environment (38)

Eco House of Mostly Recycled Materials in Mexico

Photo by Nin Solis – Living Inside
Article by Anna Bisazza

Deep in the Mexican countryside of Valle de Bravo — a lush escape about two hours’ drive from Mexico City — Emiliano Garcia and Helene Carlo found the perfect spot to build an eco home. Partners in life and in ASPJ, a Mexican architecture and landscape design studio, the couple had a burning question: can we build more sustainably and cheaper, and in a way that can be widely copied?

The main structural element is a concrete cube that supports the rest of the house.

“It was important for us to prove its feasibility and to be able to make our structure replicable, not only a one-of-a-kind,” says Garcia. The couple are keen for this type of building to become the rule rather than the exception.

La Lomita is named for its hilltop position, from where it looks out on to the picturesque surrounding mountains from its secluded spot, and is accessed by a small dirt road. The structure is distinguished by an unusual single arched roof and an open facade with corrugated metal finishing that loosely evokes the image of an aircraft hangar, but there are many other experimental features meticulously planned by Garcia and Carlo that are not immediately obvious.

“Being able to take weight off the building, bringing it to half of what it would normally be in a conventional build, was a really successful outcome,” says Garcia. The main structural element is a concrete cube that encloses two bathrooms and the staircase. It supports the rest of the house, which is built primarily in wood. “This means we’re not intervening heavily in the foundation by digging deep into the ground and building concrete slab layers. Here, we managed to separate the house from the ground, only attaching it to the necessary structural points.”

A second critical aspect for Garcia and Carlo was the traceability of materials and controlling as much as possible their impact on the environment. To build the columns, floors and walls — which amounts to 70% of the house — they used recycled laminated wood made from boxes for the transport of car parts in Volkswagen and Audi factories. “This is FSC-certified wood from Europe and we’re giving it a second use as OSB [oriented strand board], a material that is gaining popularity these days.”

www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2023/jun/25/ready-to-soar-inside-a-dramatic-eco-home-in-mexico

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Antartica

Photograph by Christopher Michel

The Truth About Antarctica

by Allegra Rosenberg

The only continent with no history of human habitation, the vast ice fields of Antarctica have formed a blank slate onto which humanity can project itself: all of itself, from the imperial superego to the conspiratorial id.

At the turn of the 20th century, Antarctica was still largely unknown. As Apsley Cherry-Garrard observed in the introduction to his classic book The Worst Journey in the World (1922): “Even now the Antarctic is to the rest of the earth as the Abode of the Gods was to the ancient Chaldees, a precipitous and mammoth land lying far beyond the seas which encircled man’s habitation.” But despite the hundred-plus years of exploration, habitation, and documentation since then, Antarctica remains utterly Other. It’s far away, it’s unlike anywhere else on the planet, and most people will never go there. They’ll only see pictures, and watch classic films like The Thing (01982) which project an image of peril and isolation onto the public consciousness.…

longnow.org/ideas/the-truth-about-antarctica

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Warmest Tent on Earth – Pitching in the Siberian Arctic Winter

The Nenet reindeer herders need to move their tent every few days throughout most of the year. Every time they migrate they must pack the whole tent away, drag it across the tundra on sledges, and erect it again in a fresh place, sometimes in temperatures of minus thirty degrees. Survival depends on working together as a team.

From Rich Storek

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Could Homes Built of Bamboo Help Solve the Climate Crisis?

Photos by Jonathan Davis / Spaces808.com/. Reprinted with permission

From The Mercury News, Sept. 28, 2022

Julia M. Chan | CNN

While bamboo has been used in construction in Asia for thousands of years, it’s starting to catch on in sustainable housing development in parts of the United States and other places in the world.

Bamboo Living co-founder and chief architect David Sands is at the forefront of modern sustainable bamboo construction. His Hawaiian-based company specializes in creating bamboo homes and other buildings, with clients including rock star Sammy Hagar, actress Barbara Hershey, music mogul Shep Gordon, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar — and Sands himself.

The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Why bamboo? What makes it an ideal material for construction and the environment?

