29 September 2008

Things that keep me up at night.

The following issues don't REALLY keep me up at night...but they are good motivators.

So, in case you missed it, our greenhouse gas emissions are actually accelerating. This is surprising - and ultimately quite scary - because a lot of people thought that the economic downturn would result in less energy consumption. Nope! We are barreling toward the point of no return even faster now! And more than half of carbon emissions are now from developing countries ... which will be even harder to slow down.

If you want to see proof of climate change, watch this time-lapsed video of Alaska's northern coast eroding. Also, we already passed Earth Overshoot Day...I would try to explain it myself, but just visit the link.

So the world is facing a big crisis. In the meantime, one of our presidential candidates nominated a VP so grossly underqualified, and so wildly embarrassing that I can't stand to watch this interview myself...it's like watching a Ben Stiller movie. It makes me cringe. It reminds me of the time Bush tried to dance with that tribe in Africa. Jeez.

Oh and there's that whole "the sky is falling credit crisis" thing. We're damned if we do pass the $700 billion bailout package, and we are ROYALLY SCREWED if we don't. So I guess we'll pass it then, huh?

All I can say is, I hope the rest of the country comes to the same conclusion as this small paper, who is endorsing the Democratic candidate for president for the first time in 72 years. Because if things go the other way November 4th, I forsee many sleepless nights ahead.

24 September 2008

Ranking the 50 most sustainable cities in the U.S.

This has been getting a lot of play in my online circles recently so I thought I would share it with anyone paying attention here.

A group called Sustainlane, the "people powered sustainability guide" has recently ranked the 50 most sustainable cities in the US.

....And the winner is.....

ding ding ding, Portland, Oregon. Big surprise! I like this quote: "If you live in Portland, you might want to think twice before complaining about the 40-plus inches of rain dumped on your head every year. It might be the only thing keeping the entire country from moving to your city by the Prius-load."

The cities were ranked by a number of factors that contribute to urban sustainability including air quality, innovation, commuting, local food and agriculture and more. It's disappointing but I guess not surprising to me that my old neighborhood (Cincinnati) doesn't even show up on the list, and my new 'hood (Los Angeles) is ranked 28th. It's nice to see that all my friends are living in sustainable places though (Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, New York). It's tough trying to lead a sustainable life in a less-sustainable place. But I think I deserve an A for effort!

21 September 2008

EnviroHint #3c: ...Recycle?

Well, you can't say I didn't try. My previously mentioned attempts at upcycling one of my favorite t-shirts into a reversible bag have fallen a bit short. Although the photo below makes it LOOK like I finished the bag, the reality is, I can't quite figure out how to finish sewing the sides, and with school going full blast, I don't have time to try. So, I'll finish it eventually.

The good news is, I get to use this opportunity to introduce you to the concept of upcycling. Upcycling basically means that you take something old and instead of recycling it the traditional way, you actually make it better in its second life. There are very few materials that can be upcycled on a mass scale; one example might be tires, which can be ground up and used in rubber flooring for playgrounds or athletic facilities. (Of course, that's if you agree that flooring is a better product than tires for cars ... but I digress).



One quick note before I go ... have a look at my Archinect blog for photos from the Park[ing] Day event I helped organize this past Friday at USC. Fun times!

17 September 2008

All quiet on the Western Front

I'm here today to tell you that I have nothing to say. I apologize for not being more interesting but the events of the last couple of weeks have rendered me basically speechless. I have been dividing my time between voraciously reading the news and working on my thesis. I would tell you about my progress on that but it's pretty boring. I'd like, instead, to talk about the three big storms consuming the Eastern half of the country.

1. Hurricane Ike.
My god, what a monster storm this was. At its biggest it was about as wide as the state of Texas - I couldn't believe those satellite images. I can't remember the last time a storm entered the country and then "boomeranged" around like that. The really amazing thing is that it separated ... the winds went northeast and the rain went east. I know that the winds went northeast because as of today, many people in Cincinnati are still without power from the 70 mph gusts of wind that Ike sent in on Sunday. And without rain, the wind threw a bunch of debris into transformers which then set things on fire, including Grammer's and Findlay Market. I hope everyone gets their power back soon.

