Earth911 Interview: Healthy Climate Alliance Plan to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

June 13, 2018 by  
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The Healthy Climate Alliance has a bold and achievable plan … The post Earth911 Interview: Healthy Climate Alliance Plan to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Earth911 Interview: Healthy Climate Alliance Plan to Remove Carbon Dioxide From the Atmosphere

Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are "setting records"

January 29, 2018 by  
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The president of the United States raised eyebrows once again over his thoughts on climate change . In an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan on United Kingdom television channel ITV, Donald Trump said ice caps are setting records – without offering data to back up his statement. Morgan asked Trump, “Do you believe in climate change? Do you think it exists?” Trump said, “There is a cooling and there is a heating and look, it used to not be climate change. It used to be global warming . Right? That wasn’t working too well. Because it was getting too cold all over the place. The ice caps were going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re setting records, okay, they’re at a record level.” Related: This map shows how uninformed Trump’s global warming tweet is There are several errors in Trump’s statement, for which he failed to offer scientific evidence. Reuters spoke with a few scientists about Trump’s claims, and World Glacier Monitoring Service director Michael Zemp told them, “ Glaciers and ice caps are globally continuing to melt at an extreme rate…maybe [Trump] is referring to a different planet.” Trump also talked about the Paris Agreement in the interview, saying, “Would I go back in? Yeah, I’d go back in. I like, as you know, I like Emmanuel,” referring to the president of France Emmanuel Macron . “I would love to, but it’s got to be a good deal for the United States.” Bloomberg pointed out Trump made similar remarks following a meeting with Erna Solberg, prime minister of Norway. So what are some of Trump’s beliefs on the environment ? The president told Morgan, “I’ll tell you what I believe in. I believe in clean air, I believe in crystal clear, beautiful water, I believe in just having good cleanliness.” Via The Independent , Bloomberg , and Reuters Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Pixabay

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Trump bewilders scientists, says ice caps are "setting records"

2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

January 29, 2018 by  
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Last year was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans , according to two scientists at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAP/CAS). The increase in ocean heat led to a 1.7-millimeter global sea level rise – and other consequences like “declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves.” The ocean absorbs over 90 percent of the planet’s “residual heat related to global warming ,” according to the researchers, Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, whose work recently came out as an early online release in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences . While they said the increase in ocean heat content for last year happened in most of the world’s regions, the Atlantic and Southern Oceans displayed more warming than the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Related: Rising ocean temperatures are cooking the Great Barrier Reef to death According to National Geographic , the two scrutinized ocean temperature data from multiple institutions, including the United States’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Scientists started gathering the data during the 1950’s – and in the late 1990’s, ocean temperatures started to take off, per the publication. The IAP ocean analysis reveals “the last five years have been the five warmest years in the ocean.” National Geographic pointed out people visiting the beach probably wouldn’t notice the temperature rise, but a warming ocean could still have damaging impacts. Sea ice coverage and thickness have both taken a hit. And the window to save Earth’s coral reefs is closing quickly . The researchers said in their paper, “The global ocean heat content record robustly represents the signature of global warming…The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system.” + Advances in Atmospheric Sciences Via Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences , The Guardian and National Geographic Images via Deposit Photos ,  Ant Rozetzky on Unsplash and Tim Lautensack on Unsplash

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2017 was the hottest year on record for Earth’s oceans

INTERVIEW: Inhabitat’s own Greg Beach on telling global stories through the lens of a small town