The giant bamboos are the fastest-growing woody plant on the planet. If you go to the Guinness Book of World Records, I think it was between two and three feet a day that they recorded it growing. So you end up with these plants that are 100 feet tall in just a couple of months. By year three, you’ve got incredible building material, and that’s when we harvest for our houses.

Because it’s the fastest-growing plant, it’s probably the fastest natural way to get CO2 (carbon dioxide) out of our atmosphere. Through photosynthesis, it’s taking that CO2 and turning it into sugars and then into actual fiber, the storage mechanism for the atmospheric carbon. And that’s a big deal in terms of getting the CO2 out of the atmosphere rapidly.

Normally when you harvest a tree, you kill the tree, and it’s got to start all over. And with the bamboo, every year it’s sending up new trunks, so you just harvest a percentage of those trunks and it just keeps growing. The plants can live up to 120 years. You know how you just keep mowing the lawn and the grass keep popping back? It’s really like that — it is a grass. It’s the biggest of the grasses.

From an architect’s perspective, can you talk about bamboo’s strength and flexibility?

It’s an incredibly strong material. On a weight basis, it’s actually stronger than steel, which is much, much heavier than the same cross section of bamboo. Bamboo has more than twice the strength of the wood usually used for construction, and it’s got a compressive strength similar to concrete.

We’ve had our buildings go through multiple Category 5 hurricanes, up to 200 mile-an-hour winds. We’ve had our buildings go through up to 6.9 on the Richter Scale in terms of seismic events, or earthquakes. Because the bamboo is so much lighter weight and stronger on a weight basis, it can flex and then recover.

Where have you built homes? And is there potential to go elsewhere?

We’ve got homes in the Caribbean, in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, (and) Southern California now. I was just in Florida working on a project. I’m going to India to meet with a group that wants to build our homes there.

There’s definitely the opportunity to go pretty much into any climate. I think stylistically the homes that we’ve done thus far have all had that kind of tropical feel to them. But there was a client yesterday that wants to do a project (on) Long Island, which would be really fun.

Have you seen an increase in interest in bamboo homes?

Yeah, there is. We have never been busier and we’re expanding production now. I think the concern with the climate crisis has really gotten to the forefront of people’s attention, and really being able to make personal choices that directly impact that is a big deal.

It’s certainly what got me started. I built a home for myself on Maui 30 years ago and I was trying to be as sustainable as I could be. But then they delivered the lumber to build the house, and it was really a gut punch of, like, that’s a whole forest! And that’s happening every time, for every house in the United States. And I just felt like, “I’ve got to do something different.”

You live in a bamboo home now. What’s it like?

I love it. There’s a connection to nature in terms of just knowing that the house itself is helping solve the climate crisis. But then the beauty of it, the shapes and forms we’re able to do with it that you wouldn’t necessarily be able to do with dimensional material; it really is like living in a piece of furniture. All of the handcrafted joinery, beautiful radiating rafters and beams, they add a level of beauty to the building.

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“There Is So Much Unmobilized Love Out There” – Mike Davis on Activism in a Dying World

Quotes from article in The Guardian (10/30)

What I think about more often than anything else these days is the death of California. The death of its iconic landscapes. I wrote a piece in the Nation on why these changes are irreversible. How much of the beauty of the state might disappear forever. No more Joshua Trees. No more sequoias.

I’ve exalted in the beauty of California my entire life. Hiking, mountain running, traveling all over the state. There’s so much I wish my kids could see, could have seen, that they’ll not see. And that, of course, is happening everywhere in the world.…”

“What do you think Americans should be doing right now?”

