If you travel a lot, then you know how rare these kind of seats are. No arm rests, new cushions, AND clean? Almost makes me want to enjoy this 3hr delay at Philly Intl…
Posts tagged design.
This “invention” keeps popping up in my daily enviro-reading. It’s being hyped by lefty-enviro media as the savior of our ocean garbage troubles called the Great Ocean Garbage Patch (actually, there are 6 patches). Garbage patches are huge, semi-floating patches of garbage and plastic in our oceans. They’re accumulations of garbage dumped directly into the oceans from cities, rivers, ships, and beaches. The trash gets caught in currents, and collects in large “patches” of ugliness. They kill hundreds of thousands of birds, fish, marine mammals every year.
As a solution to this problem, a young man invented the above conveyor belt/floating boom robot machine to help collect and appropriately dispose of this terrible situation.
19-Year-Old Student Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World’s Oceans
19-year-old Boyan Slat has unveiled plans to create an Ocean Cleanup Array that could remove 7,250,000 tons of plastic waste from the world’s oceans. The device consists of an anchored network of floating booms and processing platforms that could be dispatched to garbage patches around the world.
Instead of moving through the ocean, the array would span the radius of a garbage patch, acting as a giant funnel. The angle of the booms would force plastic in the direction of the platforms, where it would be separated from plankton, filtered and stored for recycling.
To be clear - it hasn’t been built, it doesn’t exist. And I’m sorry to say, this exciting device cannot - in it’s current concept - appropriately address the problem. I get what this young man is proposing, but it is false hope. The problem is so huge and way far beyond a gadget(s) like this to handle.
Here are some reasons why it won’t work (for now):
Laws protecting the oceans and its animals. The first thing that came to mind when I saw this was: “Jeez, this thing will slaughter thousands of marine species and violate countless animal and habitat laws.” For example, if an endangered or listed turtle, fish, mammal, or bird species got caught in the contraption, the owners would be in serious legal trouble.
They’d pay more fines than I can conceive. And since there are 6(!) garbage patches around the world (not just the one in the Pacific we hear so much about), the owners would have to navigate domestic and international laws from a variety of countries. From the U.S., see, Protecting Marine Mammals and Endangered Marine Species from the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy for a list of domestic laws that would obliterate this young man’s invention if it caught any protected animals.
Further, and with bitter irony, if the thing tipped they would be fined for polluting the ocean! I know - ironic. But laws prevent vessels from dumping into the oceans regardless of the source or intent of the vessel - no free passes kiddies!
Plastic doesn’t really float. The plastic in the 6(!) Great Ocean Garbage Patches are well below the surface - not floating on it. The trouble is that plastic in question are tiny sized bits about the size of a fingernail. The patches are not great swathes of floating bottles and discarded tech packaging, but teeny tiny pieces of plastic suspended many feet below the surface. Floating trash picker like this would be utterly ineffective. See:
It’s too small. Again, with 5 patches in the sub-tropical oceans and one in the Arctic, the size of this invention is the equivalent of floating a toothpick on the sea. It is just too tiny to address a problem tens of thousands of miles wide. You’d have to deploy thousands of these at a cost of billions.
Lack of political guts. With little (perhaps zero) political or international support to clean up the ocean’s trash, I’m sorry to say there’s near zero hope for such a project to come to life. This is especially true if it doesn’t have a clear return on investment. It’s true that there are a myriad of ecosystems services, fisheries, shipping, tourism, and ocean economic arguments. These are noble, well reasoned, fact based arguments. But we must look squarely to reality and recognize the paltry support from the general public to clean up this trash. Worse, there are no politicians, country platforms, nor private-sector actors effectively arguing to eliminate existing plastic from the oceans. It is a sad reality, but we must be clear about such things. (See also a government supported, interesting project called The Great Drifter Program, which tracks plastic around the world’s oceans by satellite).
Ocean storms and waves. Floating booms are not known for their durability. And waves regularly top 30 even 60 feet in the open oceans (see, Marine Hazards). The sturdiest, strongest ships in the world cannot survive in open waters for long, never mind flimsy floating booms. This machine, noble as it is, will simply shred into more tiny pieces of plastic in no time. Any number of hazards could sink, shred, pull down, ensnare, or otherwise doom the project to a depthly doom of doom.
Shipping routes. See this map for a reference starting point. It is unclear how this contraption would not get in the way of the tens of thousands of ships that travel right through the patches.
