco-based Code for America trains and then dispatches two dozen self-proclaimed “tech geeks” to cities where they design new ways for city leadership and citizens to be in conversation, improving their communities.

Read the rest and view the slide show “Dignifying Design.”

Here on my climate adaptation tumblr, I try (my best) to post about environmental issues that are roughly related to the impacts from shifts in the climate. Sea-level rise is the most obvious impact. Melting glaciers and Arctic ice are raising the levels of the ocean. And cities around the world are scrambling to deal with the impacts, which are mind-blowingly huge, incredibly expensive, and often politically vexing. 

I have masters degrees in environmental law and city planning. The focus of my research was/is how land-use laws were able (or, rather, unable) to accommodate climate science. So, naturally, I’m interested in how climate will affect infrastructure, economies, demographics, ecosystems, etc.

For example, I’m quite interested how can coastal communities deal with a rising sea. Especially big cities like New York City or San Fransisco, which have thousands of buildings, roads, ports, and pipelines literally built inches from the ocean.

Cities are prepared for certain levels of disasters. There are sea walls and evacuation plans, flood pump stations and hurricane barriers. And buildings and infrastructure are generally built to high standards. But, cites are not prepared for higher oceans (why would they be?). Climate change changes the equations and calculations of managing disasters in cities. They’re forced to adapt, regardless of how many solar panels are slapped onto rooftops.

It’s a complicated issue. Greenhouse gasses trap in more heat in the atmosphere, causing a bunch of crazy environmental things to happen. So the obvious response is to stop pumping carbon into the air. That’s Al Gore’s primary message.

The problem with this is that storms and fires and diseases are increasing as a result from rising temperatures. Climate change is occurring regardless of mitigation. Thus, the impacts have to be dealt with. In fact, our troubles are only going to increase. I choose to be on the impacts side of this conundrum (eg, adaptation).

So, what’s my deal with oil leaks and spills? The short answer is that oil and gas infrastructure, such as pipelines and oil rigs, are very vulnerable to climate impacts. Oil - like it or not - makes the world go round. It’s in nearly everything we use - from plastics to medicine to soap. There is no stopping oil.

I wrote about this last year for GOOD Magazine. IBM and a climate consulting firm called Acclimatise did a study on the oil and gas industry’s vulnerability to climate change. I showed that oil pipelines in Alaska are more likely to break and leak oil than ever before, and that the oil industry is way under-prepared to deal with these new types of leaks:

In one of most ironic flip-flops in environmental history, the oil and gas industry is beginning to adapt to climate change. And it’s no wonder. The majority of industry’s infrastructure is located in some of the most climate vulnerable regions on the planet. Nearly 75 percent of the Alaskan pipeline, for example, is built over increasingly unstable permafrost, which is now thawing under warmer temperatures. The Mackenzie Valley in Canada alone has recorded over 2,000 sink holes, rock slides, and large depressions from thawing permafrost.

The pipeline’s famous elevated design was the result of a 20 year study (PDF) on the stability of climate and permafrost from 1950 to 1970. Based on the historic record, engineers designed the supports for the pipeline to withstand some fluctuation in permafrost, but not for the extensive melts now predicted. Indeed, that 20 year study was the one of the coldest periods in Alaskan history. Whoops.

The study I referred to, Global Oil & Gas - The Adaptation Challenge, showed that infrastructure was dangerously unprepared for climate impacts. Thousands of miles of oil pipelines are perched on permafrost in Canada, Russia, and Alaska.

Permafrost is permanently frozen soil - essentially the land is mixture of ice, rocks, and soil. Permafrost does move around a bit and any infrastructure built on it is (usually) engineered to handle a certain level of flex (the EPA has a decent primer on permafrost).

But, when the ice melts in substantial volumes, the soil shrinks and contracts. As a result, anything built on permafrost is in big trouble. Oil and gas pipelines could rupture, causing tremendous environmental damage, as well as incredible costs to economies in terms of clean up costs (who pays?), damage to fisheries and tourism, and lowered property values (and tax revenues). Not to mention health troubles for workers and residents.

So, that’s pretty much why I post so much on oil - infrastructure vulnerability. Oil spills are nasty, nasty creatures. Their economic and environmental impacts are super gnarly to deal with. And they’re expected, as IBM showed, to increase unless the infrastructure adapts to the “new normal”.

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I wrote this for GOOD just before the Egyptian government collapsed last year (thanks Ben!). I thought it’d be interesting to re-read what I wrote considering the recent military coup d’état and today’s Mubarak news.

Epic indeed. US holidays suck.

theatlanticvideo:

The Epic Russian Tradition of Building and Storming Giant Snow Forts

During the week before Lent, known as Maslenitsa or “pancake week,” Russians celebrate the coming of spring with a host of folk traditions, based in Christian and pagan beliefs. A “Lady Maslenitsa” is burned in effigy, but that event pales in comparison to the symbolic battle waged over a snow fort, representing the forces of good vanquishing the forces of evil and welcoming spring. This documentary by Sasha Aleksandrov captures the tradition in all its glory. A translation of the narration is available here.