November 17, 2017 by  
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How much do you know about your hometown? Author and Inhabitat writer Greg Beach , who moved to Watertown, Massachusetts at age nine, was inspired to dig more into his town’s history after the Boston Marathon Bombing. You may only be familiar with the name Watertown because of the attack, but Beach shows there’s a lot more to this place in his new book The World and Watertown: Tales of an American Hometown . Not only was Watertown once the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s largest town, today it’s home to a garden cemetery, permaculture farmers, a project to preserve the stories of Armenians far from home, and the artist of an Afghan-American wheelchair superhero comic . But this isn’t just the story of one city. Beach’s book explores issues relevant to the entire world through stories set in this small New England town. Read on for our interview after the jump. INHABITAT: What was your initial inspiration for The World and Watertown? BEACH: The original spark was what happened after the Boston Marathon Bombing. The whole greater Boston area shut down, but 20 blocks in Watertown had a particular experience other parts of the city didn’t. There were a lot of questions I was curious about after it was all over. Stories started coming out of things people were concerned about and wanted to talk about, and there wasn’t really a space to do that immediately after because people were relieved it was over and feeling patriotic about the whole thing. So they didn’t really want to ask some of those tough questions. Once I got into that I realized it was a lot bigger than what I was capable of doing as a part-time writer. It was both too big and too small because the town is a lot more than this event that happened. I’d been thinking about writing a book for a long time, and it was a way for me to dig into issues I’ve always really cared about and tell those big stories, whether it’s the war on terror, or ecology , or native people, through that localized lens. That’s why the ‘world’ comes before ‘Watertown,’ because it is the story of a town, but it was mainly to be a story of how the world finds it its way through this little town. INHABITAT: Watertown is very much a focus in the book, but you also wanted to tell stories that have a global relevance. How did you balance the local with the global? BEACH: It depended on the particular topic. For example, one thing that really energized me about talking about the Armenian community in Watertown – a community of friends and family I grew up with – was that it was only as an adult, with the onset of the Syrian civil war, that I started to understand the Armenian presence in Syria and around the world. It’s important to do what we can to support Syrian refugees because they’re our neighbors in the global fence, but also they’re our literal neighbors. Some of our neighbors were born in Syria, and their family members are still over there, and I wanted to think about how we can tie that together. There were other issues that guided my thinking; for example, I talk about this rise of luxury apartments in these big cities, trying to figure out what exactly is going on because to me, it just doesn’t seem right. Something about it doesn’t make sense in terms of the supply and demand. I started reading Inhabitat when I was in college, years before I started writing for the publication, and I remember reading stories about ghost cities in China. I didn’t put that in the book, but things like that were in the back of my mind, thinking something’s not right here, and there’s a lot of clues, but I don’t know how to put them together. And I was trying to tell universal stories of people trying to do good in their community , and finding ways to build connections and support each other. These big issues are really complex. For example, in the United States right now, there’s this big public debate over police brutality and racism, so I had to talk about that because it’s important, but at the same time I had to acknowledge the police officers who are really doing their best to do well, and not just individual officers, but police departments who recognize flaws, and they’re trying to do better – without excusing anything, but just saying, we want to bring the good up, even as we’re trying to push back on the bad. INHABITAT: When did you personally start becoming interested in ecology and sustainability? How did growing up in Watertown play a role in shaping that passion for you? BEACH: One of my favorite chapters in the book is the first chapter, digging into local ecology. Before I was born, the Charles River was very polluted, and I heard stories of how awful it was when my parents were children, and now, the ecosystem is really revitalized, and it’s a beautiful community resource. Boston didn’t clean up the Charles River and the Boston Harbor until there was a court order to clean up these waterways . Boston has this reputation now as this progressive global city, but for a long time, it had the same challenges that a lot of other parts of the United States are facing. It was forced to do it, but eventually, it did something about it. There are many ways society and the public can make positive changes to protect our ecosystems. And I just love being outside, and the green spaces in Watertown, and being by the ocean – there’s just a lot packed into a really small place, and of course, that small place is connected to the larger eastern Massachusetts region. As I got older, I got into growing food and permaculture and incorporated that into my work as an educator. INHABITAT: In the book, you brought out the stories of people that went outside their comfort zones to help make Watertown a better place. One of the people I’m thinking of is Harry Friedman, who you affectionately dubbed the Weird Guy Pulling Carts From The River. What did you take away from those stories? BEACH: I walked the river path often, and I would see this guy standing there every season, and eventually I got over my New England awkwardness where people don’t say hello and thought, this guy seems like someone worth knowing, so just started talking to him. Harry showed me it’s okay to be yourself and be yourself in a very friendly, open way. Also, I remember talking to Ruth Tomasian, who started this organization called Project SAVE , which has archived 45,000 photographs of Armenian history. She was also very inspiring. I’d said about the book, ‘Oh, this is kind of an amateur effort I’m doing,’ and she said, ‘You’re working this into something, you’re getting out there,’ and shared with me some of the mistakes she made in starting this big project and being open to putting yourself out there. You might fail, but you also might open up some doors and encourage other people to open up. I saw the book working in three different layers. One layer was the big issues like the war on terror, the war on drugs, or ecology. The next layer was how all these topics fit in the local history. And then for me, the most important layer – the book wouldn’t have a heart if it didn’t have these people who bring these stories to life. It makes people care. I wanted it to write the book to serve my town and Massachusetts, but I did want people, no matter where they’re from, to get something out of it. Those universal stories of people in the community, participating in their own way to make it a better place, that happens everywhere around the world. INHABITAT: You mention wins for Watertown, like a garden cemetery providing a habitat for wildlife, and also losses, like the empty luxury apartments most locals couldn’t afford. With the knowledge that no city is perfect, how, in your opinion, could cities approach ecology more holistically? BEACH: There are a lot of hidden costs of exploiting the world’s resources. The cost of cleaning up pollution is socialized, everyone has to pay for it in one way or another, but the profits are privatized. Whether it’s a municipal government or a national government, they should find a way to put those costs in at the beginning of the calculation instead of waiting; 20 years down the line you’re going to be paying more, you’re going to have more damage. I think of Flint , and I know there are big structural issues at play like racism and poverty. But I think about small things, like investing in public spaces, investing in bike trails , and taking land that was previously vacant and turning it into something open to the public. That’s what’s happened in Watertown for the past several decades. The river path I talked about wasn’t there when my dad grew up in Watertown; it was an overgrown place. They could have taken that and developed it into waterfront property, and maybe today they would, but they didn’t and now that’s preserved for future generations. It’s the same thing with building bike trails along old rail lines; finding the low hanging fruit that really does provide so much of a benefit for the community, in terms of fitness, bringing people together, mental health; it’s something to be proud of in the community, it’s a place to put up art. Those big structural issues will be there, and we have to deal with those too, but there are some small ways to bring the community together and serve them. INHABITAT: You don’t shy away from Watertown’s historical failures even as you celebrate its successes. How did your view of your hometown change and evolve the more research you did about its past and the more people you talked to while writing the book? BEACH: A lot of people I spoke to I met from doing the book, so that was really encouraging because it made me feel closer to the town. It made me feel like I really understood its character today and in the past. I’ve been a student of history for a long time, so I know the broad strokes and the mistakes that have been made in New England and the United States and how they continue today, but something that’s really important that I try and get across in the book – and in my work with middle school students as a teacher – is this idea that there can be multiple truths that exist at the same time: that you can hold different, seemingly conflicting things to be true at the same time. You can say yes, the United States has this history of colonialism and racism, but at the same time, this is a place that so many people have come to call home, and however it was formed and however it’s continued, in that place there’s a lot of good, and a lot of people trying to do good and make it a better place for everyone. Those two things have been true about the United States since the beginning. You want to make your home a better place, you want to make sure your town or your country is a good place to live. It’s not easy; you have to keep working at it. It’s clear that the United States is very divided right now, but I think generally people around the world all want the same things. We all want to feel like we belong, we want to feel like we have meaning in our lives. So I try and bring those things up as much as I can. INHABITAT: How would you encourage people to get more involved in their own hometowns? BEACH: It depends on who you are and what you enjoy, because not everyone is going to feel comfortable getting involved in a civic organization or a town committee. Every person can find a way of contributing. It could be spending more time on green spaces and meeting people that way. It could be trying to start a community garden, or it could just be sharing vegetables you grew with someone in your community. It also goes back to that idea of being willing to be yourself and say hello and engage with people. Just learning is also a way to get involved. I knew a lot about my town and the country, but I learned so much about so many different things in writing this book. That has to affect how I think about issues, or how I try and engage with people. I’ve met so many people through this and learned from them and been inspired by them. And I’m an introvert too. I need to get away from people to recharge, but I love getting to know people and connecting with them. INHABITAT: What do you hope readers will take away from the book? What do you hope they walk away thinking about? BEACH: I hope they walk away with more information, maybe a better understanding of some of these big issues, but at the same time feel encouraged to ask questions and then pursue them. That was driving me the whole time: I just had these questions that I needed answered, and I want readers to feel similarly excited to trace questions and see where they lead, and they might not have an answer. I think also it goes back to the theme of holding multiple ideas to be true at the same time, recognizing that the world is a huge place, and there are these huge systems it’s so hard to really get ahold of them, but then, it’s also a very small world, because there are individuals and groups out there trying to build a better world in small places. I realized the other day that I applied for a job at Inhabitat right around the same time I was starting to really write the book. It actually happened on Christmas Eve. I was sick so I didn’t go out with my family and I was at home, and I saw this opening for Inhabitat, which I had been reading for years. I’d given articles from Inhabitat to students. I got a response and started writing. Those two things running parallel to each other really supported and reinforced each other. Being concise and clear on Inhabitat is really important because there’s a lot of content out there, and you want your readers to get to the meat of it, but you also make sure there’s an appealing style to the writing. Some of the topics I cover in the book actually started off as Inhabitat articles, like one I wrote about Japanese knotweed . I just wanted to add some context to the connections. You can buy The World and Watertown here . + Greg Beach + Greg Beach Facebook Images courtesy of Greg Beach and Harry Friedman, lead image via Wikimedia