Moral hazard. Counter intuitively, such an invention could create more plastic pollution, not less. Moral hazard is that feeling you get when you litter either on accident or on purpose in cities: <shrug> “Meh, someone else will clean it up.”
Moral hazard is tricky. It’s the tendency to be more willing to take a risk, knowing that the potential costs or burdens of taking such risk will be borne, in whole or in part, by others (see here). In other words, if this machine is effective in cleaning plastic from the oceans, what is the incentive to stop polluting?
Moral hazard is tricky II. It is well known that when people go “green” they actually use more energy and consume more products. People drive faster when behind the wheel of a bigger vehicle, use more energy when they change their light bulbs to energy efficient ones, drive more when they purchase electric vehicles, etc etc.
The same holds for manufacturers and polluters. If someone else is cleaning up the plastic in the ocean, and there are little to no fines for dumping, then it becomes cost effective to just dump more plastic into the oceans.
To be clear, dear readers, I support this young man’s invention. The above criticisms serve to highlight reality and temper the hype…
UPDATE: The amazing Dr. Martini of Deep Sea News posted this list of issues to this project from a Marine Scientist’s perspective. Well worth clicking through.
Architects propose various natural systems to combat sea level rise in the Upper Bay. More via MoMA
Brad Pitt’s sustainable architectural non-profit in the 9th Ward unfairly takes fire from the New Republic. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed the beloved New Orleans’ neighborhood, Pitt, who dabbles in architectural design, decided to help build homes that could withstand hurricanes and floods in the future. He started a non-profit, Make It Right, hired some incredibly talented architects, urban planners, economists, and locals and went to work.
Make It Right built over 90 homes throughout the lower 9th (a small fraction of the tens of thousands that were damaged or destroyed).
The author unfairly compares Make It Right - essentially a charity - to for-profit real estate firms and declares it a failure. It is unclear how anyone - let alone some of the best architects and planners in the country - could have predicted the recovery of a city, especially after a major hurricane.
What’s even more unclear is how the author got away with making such a lazy comparison. The New Republic got duped, in my opinion.
Most of the homes Pitt built are fantastic dream homes comprised of minimalist design and sustainable materials. The problem - so says the author - is that poor people do not deserve such ‘luxurious’ amenities. Racism aside, the fact that many families have moved away from New Orleans, with little expectation that they’ll return anytime soon, the author insists on blaming a charity for attempting to provide sustainable housing.
It’s true the economy is in the tank. But it is simply not true that one non-profit should have followed a different path. The author writes:
But there’s a Catch-22: The neighborhood doesn’t have enough residents to attract many stores and services, and prospective buyers end up elsewhere because the neighborhood doesn’t have enough stores and services.
So about 90 households, primarily elderly people like Guy, are living in futuristic homes that most Americans would covet, and yet there’s not a supermarket—or even a fast food restaurant—for miles.
It didn’t have to be this way, and it’s costing the city.
This is a flat out lie: “yet there’s not a supermarket—or even a fast food restaurant—for miles.” Utterly false. See above google map screen cap I took this morning. The lower 9th has dozens of restaurants and at least 10(!) grocery stores, including one locally owned co-op that features fresh fruits and vegetables.
And that’s just in the Lower 9th neighborhood!
The author uses the yellow home at the top (with the long stair case) as a prop for the story. This home was built 9 feet off the ground. It has solar panels, modernist features, experimental materials, and a small footprint. It cost around $300k to build, yet the author will have you believe that this is far more than anyone in the neighborhood could typically afford. Also false. A quick search on real estate site Zillow shows homes, condos, and townhouses average $250k in the 9th Ward, some top out around $750,000. See map 2. Clearly the New Republic does not employ fact checkers.
Brad Pitt’s project is still the darling of the sustainable architecture and resiliency crowds (and to climate adaptation folks like me). The New Republic will have readers believe that Pitt and his teams should have known better. That his non-profit charity work should become more profitable. This is disingenuous at best, and out right deception at worst.
The New Republic is wrong for comparing a ‘non-profit charity’ to traditional ‘for-profit’ real estate developers.
Founded in 2007, Make It Right’s mission is crystal clear: “To build safe, Cradle to Cradle inspired homes, buildings and communities for people in need.” Yet according this sloppy hit piece, it’s as if Pitt’s error was not fully adopting the commonly held philosophy by greedy developers: “build it and they will come.”