"Because it doesn’t make a difference" strangely absent.

visualoop:

Via

His face at 2:10 is fantastic. Also, follow theatlanticvideo:

Cambodia’s Reforestation Project Works to Reverse Decades of Damage

The lush forest of Cambodia’s Koh Kong Province was destroyed when people fleeing the Khmer Rouge began living there, and now the Wildlife Alliance is working to regrow it. Filmmaker David P. Alexander talks about his adventures documenting the project in an interview with The Atlantic:

Working at Wildlife Alliance has been both a fascinating journey, and a challenging one as well. Everyone here is passionate about their jobs, and as such the work often carries over into the nights and weekends.

One time I was out searching for illegal loggers in the jungle, and I had a “seeing through the Matrix” moment. There I was, dripping sweat in the middle of the Cambodian rainforest, and I just realized that this is what all the “green” talk is about. You have people trying to cut down the forest, and you have people trying to protect it. It was great to see a concept as broad as preserving the environment reduced to eight guys on patrol in the jungle. 

Another moment that stands out was when I found a Bamboo Viper sleeping in my bungalow. I read about the snake later and apparently your hand falls off if it bites you, or something crazy like that.

Continued here.

I’ve written three pieces for GOOD, and probably will write no more. I’ve covered Egypt’s climate change troubles post Mubarak, the deep irony of Oil companies adapting to climate change impacts, and the little discussed Executive Order by President Obama on climate change.  

I am calling on GOOD to apologize to its readers for publishing this piece of trash:  

Disclosure: These views are my own. 

GOOD magazine has jumped the shark. Once sailing a lean tack, the magazine now seems mastless, grasping for both attention and direction. Their front pages are filled with regurgitated aggregates of schlock and candy.

Just last week, GOOD published a piece on how cigarettes are cool. I’m not kidding you. “The Upside of Smoking,” was posted June 14 by Nona Willis Aronowitz. Nona is no guest blogger, she’s one of GOOD’s associate editors. She helps shape the magazines content (granted, her column is pure fluff that trolls for page views).

In The Upside of Smoking, Nona wrote smoking helps girls lose weight. She argues that smoking is cool. She states that smoking keeps your brain sharp. And that smoking can help you avoid awkward social moments - just fire up a butt and your talkative friend will auto-close his gabber. 


Look, my understanding is that GOOD editors pre-approve content during weekly and/or morning meetings. If so, then this piece got the green light from the masthead. This tells me that GOOD doesn’t give a shit about human health, a rats ass about its reputation, or the effect the article would have on future collaborations with other writers, like me.

Does GOOD or Nona really believe that cigarettes have an upside? No. I think they’re tactlessly trying to stoke flames to increase pageviews, which is just plain trashy.

It also shows that, to my mind, not one of their mastheads has experienced the deep emotional and financial pains from losing a loved one to cancer. And if they have, shame on them! Further, the fact this garbage was published also shows the editors probably do not have kids of an age susceptible to picking up smoking for the first time in their young lives. 

Disingenuous fluff pieces have no place in the pages of GOOD. It’s disrespectful of the type of readership GOOD deserves. Dangerous to its young readers. This trash chips away at the magazine’s credibility. This is the road to failure.

If people at GOOD read this rant and claim ignorance of the content its own editors publish, then clearly there are much deeper problems at the management level. (GOOD, I prefer you reply to me publicly. But if you wuss out, you can reach me here.)

Cigarette smoking is not cool. It fucking kills people. It causes miscarriages and birth defects. The ag-waste and littered-butts pollutes the environment. Growing tobacco causes deforestation, uses loosely regulated pesticides, and is socially stigmatizing. And, apparently, it makes men impotent. To say otherwise is stupid and indefensible. GOOD needs to publicly apologize. 

Editors, writers, interns, finance, webbies, sales go get’em: http://www.good.is/about/jobs

My latest article for GOOD Magazine is up, here. It’s one of the most surreal moments in environmental history: Oil companies are adapting to climate change. Companies like BP and Exxon are worried about climate impacts to their infrastructure, pipelines, drill rigs, and operations. They’ve hired climate experts and IBM to evaluate vulnerabilities, and industry is expected to spend billions in upgrades. 


Above, a Russian pipeline ruptures as it sinks into melting permafrost.

I argue that:

 (T)he very industry that publicly denies the very reality of climate change, is looking to climate experts for help. They cooperated with consultants who analyzed oil and gas industry’s ability to absorb impacts from a changing climate. The resulting report was a terse assessment showing that the oil and gas industry was far behind the climate action curve.

IBM teamed with two heavyweight climate consultancies, Acclimatise and Carbon Disclosure Project to produce the report, Building Business Resilience to Inevitable Climate Change. Located in the UK, the climate consultants work primarily with very large corporations to identify how climate change will impact their products. The oil and gas industry, already overly sensitive to political and economic swings, is not prepared for the impacts to their physical assets. For example, oil platforms located in shallow oceans were not at all built with sea level rise in mind. This is not to mention being battered by bigger and more frequent storms such as Hurricane Katrina.

Read the rest, here. What do you think?

Scientists are officially cleared in 100% of reviews (6 reviews, total) Climate deniers’ claims remain crumbled. See also, here, and here.

A British panel on Wednesday exonerated the scientists caught up in the controversy known as Climategate of charges that they had manipulated their research to support preconceived ideas about global warming.

Read the rest, here.