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INTERVIEW: Inhabitat’s own Greg Beach on telling global stories through the lens of a small town

INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

May 22, 2017 by  
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We’ve built cities that do us harm, according to groundbreaking Netherlands designer Daan Roosegaarde . Along with his team at Studio Roosegaarde , he’s tackling the pollution we’ve generated in our metropolises, through the power of design . Roosegarde’s Smog Free Project is currently touring China—their most recent stop is Tianjin —and Inhabitat spoke with Roosegaarde about the project and how design can help us shape a cleaner, more beautiful urban future . Check out our interview after the break… INHABITAT: What inspired you to tackle the problem of city pollution with design? ROOSEGAARDE: I’ve been working on landscapes of the future in the last five years, making dance floors which produce electricity when you dance on them, or bicycle paths which are charged by the sun and glow at night. I love to make public spaces which trigger people in a poetical or pragmatic way. Three and a half years ago, I was being triggered by Asia and its curiosity towards the future. On Saturday, I could see the world around me in Beijing on my 32rd floor room, but on Wednesday and Thursday it was completely covered in smog . It was a wake-up moment. I knew it was bad but it’s something different when it’s visual. Governments all around the world are investing in clean technology , electric cars, or more bicycle sharing programs, but that takes quite a long time, like 10 to 15 years, to make an impact. I wanted to make something that has an impact now. Delhi is actually worse, in India. You’re sort of trapped in a bubble which is pushing on you, which is suppressing you. You feel nauseous at the end of the day. It’s weird that we created cities which do harm to us, which are almost like machines. And again it’s not just Beijing. Every big city has its problems with pollution. It’s a global issue. INHABITAT: When did you start to realize that design could offer an answer? ROOSEGAARDE: Two days later, I remembered when I was a boy, a long time ago, I always had to go to these boring children’s parties. I was playing with plastic balloons, and when you polish a plastic balloon with your hand, it becomes static: static electricity, and it attracts your hair. I can remember when I was like eight years old I was mesmerized by that. It’s like an invisible force. It is a gift from nature. So that memory pops up out of the blue, and then the idea came: what if we could use that kind of principle to build the largest smog vacuum cleaner in the world, which sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases clean air . So at least we have local parks where people can experience clean air. We made a very, very simple animation the day after, and then we started to talk with the indoor air purifying experts who’ve been working on this for 20 or 30 years. We made a lot of prototypes and tests and a year and half after that moment we built the first one in Rotterdam . This project is self-commissioned. We spend our own time, money, and energy at the studio. No client is going to call me and ask, “Can you make a Smog Free Tower?” So that’s also part of innovation : you launch your own projects, and now people all around the world are coming and calling, they want to be part of it. We’ve proven that it works. It’s really important to keep investing in your own ideas. INHABITAT: As you’re traveling through China, what do you hope people take away from the tour of the Smog Free Project? First the local people, and then also the government officials that see the towers? ROOSEGAARDE: What we want to achieve is two things. One, it’s a local solution on a park level: to create these bubbles of clean air in the city. And that has been proven quite effective: 55 to 70 percent cleaner than the rest of the city. This week is very, very important for us because we’re launching independent scientific research done by the Eindhoven University of Technology with Professor Bert Blocken, a renowned expert in fine particles. They have done extended measurements and research, and this week we’re launching a report which proves the impact and effect of the tower on the local scale: it collects 70 percent PM 10 and 50 percent PM 2.5 on the park scale level. So that’s very positive. And that’s an independent study from a university, you can’t buy them. And it’s being validated now, being peer reviewed and will be published in the coming months. So the idea was to create local places where people can feel the difference, where they can smell the difference, and where they can experience the future. The second goal is to start a conversation. To say, “hey guys, students, makers, scientists, whomever, what do we need to do to make a whole city smog free?” So we did Smog Free Workshops and the response has been great. We had a girl who made fashion which changes in color when the smog level is too high. We had a Beijing designer who made a sort of wearable greenhouse, like a backpack, so you can breathe in clean air from the plants you’re carrying with you. This has been really great to activate the discussion. The final solution in that way is government with a focus on clean air, electrical cars, green technology, etc.; that’s top down, but we want to move bottom up and tackle all of that, and we meet in the middle and that creates impact, that creates change. From these sessions, from one at Tsinghua University in Beijing, new ideas popped up like the Smog Free Bicycle . The bicycle sucks up polluted air, cleans it, and releases it as clean air. The technology is similar to the Smog Free Tower. Beijing was a cycling city 10 or 12 years ago, and that completely disappeared because everybody wanted a car, and everybody now is in a traffic jam and it’s polluted. But the bicycle is a powerful cultural icon. So we want to bring back the bicycle and upgrade it in the celebration of the bicycle in the fight against car pollution. This is also part of the Smog Free Project; it’s the next big idea we’re spending time and energy on. It’s been intense, it’s a politically-centered topic, it’s something new, people have to get used to it. Everybody has opinions about it. Very few have proposals. But step by step we’re creating impact. INHABITAT: I heard about the Smog Free Bicycles and I wanted to ask about those: how the idea came about and the also a little bit more about how they work. ROOSEGAARDE: The idea of enhancing bicycles has been around for a while. For example, Matt Hope , a Beijing artist, worked on it years ago, and before that some other artists as well. So we did the workshop with him in Beijing, and with students from Tsinghua University. They have a lot of bicycle sharing programs like Mobike, and so that’s where we got the idea and thought what if we could take it and push it further. The bicycle releases clean air in area around the face. We don’t want to work with masks or anything; it should be a kind of plug-in to the existing bicycle. Why not, right? We came so far with making crazy ideas happen, this should be doable as well. What is fascinating with innovation, with new ideas, is that in the beginning, there are always some people—most of them are enthusiastic but there are always some people who say, “It’s not allowed,” or “You cannot do it.” But you know what happens now with the Smog Free Project, I have top officials from the government coming to me, and saying, “Oh that’s a good idea, why didn’t you do it before?” I’m saying this with a smile; it’s one of the things about innovation, and you have to go through it, but that’s good, that means you are changing something. You are changing a mentality. But you have to fight for it. INHABITAT: Last year the China Forum of Environmental Journalists suggested that the Smog Free Tower in Beijing wasn’t doing its job effectively. What do you think of their findings? ROOSEGAARDE: I read that. It’s quite difficult, because I’ve never met the people, and I’m curious what they based on findings on. I think it’s really good people are engaged with the project, and are thinking about it, and are discussing it: what should be, what shouldn’t it be; so I think that’s positive. We knew the tower worked, and we now have the scientific data to back us up. And yeah, let’s keep on pushing what is possible. But basically, the idea is very simple: build the largest vacuum cleaner in the world, so of course it works. I find it hard to grasp how it could not work. What I think is, everybody has opinions, but let’s work at proposals. INHABITAT: Based on discussions around the tower, do you think you’ll change the design of the tower at all or do you think it’s working well for the goal you have for it? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re not changing the design of the tower. Why would I? No, we’re going to keep it like this. The name and design are going to stay like this. I think maybe in the future, I’ll have some new ideas. We want to make it run on solar panels , that’s an important one. And we’re designing bigger versions for larger public spaces. There will be new versions, but this one that we have is perfectly fine. The design is based on Chinese pagodas, Chinese temples. So there’s also this history element in it, and the Chinese love it. When they visit here they lovingly call it the Clean Air Temple. But I think your question is valid. One tower will of course not the solve the whole problem of a city, that is very clear. I think the goal is to create these local clean air parks, and at the same time educate people, to say hey, what do we need to do to make the whole city smog free? There’s a lot of work to be done. We shouldn’t wait for government. We shouldn’t wait for anyone. INHABITAT: You’ve devoted a lot of creative energy to smog and pollution in the last few years. But recently you’ve turned your attention to space trash. Why do you think this is a serious issue, and how can design help solve the problem? ROOSEGAARDE: When you start something new, you always start as an amateur. You start to read, to learn, to talk with the experts. Now I can say I’m an expert in smog after three years, which is great, but it’s always nice to be an amateur again. So now I’m an amateur in space waste . There are millions of particles floating caused by satellites crashing. And it’s a big problem, because if particles like these hit an existing satellite, the satellite goes down, and no more Facebook, no more Inhabitat, no more mobile banking, and nobody really knows how to clean it. And it’s going to get worse. If we continue like this for the coming five to 10 years there will be so much pollution we won’t even be able to launch missiles anymore because they’ll be damaged by particles. Space is endless, and then we have planet Earth floating here, and somehow we were able to trap ourselves in a layer of space pollution. How are we going to explain that to our grandchildren? That’s insane. So what the Smog Free Ring is for Beijing, and what the Smog Free Tower is for China, can we apply that thinking to space waste? I don’t know how and what or when. I’ve had several sessions with space scientists. It is a problem, and somebody needs to fix it. And that’s been fascinating. So that’s the next adventure. For me, a project like this not just about technology or ideology. I’m a trained artist, so for me it’s about the notion of beauty, or of schoonheid. “Schoonheid” is a very typical Dutch word that has two meanings. One is like the beauty of a painting that you look at and then get inspired. But it also means cleanness, like clean energy, clean water, clean air. That element of schoonheid is what I’m striving for. When we design cities or a product or a car or a landscape, schoonheid should be part of the DNA, and we should really start making places which are good for people. This is the big idea we’re aiming for, and in a way all the projects we’ve been talking about are sort of prototypes or examples. INHABITAT: Your work often explores relationships between humans and technology, but you have also been critical of all the time we spend in front of screens. How would you describe a healthy relationship with technology? ROOSEGAARDE: I think it’s bizarre that we’re feeding into our emotions, our hopes, and dreams into these computer screens. We’re feeding this virtual cloud: Facebook, Twitter. And somehow our physical world is almost disconnected from creative or innovative thinking. Most of the physical places are suffering from pollution, floods, you name it. And that’s sort of weird. Our ideas, our money, our focus is online. I would love to connect these worlds again, the virtual and the analog and really say, “Hey, how can we use technology—and design, and creative thinking—to improve life and make places which are good for people again?” Is it George Orwell, are we reducing human activity, or is it Leonardo Da Vinci, where we enhance ourselves as human beings via technology? If you read like Bruce Sterling or Kevin Kelly, they have been talking about that for many years, which I really, really like. And I hope that the prototypes or projects I’ve made somehow contribute to that way of thinking, of enhancing yourself and exploring yourself. At the World Economic Forum, they had Top 10 Skills research about the future skills you and I need to become successful. Number three is creativity, number two critical thinking, and number one is complex problem solving. What I think will happen is that as we live in a hyper-technological world, our human skills: our desire for knowledge, our desire for beauty, our desire for empathy, and our desire for interaction, will become even more important because that is something robots and computers cannot copy or do for us. I believe we will have a renaissance of the arts and sciences . I hope again that the things I do contribute to that trajectory. INHABITAT What are three major things you’d change in today’s cities to make them more sustainable? ROOSEGAARDE: I think I mentioned it with schoonheid: clean energy , clean water, clean air. And maybe the notion of circular: food  should not be wasted but become food for the other. Most of all I hope it’s a city which triggers me, where I feel like a citizen and not just a taxpayer. I’ve been thinking of Marshall McLuhan in the past few weeks. In Vancouver, I gave a TED talk, and quoted McLuhan who said “On spacecraft Earth there are no passengers; we are all crew.” We’re makers; we’re not just consumers. And so how can we make landscapes which trigger that kind of mentality? That’s what wakes me up every day at 6:30. And again, my designs are in that way not just designs or art installations but really very concrete proposals of how I want the future to look like. It’s been great to work with designers, experts, and engineers to make it happen. I think that’s good to mention because sometimes the focus is a bit too much on me, but we have a great studio in Rotterdam where 16 people are working really, really hard every day, and without them I could never make it happen. INHABITAT: What’s next? Do you have any plans for future projects in the works? ROOSEGAARDE: We’re working on the redesign of Afsluitdijk Dike, it’s a famous 32-kilometer dam in the Netherlands that protects us from drowning and dying. What you should know is dikes in the Netherlands are as holy as cows are in India. Now after almost 80 years the dike is in need of renovation, and the minister of infrastructure , Melanie Schultz, commissioned my studio to enhance the iconic value of that dike. And that’s going to be great. We’re going to make kites in the air, which connected with a cable generate electricity. We’re working with light-emitting algae. We’re launching three more new projects in September, October, and November of this year. + Studio Roosegaarde Images courtesy of Studio Roosegaarde