In other words, Make It Right was, is, and will always be a non-profit community development organization, not a for-profit real-estate firm. It’s like blaming an apple for not being a tuna sandwich.
The hit piece is nothing more than journalistic bedazzling. The article has that well researched, boots-on-the-ground journalistic feel. There are nice pull quotes from interviews, and the writer uses urban planning vernacular quite well. But the author used more speculatory “what if” scenarios than actual analysis, which makes the piece more in line with link-baity shlock.
For example, the writer faults Brad Pitt for not doing things that do not exist. ‘Pitt should have invested differently. Pitt could have built cheaper homes. Pitt could have rehabbed more blocks. Pitt should not include hurricanes in architectural designs.’ And, since Pitt didn’t do these things (which exist in the author’s head), the entire venture has failed. This despite the fact that Pitt’s foundation has the support from Louisiana’s politicians, some of the best urban planners, economists, and architects in North America, and the very people who live in the neighborhood.
Instead, we get paragraph after paragraph of utter speculation that serves nothing more than to stir up stern nods of disappointment:
Pitt’s foundation could have chosen to put its $45 million into a neighborhood where the compounding effects would’ve been remarkable, or at least one without the added risk and cost of building below sea level—like Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jr.’s Musicians Village on the other side of the Industrial Canal.
He could also have built several hundred perfectly serviceable, weatherproof, and efficient new homes, instead of the 90 he’s completed—like Barnes and Noble founder Leonard Riggio, who’ll build 200 new homes in a concentrated area in nearby Gentilly for about the same amount.
He could even have filled in more quickly recovering neighborhoods with higher-quality traditional designs, like New Urbanist patron saint Andres Duany. Instead, Pitt got an interesting architectural experiment, lots of gushy magazine coverage, and a place for Gloria Guy to remember what life was like before it all floated away.
Use of “could haves” and “what ifs” in cultural criticism are red flags. These signal that the author has an agenda. Reader beware. These are known as straw man fallacies - create fake scenarios that no one can test - and then shoot them down, all the while not addressing the original issue.
As you can see, the intention of these “he could have” speculations serve nothing more than to solicit your disapproval. This is journalistic trickery. Perhaps the writer was under deadline and needed to fulfill their word-count requirement. But, in my opinion, any good writer will know that presenting a critical analysis of a possibly failed project (this project has indeed not failed) s/he better present their case steeped deep in a fat vat of facts, not on a buffet of empty calories.
So, word to the wise, if you’re going to write a hit piece, do your due diligence. Address a problem that actually exists and present and contrast it to similar scenarios, scenarios that serve to provide appropriate context and understanding. Avoid filling space with empty speculations and bring some solutions to the table.
If you can stomach reading a biased hit piece, go ahead and visit the New Republic - if not at least for the slideshow.
Inspiring read on women architects who defied great odds (re: men) via ArchDaily.
- Sophia Hayden Benett was the first woman to receive an architecture degree from MIT when she graduated in 1890
- Marion Mahony Griffin, was not only one of the first licensed female architects in the world, but was the first employee of Frank Lloyd Wright
- Charlotte Perriand applied for a job at Le Corbusier’s studio in 1927. Unimpressed, he dismissed her work with the comment: “We don’t embroider cushions here.”
Nigeria’s Cost & Energy-Efficient Floating Schools (by NLÉ)
The Makoko Floating School is an ambitious project that is currently under construction in the water community of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria by NLÉ, a collaborative agency whose mission is to provide architectural change for developing cities. The project seeks to create floating buildings that are designed to serve as educational classrooms for neighborhood children.
The three-story architectural structure, built as a triangular prism, is intended to float on water with a base made of 256 plastic drums. The floating construct is built with locally sourced wood, electrically powered with solar panels, and designed to house about 100 students.
While this first generation of floating buildings is being designated solely as educational center, the project is opening a new chapter in architectural design that can be applied to a variety of facilities for poor communities like Makoko to urbanize efficiently. Because of the project’s green initiatives, each building is more affordable and cost-effective. Additionally, they accommodate for the climate changes that are resulting in the rise of sea levels.
How to build a pipeline? State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement includes cartoonish graphic seemingly made for children.
The Keystone XL Pipeline will deliver billions of gallons of oil from Alberta, Canada to coastal refineries in Texas. The oil will be pumped through one very long pipeline, and will most likely be sold to foreign countries.