2. In the meantime, you can't find anything about the Great Midwest Blackout of 2008 because of the tornado on Wall Street. (On the 24-hour news channels, everyone has been using bad storm analogies, so I will too.) There are now only 2 major brokerage houses left in the United States, and late last night, the Fed decided to extend a loan to AIG, a big insurer of banks, among other things. Before you ask the Fed to rescue you from your bankruptcy (I think we all should), check out the latest interactive graphic explaining the mess from the NY Times. It's brilliant, and a little terrifying.

3. Typhoon Sarah.
In the past week, the favorability ratings for Governor Sarah Palin, aka John McCain's ill-advised pick for Vice President, have swung an unprecedented 10 points to the negative. This is, presumably, because the people who don't check the news every 5 minutes like I do are starting to realize that this person should not be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. I dare say she shouldn't be 5 or 10, or probably even 50 heartbeats away from the Presidency. I pay attention to who the Governors of many of the states in the country are, and I struggle to think of a Governor who would have been a worse choice for this position than Sarah Palin. And I'm a woman, and I want to see women succeed as much as the next girl, but not a woman who politicizes everything in her state government by firing those who disagree with her (just like George W. Bush). Not a woman whose primary foreign policy experience is being able to see Russia from land in Alaska. Not a woman whose hypocrisy is so broad that she wants to take away the option of choice from women everywhere, even though she offered it to her own daughter ... or who was for the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it ... or who accuses Senator Barack Obama of multiple budget ear marks for his state when she requested more, per capita, than he did.

At the end of the day, the people of Texas (and Cincinnati) will recover. The banks will be OK. And luckily we have at least one competent choice for President. This is all assuming we make the right decisions in the next few months ... let's not screw it up, people.

09 September 2008

Goat-scaping

This is too much fun to not share.

There are goats in Downtown LA right now.
About 100 of them, 4 blocks from me. They will be here for two weeks. They were brought in to clear brush and weeds from a steep site in the small Angels Knoll park next to Angel's Flight. At $3,000, they are cheaper than human labor (about $7,500). For those of you not from LA, they have been using goats around here for a while to help cut down on fire risk. But, you don't often see them in the middle of the city!

Go go gadget Goat-scaping!







04 September 2008

Trying to be "useful"

This is another one of those days where I'm trying to make a big decision, and I have this blog, and so I'd like people's input.

I've said all along that the reason I went back to graduate school was to improve my skill set in order to become a better environmental designer, and ultimately, to do something useful with my thesis.

At this point, I'm trying to decide where exactly that thesis is going to go. I've been researching web sites, including the Department of Energy's site, and I think what is missing is a greater understanding by homeowners of how architecture itself can improve their houses. There is already a web site that details how homeowners can reduce their energy using mechanical means, and yield a cost savings, and it's here. It was also put together by a team of like, 25 people over a number of years, and I don't have those kind of resources! But I think what I CAN bring to the table is a web learning tool that presents simple design options to people who could remodel their homes; something that diagrams how architectural elements could help people reduce energy in their part of the country ... something that gives them tangible solutions for doing their part to reduce global warming.

So ... what do you think? It is a little "pie in the sky" but I see a void - I don't think anyone else has done something that really explains the why part of architecture to the public. Please leave comments or suggestions below!

01 September 2008

Addicted to Blogging

Instead of finishing the special project that I started a couple of weeks ago (see EnviroHints #3A and #3B), I apparently thought it would be easier to start a third blog. OK, not really, but the lack of Archinect school blogging in 2007 was ultimately what prompted me to start this blog, and now that Archinect has brought school blogging back, I decided to go legit and try to talk strictly about my school experiences there.

So ... by all means, please feel free to visit my school blog at Archinect, where I will discuss, in more meaningful detail, what I am attempting to do with my Master's thesis. As always, comments and suggestions are encouraged and appreciated (as long as they are not "anonymous").