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INTERVIEW: Designer Daan Roosegaarde on smog temples, space trash, and what’s next

Meet Adam Sobel, the food truck chef who’s taking vegan food to the streets

July 19, 2016 by  
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Adam Sobel is a man with a mission: since 2010, he’s been roaming the streets of New York City with his food truck, the Cinnamon Snail, sharing mouthwatering vegan food on the street and growing a new audience for delicious, plant-based food. Our family and parenting site, Inhabitots , had the opportunity to interview him recently about his experiences as a chef and his new cookbook . The interview is also chock full of delicious-looking recipes for things like Fried Onion Blintzes and Apple Sauce . Nom Nom. Here’s a sneak peak:   Inhabitots:  Has your clientele changed over the years? Did it take people a while to warm up to the concept of vegan street food? How do you entice non-vegans or non-vegetarians to give Cinnamon Snail a try? Sobel : I think when people see a line down the block and see a big display case full of extra tempting donuts and pastries, people just get really excited, whether they realize the food is vegan or not.  A lot has changed over the last six to seven years that we have been in operation. More and more mainstream people are experimenting with meatless Mondays, or eating more plant-based food as a part of their varied diet.  There is a lot less of a cultural stigma against vegan cuisine now than there was when we started. I like to think we had some small hand in helping shape the mainstream culture’s idea of vegan food, but maybe that’s taking it too far. For more of the interview (and a few signature mouth-watering recipes you can prepare at home), follow the link below.

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Meet Adam Sobel, the food truck chef who’s taking vegan food to the streets

Elegant ACERA elevates the everyday travel mug into art

July 19, 2016 by  
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Stainless steel is a popular choice for reusable travel mugs, but ceramic also has its charms. Taiwan ceramic brand ACERA gives the everyday travel mug a chic upgrade with One-O-One, a handcrafted and hand-decorated opaque ceramic cup that comes in alternate smooth and textured surfaces. The stylish travel mug was recently awarded the prestigious Red Dot Award: Best of the Best . + ACERA The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing!