“Organize as massively as possible: nonviolent civil disobedience. Instead of just fighting over environmental legislation in Congress, ending up in a bill that’s as much a subsidy to the auto industry and to fossil fuel as anything else: start sitting-in the board rooms and offices of the big polluters, all these meetings where the Kochs and other oil producers sit down with Republican politicians.…”

“Republicans are doing a splendid job of combining protest movements with electoral politics. It’s not only that Republicans have mastered low-intensity street-fighting, it’s that they’ve also been able to sustain a dialectic between the outside and the inside in a way that progressive Democrats haven’t been able to do.…”

“There is so much unmobilized love out there. It’s really moving to see how much.”

www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/aug/30/mike-davis-california-writer-interview-activism

From Maui Surfer

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End-of-the-World Novels Are “Memento Mori” for Civilization

Why envisioning the collapse of civilization can be unexpectedly life-affirming​

by Adam Lowenstein

Harmen Steenwijck, Vanitas stilleven, (01640).​

“It seemed to happen gradually, then suddenly,” Candace says, describing the spread of the new pathogen. “I got up. I went to work in the morning. Outside the office windows, the city thinned out.”

At first, the New York Times keeps a tally of Americans who succumb, but eventually the “Death Knell,” as Candace and her colleagues call it, is taken down at the government’s request.

Candace’s company asks her to keep the office open, even as most employees are told to work from home. The move is temporary, they assure her. The company isn’t shutting down. “Just putting things on hold.”

As the fever spreads, Candace runs out of work to do. Soon she’s alone in the office. Calls to her family go unanswered. A call to her boss goes to voicemail. Emails slow to a trickle, until they cease entirely. “More people are leaving this city than there are staying,” a 911 operator tells Candace when she makes a futile attempt to report an elevator malfunction. “The city is curtailing all its services.

Private security guards stand in front of empty houses and department stores. Newspapers stop publishing. Plants begin to grow in the streets. Times Square is empty. “There were no tourists, no street vendors, no patrol cars,” Candace says. “There was no one.”

Candace is the narrator of Ling Ma’s Severance, a novel celebrated for its brutal yet empathetic portrayal of how humans seeking meaning in modern-day capitalism cling to the structures and expectations of work. Severance was published in 02018, but as with Emily St. John Mandel’s 02014 novel Station Eleven, in which a “Georgia Flu” kills 99 percent of humanity, anyone who picked up Severance after, say, March 02020 finds an entirely new level of resonance in its references to N95 masks and travel bans and cravings for routine as any sense of “normality” crumbles.

Reading Severance today is a powerful reminder of how much things changed, and how bad they got, during Covid-19. Yet it serves another haunting purpose: as a reminder of how much worse they could have been.

Memento Mori

Two thousand years ago, the ancient Stoics wrote of the concept of memento mori. Loosely translated as “remember death,” memento mori describes the practice of thinking about death as a reminder that life is impermanent and unpredictable. “You could leave life right now,” Marcus Aurelius wrote sometime around the year 00170. “Let that determine what you do and say and think.”

Today memento mori is usually thought of as an individual practice, as a mental tool to help you focus on what matters most to you. While it sounds depressing to regularly remind yourself that your existence will eventually end, quite possibly not at a time or in a manner of your choosing, many people find clarity in the exercise. It’s easy to get caught up in life’s pointless commitments and petty burdens and meaningless aspirations and take for granted what enables those commitments and burdens and aspirations: the remarkable fact that you’re a human being who is alive right now.

Civilization — the world as we know it — may be less precarious than our individual lives, but that doesn’t make it permanent. Many aspects of everyday existence depend not just on you remaining alive but on the world as you know it remaining alive: The work commitments and calendars that give our days structure and purpose. The smartphones and streaming services that give us connectivity and information and entertainment. The subways and roads and planes and public services that give us the ability to commute and travel. The laws and norms that give us food and medicine and clean water. The democratic principles that give us at least an imperfect opportunity for self-determination and self-actualization and justice.

To imagine losing all of that, and more, sounds like a morbid thought exercise. Picturing a major American city slowly emptying out for good (Severance) or humanity being nearly wiped out in a matter of days (Station Eleven) can indeed be pretty bleak.

But these stories can also be invigorating, even life-affirming. “There can be something reassuring about taking in a fictional disaster in the midst of a real one,” Hillary Kelly wrote in Vulture. “You can flirt with the experience of collapse. You can long for the world you live in right now.”