Thousands of people’s properties have been ‘condemned’ to build this line. It spans two countries, several states, and countless forests, farms, suburbs, Indian reservations, cities, rivers, lakes, and mountains. The above cartoon is a ridiculous, nefarious joke. Obama is expected to approve the line in coming months.
Why is there a push for self-driving cars? I get monkeying around with technology - there are new things to discover, it’s fun and educational, and of course R&D leads to great products that make our lives easier.
But I am having such a hard time understanding why we need self-driving cars. Our cities and highways are not going away. After all, we’re too dumb to even stripe roads for bike lanes, which require the cheapest tech of all: paint applied by a guy in an orange vest. In this context, self-driving cars seems like a misuse (even abuse) of R&D funds.
To me, self-driving cars seems like the wrong answer to a very old problem: transportation and travel still require very old technologies - e.g., a system of crude roads and fragile highways. Why do we need self-driving cars considering that our cities and towns can barely fill pot holes?
RobotCar is working with Nissan to find a way to make the Leaf EV drive itself for way less money than what Google pumps into its self-driving cars. How does it work?
Paola Antonelli, MoMA’s senior curator of architecture and design, talks to Stephen Colbert about the evolving definition and scope of design. Complement with Antonelli on what makes good design and her fantastic book Talk to Me: Design and the Communication Between People and Objects.
Surprisingly good interview. I’ve soured on both Colbert and Stewart, but when I saw Antonelli’s name had to watch. Colbert hardly speaks in this interview (how rare!), so Antonelli has lots of time to explain some of her design ideas. Two of them, the Land Mine Dandelion, and the Earthquake School Desk (not official names) are both practical and beautiful objects. You can see her excitement and why MoMA chose her as curator. Good stuff!
Howler and Yoon, winners of the Audi Urban Future Award image a NYC where roads become soccer fields and solar panels.
rareharvest asked: ha, just attempted to find the listing for my city's next budget meeting, and after five solid minutes of searching through their website, I found the budget&finance section which listed lots of PDF's of information, but nothing at all about meetings. Well done, Prescott.
You’re referring to my little challenge in this post to find your local government’s next budget meeting and agenda. Thanks for trying and writing me back!
Local government processes do not cater well to the residents they claim to serve. Some cities do, don’t get me wrong! But overall, most government websites bury and hide the most basic of services and local laws. You can take my challenge to find a meeting a bit further - try to find out how to slap a solar panel on to your roof (good luck).
Software developers repackaged their existing products and rebranded them as a tech-service called “Smart Cities.” Like I wrote earlier, IBM and others claim they have the ultimate solution - a magic bullet - that will help resolve the simplest of local government issues, such as finding your city’s calendar of events and streamlining the permitting process (they make bolder claims, but don’t get me started).
What strikes me most is that rareharvest’s experience is not uncommon.
In fact, I’d argue that government websites and bureaucracies are often times in direct contradiction to the community’s governing charter. A charter is a town or city’s “constitution.” It’s a document that lays out how your city will function and was probably written over a hundred years ago. It covers budgets, elections, growth, conservation, “health and welfare” of residents, etc. Your charter outlines how your government is formed and the services it will allow and provide. They’re surprisingly similar to the U.S. Constitution.
Anyway, Smart Cities overpromises and underdelivers. The upside is that cities, residents, and companies recognize that there needs to be a better way to manage our communities, and Smart Cities is a bridge to a more efficient, less frustrating bureaucracy.
Photo credit: iStockphoto
In April 2012, Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray made a statement that caught many people’s attention: he wants the District to be “fossil-free” by 2030.
Does it sound a little crazy? Maybe. But when it comes to U.S. cities that take sustainability seriously and are putting the infrastructure in place to make such a vision a reality, you really can’t beat Washington.
Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo’s ice people: 1,000 small sitting figures made from ice. The Berlin installation, intended to draw attention to climate change in the Arctic, lasted until his last figure melted in the heat of the day.
“Invasive Species.” A clever tree made it onto Canada’s currency.
“It’s a species that’s invasive in Eastern Canada and is displacing some of our native species, and it’s probably not an appropriate species to be putting on our native currency,” Blaney told CBC News. Sean Blaney, senior botanist of the Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre, said he never expected to see the Norway maple leaf on a $20 bill.
The bank’s response is equally amusing…