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Elegant ACERA elevates the everyday travel mug into art

Sustainable Home Building, Now and Onward: An Interview With Past President of the AIA LA, Stuart Magruder

June 24, 2016 by  
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A growing number of architects are considering sustainability and the environment in their designs, and luckily for them, building materials are evolving in tandem. Inhabitat recently covered mnmMOD , a standardized but customizable structurally insulated wall-panel designed by Santa Monica design studio Minarc . In addition to cutting construction time and cost, these reusable prefabricated panels contain recycled materials and minimize heat loss and gain for a low carbon footprint. mnmMOD left such of an impression on Stuart Magruder, former President of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the founder and principal of Studio Nova A Architects , that he chose to incorporate the panels into the renovation his own personal residence. Magruder, whose work includes the gorgeous Culver City Hill House , discusses sustainable architecture, environmentally conscious building practices, energy efficiency, mnmMOD, and the future of architecture with us below. Image is property of Studio Nova A Architects, Inc. Tell me a bit about yourself – Growing up? Early Influences? The path that led you to where you currently are personally and professionally. Magruder: I’m an architect, a graduate of Princeton University where I majored in architecture. I didn’t stay in the field, I did a written thesis at Princeton rather than a drawn thesis. I ended up going into advertising for four years and then decided I wanted to get back into architecture so I came out to Los Angeles and went to SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture), the graduate school here in LA. I got my masters at SCI-Arc, got out in ‘97, and I’ve been here since then. I’ve had my own firm since ‘05. I was president of the AIA LA (American Institute of Architecture Los Angeles) in 2012 and won a national award. I apprenticed under Eric Owen Moss for a couple years out of school which was really fantastic, then spent about six years at Richard Meier & Partners in LA, so that’s my background. I try to do highly sustainable, contemporary work, that’s my focus and sometimes it’s harder than you think. What sparked your initial interest in sustainability and green building techniques in regards to architecture and design? Magruder: Probably the thing that started it was a camp I attended as a kid up in Maine and one of my counselors, who is now the head of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), Amory Lovins, who’s a pretty world famous nuclear physicist. RMI is all about figuring out, more so the power and transportation issues than necessarily building sustainability, but they’re trying to help us all move to a low carbon world. So, he was this camp counselor and I went off in the backcountry of Maine on a 12 day crazy backpacking trip. He was a great guy and that’s where I really got interested in the environment. I lived in Colorado as a kid and was always outside and skied a ton when I was young so, it’s always been about being outside and it’s really, you know, if you appreciate what nature has to offer you, you realise that there are things we’re doing that aren’t that helpful to the natural world. That’s kind of what led me into thinking, well, let’s be sustainable AND modern, you don’t have to do one or the other. So that’s how I got into it. How did you first meet Erla and Tryggvi of mnmMOD? What were your initial impressions of them? Magruder: You know, I can’t remember exactly where we first met. It might have been when I was, I’ve been really active as I mentioned earlier in AIA, and it may have been at some AIA event. But yea, they’re just great. They’re neat, they’re funky, they’re different, they’re really interested in doing things that are interesting which is kind of unusual. There aren’t a ton of those people out there so I try to gravitate towards people like that. They’re a good couple and they’re interested in the things that matter to me, and we’ve always been friendly in a colleague sense. I really enjoy their way of seeing things. Why did you decide to use mnmMOD in the remodel and addition to your personal residence? Magruder: Because of my friendship with Erla and Tryggvi, my confidence in their ability to pull it off, and my confidence in their understanding what I’m trying to do, as opposed to a fabricator trying to take my stuff, so I thought that was important. And the fact that they’re local is great. Image is property of Studio Nova A Architects, Inc. As it currently stands, what do you see as the most significant environmental shortcomings of the home building industry? Magruder: Gosh, there are so many. I think it really is the kind of wall construction methodology right now, and this product is a good way around it. It’s more expensive than wood studs so that’s why it’s not happening on a regular basis, but as we move toward the requirement in 2020, which is really very soon, the state mandates that all residential, including multifamily, be net zero, and products like this are going to be required so I think a real deep re-think of how we put buildings together is what we need to do if we’re going to keep heading towards a low-carbon, or no-carbon future. How does using mnmMOD help to solve these shortcomings? Magruder: Well, it ties back to what I mentioned earlier about the break in the thermal bridge and super-insulating. mnmMOD’s insulation is integral with the metal so there’s just no gaps per se that are going to let heat or cold go through the building easily, so that’s what’s great about it and that’s why it’s a good product if you want to super-insulate. What do you see as the most important advantages mnmMOD holds over traditional building practices- – For Architects and Designers? Magruder: It’s a way to achieve an energy usage goal, and it’s a more complex system than doing wood studs so in some ways it has that disadvantage because it takes a little more thought and your design is a little more difficult. But the point is, if you need to achieve a certain energy use, this is a product that will help you get there, that’s something it’s good for. The build-to-suit aspect is also key, so that’s definitely another advantage. – For Homebuilders and Contractors? Magruder: The real advantage from a homebuilder point of view would be the speed of erection. You can essentially get your framing up in a week or so, rather than a month or two. So there’s a speed, time and money benefit there which helps soften the burden of the higher price of the materials than just using wood. – For Homeowners? Magruder: I think it’s a couple things. It’s the super-insulation and that you should be experiencing lower energy bills. It’s the fact that it’s metal studs so you won’t ever have to worry about termites. It’s essentially a fire rated system so you’re not going to burn up your metal studs in a house fire. You also get pretty good acoustical. Not fantastic, but you get an improved acoustical envelope so the house will feel quieter. I would say those would be the main things from a homeowner point of view. Image is property of Studio Nova A Architects, Inc. What directions do you see the sustainable building industry going in over the next 5-10 years? Magruder: That’s a good question. I think it’s going to be systems like this. I think there’s going to be a lot of competition for what Erla and Tryggvi are doing. I’m pretty sure the “big boys” are going to get into this as they realize they’re going to get screwed in 2020 if they don’t have a product that works, so I think you’re going to see a lot of movement in the building envelopes arena. That would probably be the biggest thing. We’ve already done a lot on energy efficiency around things like HVAC systems and water use. Certainly out here (Southern California), a more widespread uptick in the use of water-saving techniques and landscaping is going to continue to happen whether we come out of this drought this year or not, so I also think water is going to be a big one. Energy and water are really the same thing. When you use energy you’re using water because about half of all potable water in the country is used to spin electrical turbines. So if you use electricity you’re spinning a turbine and that’s using water and, certainly in this state, with water getting pushed around, if you’re using water you’re using energy so they’re kind of two sides of the same coin and if you’re efficient on either, or hopefully both, then you’re really