Books like these, as I wrote in an August 02020 newsletter that attempted to make sense of why I felt drawn to pandemic fiction in the middle of a pandemic, “let us peek over the other side to see what a worst-case scenario might look like, before retreating back to reality.”

End-of-the-world novels are memento mori — for civilization.
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The Reintroduction Odyssey of the Yurok Condors

A large soaring adult California condor / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The entire population of California condors was down to 22 in 1982, and none of them flew free in the wild. Since then, though, the California Condor Recovery Program (CCRP), overseen by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), has led the repopulation of condors through the successful collaboration among dozens of organizations, including zoos, NGOs, international partners, and local, state, and federal agencies. The condor population has gradually grown to 537, as of the last official count in December 2021. Of them, 334 are free-flying.

As the population expands, the biologists add new release sites, and slowly the giant birds have expanded from Southern California to Central California, Arizona, and Baja California. The historical condor range had stretched as far north as British Columbia, and once included the Klamath Basin and all the ancestral and modern-day lands of the Yurok. In 2003, tribal elders leading an effort to identify cultural and natural resource restoration needs determined that the condor was the most important land-based animal to return to Yurok lands.…

www.baynature.org/2022/06/09/the-reintroduction-odyssey-of-the-yurok-condors

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Mark Bittman’s Warning: The True Costs of Our Cheap Food and the American Diet

The global, industrialized food system faces increasing scrutiny for its environmental impact, given its voracious appetite for land is linked to mass deforestation, water pollution and a sizable chunk of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The implied trade-off has been that advances in agriculture have greatly reduced hunger and driven societies out of poverty due to improved productivity and efficiencies. But Mark Bittman, the American food author and journalist, argues in his new book Animal, Vegetable, Junk that these supposed benefits are largely illusionary.

In a sweeping deconstruction of the history of food, spanning the past 10,000 years of organized agriculture, Bittman takes in everything from Mesopotamian irrigation to the Irish famine to the growth of McDonald’s to posit the rise of uniformity and convenience in food has mostly benefited large companies, fueled societal inequities and ravaged human health and the environment.…

–The Guardian

www.theguardian.com/…

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Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

  • In 541 AD, the Plague of Justinian spread from Constantinople across Europe, Asia, North Africa and Arabia killing an estimated 30 to 50 million people — about half of the world’s population.
  • The Black Death, which hit Europe in 1347, killed 50 million people in just four years — one-quarter of the world’s population.
  • Smallpox killed 90 to 95 percent of the indigenous population of the Americas in the 15th century, after it arrived from Europe. Mexico went from 11 million people pre-conquest to one million.

Could the planet be responding to the critical state it’s in right now? Fossil fuel electricity is one big factor, as are cars. A myriad of other assaults on planetary health (exacerbated by this criminal American adminstration in eliminating any and all environmental rules) have pushed planet earth into a crisis.

The Gaia Hypothesis, promulgated in the late 1970s by James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis, which proposes (as defined in Wikipedia) “…that living organisms and inorganic material are part of a dynamic system that shapes the Earth’s biosphere, and maintains the Earth as a fit environment for life. In some Gaia theory approaches, the Earth itself is viewed as an organism with self-regulatory functions.”

The planet is a living, breathing entity, conscious in ways we cannot imagine.

I’ll go even farther into woo-woo land here. In the ’60s, when I was living in Big Sur, I’d always thought of the idea of hugging redwood trees as being New Age lameness. But one day I thought I’d see what hugging a redwood tree was like. I wrapped my arms around it, laying my cheek against the soft bark — and I felt a jolt, a connection. This thing was alive, and it knew I was there. Well, well.

A number of books have come out lately, including Underland: A Deep Time Journey, by Robert Macfarlane, describing the discovery of the “wood wide web,” or the “mycorrhizal network” going on underground between mycelium and tree roots, which share nutrients and information. In one case I read about an alder tree that was attacked by beetles: it sent this information to alders quite a distance away to get ready, and the latter manufactured some kind of antibody to resist the beetles.

Trees, as well as the living and breathing earth, are alive in ways we can hardly comprehend.

Is the virus sending us a message?

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