making a big difference. Would you encourage people who are considering building a new home to use mnmMOD? Why? Magruder: Yea, definitely. The things I mentioned earlier, the super-insulation, the no termites and reduced fire damages, the durability surrounding steel which is great, and the acoustical benefits all are reasons why I would use it, why I am using it, and certainly why I recommend this system and some of their competitors on every project I’ve done. My own house will be the first time I get to use it. It’s hard, some of this stuff is tough, if you don’t have to do it, people won’t necessarily do it. That’s a big challenge. Do you think the homebuilding industry is ready to shift away from wasteful wood framing techniques? Magruder: Well to be honest with you, the question would be better phrased as “wasteful wood stud” because that arguably is efficient, fast, and cheap, but it’s not as good as something like mnmMOD’s product. I think it’s going to be. The only thing that may change it, unfortunately, and I hate to say this because I hate a lot of it, is regulation. So, when there’s a mandate that we have to be net zero, then we’re going to be net zero and then products like this one and other things will help us get there. But, it’s only when we’re forced to do something that costs more will anybody do it. Unless it’s a vanity thing, and usually that’s surface stuff. The challenge with a wall system is you don’t see it. Once it’s built you’re like ‘It’s a wall, whatever’, you know? So it’s a hard one. If it was like, a painting, then yea, sure, I could blow a ton of money on that and brag about it to all my colleagues and friends and it would be a trophy thing, but if it’s buried in gypsum board and stucco, you don’t see it, you kind of lose that connection to it. In terms of the initial increase in cost, do you feel that the long term cost savings due to the increased energy efficiency totally offset the initial investment? Magruder: I haven’t done a calculation on this and I don’t want to speak out of turn, but certainly, if you use mnmMOD panels and you do a proper sealing of the building which also isn’t done very often, and you have a real tight building from an air movement point of view then yea, you’re going to start to see savings. You may be looking at a 15, 20, 30 year payback but again, a wood stud doesn’t pay you back. So if you’re able to get something back I’ve always thought ‘wow, that’s a net-positive.’ It may not be a huge net-positive and the problem is when people try to sell this idea they’ll say, the additional cost let’s say is 20 grand more and you’re going to get back maybe 10 grand in 20 years. So it can become hard to justify if you’re tight and usually every single client is tight and will be like ‘ehh, this is more than I expected’. So it’s always a challenge to get it to work, and it probably does pay it back. The other issue that you don’t have on the larger scale side of the industry is if you’re doing a large office complex or a big multi-family or a skyscraper, then you’ve got a full suite of consultants and engineers who are looking at all these things and they’re saying ‘yea, we can pay a premium up front for this product but over the next 15 years you’re going to get back 50, 60, 100 percent of it and then you’ll start making money.’ So, it can be hard in the single family homes, smaller deals, to justify empirically. Image is property of Studio Nova A Architects, Inc. I can see in the larger scale it kind of boils down to a business decision at one point. Magruder: Exactly, exactly. Yea, and they’ve got the data to make the decision and that’s what it comes down to. You don’t typically have the data at the small scale project to really justify it. You have a hunch, which is what I work off of, but people who pay the bills want more than a hunch. Right, and that’s something we’ve discussed. When people buy a Tesla, they see you driving the Tesla every day. When you build a house with mnmMOD, once it’s done, nobody knows what’s inside, so that’s a challenge. Magruder: Green bling! There’s a whole term out there, green bling. So this brings up another question that’s not on the list, Tryggvi and Erla recently informed me that the mnmMOD system is fully title 24 compliant right off the bat, so having that assurance when building, what do you feel the significance of that is? Magruder: Well it’s good. What it does is it allows you to be really efficient where it’s relatively easy to be efficient which is the walls, and then if you do want to add, say, a wall of glass which is always going to be thermally much worse than a wall, even a stud wall, then you have more flexibility to get a large glass opening, say in the living room where you want to have a view and you want to have 15 feet of solid glass, it can make that easy to calc out when you do your title 24 report. So yea, it definitely allows you to be efficient where it’s easy to be efficient. Would you recommend combining mnmMOD with other efficient/sustainable/Net Zero-focused products and techniques like solar power, geothermal heating/cooling, green roofs, etc.? Why? Magruder: Oh yea, definitely. There’s a whole menu of things you’ve got to do. You’ve got to do all that, and low maintenance finishes on the exterior, there’s lots of things you can do to help minimize the use of chemicals and consuming products. Building a building is like building a custom car. there are so many pieces to it, you’ve got the drivetrain, you’ve got the wheels, you’ve got the dashboard, you’ve got the sexy metal or fiberglass shell and the windshield and all of them are different and they all have different requirements and you have to figure them all out and do it well. It’s the same thing if you’re trying to do sustainable construction, you’ve got all these different pieces and you’ve got to try to nail the sustainability issue on each one. It can be a pain in the ass! That’s probably what I like about it, I like trying to figure out, at heart I’m really a nerd, so I love figuring out problems, and figuring out how to do things sustainably is a great problem to tackle. The other thing we all forget is that before we had all this electricity, we built much more sustainably. We did things much more in tune with what the environment gave us because we didn’t have a choice. Would you say that using mnmMOD provides a huge jump start towards attaining net zero home status? Magruder: Oh yes, undoubtedly. Super-insulation is the key to reducing your energy use in terms of HVAC, so yea, the first and the biggest thing you’ve got to do is be super-insulated. Extrapolating from that, seeing as super-efficiency is the key to attaining net zero status, and mnmMOD is super-efficiency insulated, would you say that mnmMOD can be a key to attaining net zero home status? Magruder: Exactly, that’s why I’m using them. That’s the whole reason. I’ll be honest with you, it’s hurting me financially, it’s a bit of a stretch. I had to really say ‘OK, holy crap, this number…’ It’s a big nut to crack, and I know I could do it cheaper with wood, but I decided ‘alright I’m gonna go for it.’ So I’ve jumped in with everything, including my kids and my wife, we’re all in the deep end together making it work. It’s a commitment and it’s the way you get a real sustainable home, so you’ve just gotta make it work. But you look at the numbers and you think ‘this is what it is and it’s this much more for a good reason.’ The non-committed fall off quickly. I’m excited, I’m looking at shop drawings this weekend, and hopefully we’ll get panels on site later this month. I’d love to get you out. It’d be great to reconnect sometime out on-site and get you to see it. I think Erla and Tryggvi are happy and excited because this is not a totally boxy house, we have some angles going on. Nothing crazy, but a little bit of bumping and grinding that’s, I think, new for mnmMOD to execute, so it’s kind of fun that way and it’d be good for you to see. Is there anything else you can say about mnmMOD from a professional architect’s perspective? Magruder: When Erla and Tryggvi and I were talking a couple years ago, I said to them the (mnmMOD) tagline could be something like ‘sustainable system by architects, for architects.’ That was something I thought was interesting, that they understand what an architect does. It makes that initial uptake easier. + Studio Nova A Architects + mnmMOD Images via Studio Nova A Architects and mnmMOD The article above was submitted to us by an Inhabitat reader. Want to see your story on Inhabitat ? Send us a tip by following this link . Remember to follow our instructions carefully to boost your chances of being chosen for publishing!

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Milkshake Tree playground in London doubles as an oversized xylophone

June 23, 2016 by  
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Photo by Paul Raftery The Milkshake Tree installation is all about sounds, smells, movement and reflective surfaces. The name came about when one of the kids asked if the new Center could include a milkshake tree. Located outside the NOW Gallery on London’s Greenwich Peninsula, the installation includes long ramps framed by reflective screens and timber fins combined with copper xylophones which the kids can play as they pass by. A 12-square-meter gold mirrored cube dominates the installation and features leaf-shaped cut outs, an Amelanchier tree and a glass prism that create beautiful kaleidoscopic effects. Related: Henning Larsen’s Day Care Center is a Green-Roofed Paradise for Children in Denmark Photo by Paul Raftery A multi-sensory ramp with a musical walkway connects the school to the new hydrotherapy and therapy spaces, while the landscape, designed by BD Landscape Architects, provides additional outdoor spaces-a sensory roof garden , a mud kitchen and a treehouse . The entire site stimulates imagination and playfulness, combining education, rehabilitation and entertainment. + pH+ Architects + London Festival of Architecture  Lead photo by Paul Raftery

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Milkshake Tree playground in London doubles as an oversized xylophone

Super lightweight solar panels for flat roofs install in under two minutes

June 23, 2016 by  
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Millions of flat commercial roofs around the world are currently unable to support the weight of a conventional rooftop solar array, squandering significant clean energy potential. Beamreach Solar has designed an elegant new solar panel , called Sprint, which resolves this dilemma. Capable of producing 30 percent more energy than conventional photovoltaic technology, Sprint panels are also easier to install, requiring zero tools and zero grounding. Kerstens told Inhabitat that Sprint solar panels are not only more efficient than existing technology, but also cheaper because they are so much easier and faster to install. With the racking system already integrated into the panel, any person can install them in under two minutes without any training. This is about five times faster than solar panels that have to be drilled into a roof or weighted down. In addition to removing any potential barriers for customers who may be intimated by installing a rooftop solar array, Beamreach’s new technology drives down installation and labor costs. Plus, they can be installed closer to each other without reducing efficiency, resulting in more overall output. At present, Sprint solar panels produce up to 320 watts, but Kerstens said they are steadily improving their output and will eventually have building integrated panels with their superior technology. For now the rooftop panels have been tested to withstand wind speeds of up to 115 MPH and – particularly beneficial in areas with heavy snow – they can handle weight loads of up to 5400 Pascals (Pa). This is equivalent to roughly 113 pounds per square feet. Related: Dubai to build the world’s largest concentrated solar power plant And for people like me who aren’t in love with heights or the idea of negotiating with a series of large and unwieldy solar panels several feet off the ground, the streamlined Sprint design with a built-in handle that makes it easier to carry is an attractive option. This same design makes shipping cheaper, according to Kerstens. Lastly, they are better for countries that reach higher than average summer temperatures, such as those in the Middle East . As Kerstens notes, solar panels like sun but not heat, so their performance decreases with every increase in temperature. Spring panels boast a lower temperature coefficient curve than most technology on the market, making it possible to introduce clean solar energy further afield than ever before. + Beamreach Solar

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Super lightweight solar panels for flat roofs install in under two minutes

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