Archive for the ‘environment’ Category

A Graphical Report on the State of the World

Monday, March 9th, 2009

A graphical report on the state of the world

Via the very cool comes a comprehensive graphic representation of the latest data from of The United Nations. There’s a ton of information to represent, but FlowingData does a clear, concise, and incredibly well-designed  job with its , from which the image above is excerpted.

OMA Will Harness The Wind, And The Sea

Friday, January 16th, 2009


I was really impressed to read this week that OMA, the architecture office of Rem Koolhaas, unveiled plans for a comprehensive array of that could potentially yield as much clean energy as the fossil fuels produced in the entire Persian Gulf region. The masterplan, named (Dutch for “sea power”),  is essentially an enormous band of wind farms emanating from the Netherlands and spanning out to adjacent countries. The announcement of this plan is a significant step in ensuring European energy independence by 2025. It is also exactly the type of thinking around scale that will make wind power a truly viable option as an alternative to fossil fuels, and in that way not so different than what has been proposed by T. Boone Pickens with his Pickens Plan.


A Case of The Humans

Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

Came across this video tonight and thought it was humorous and creative enough to post, and probably pretty accurate. This sentiment was captured quite well In the immortal words of Agent Smith: Wants You to Understand Global Warming. So Do The Rest of Us.

Friday, October 24th, 2008

In 1989 wrote . He was among the first to illuminate for the rest of us the risks and perils of climate change. The animation above is a recent effort to help us understand the gravity of the global warming crisis, and how important it is to control our carbon dioxide output as individuals, families, companies, cities, states, nations… all of us. The stakes are very, very high.

At present, the atmosphere of our planet is up around 387 parts per million of carbon dioxide. This is not only of concern, it is potentially catastrophic. In order to avoid the prospects of global catastrophe, as a global community we need to reduce this number to 350 parts per million.

Watch the video above. It’s a powerful animation in what it communicates, and how well it does so without language. It’s a global concern.

Where Does Our Oil Come From?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Really interesting piece at that looks closely at where the United States imports its oil from. We are constantly told that the largest exporters of oil to the U.S. are Canada and Mexico. But, we also export refined petroleum products back to both nations, and when you net out exports Mexico falls down to the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States, presently just ahead of Iraq.

The Power and Presence of Ike

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

Hurricane Ike made landfall at 2:10AM CST this morning at Galveston, Texas. Ike is an enormous storm, as seen in the image above taken from the International Space Station, so much so that it poses a disruption to orbital traffic above it. The damage from Ike is expected to be massive, and not because Ike is an incredibly strong hurricane but instead simply because Hurricane Ike is so expansive. has a great post on the damage models for Hurricane Ike.

Thirst: The Looming Water Crisis

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008
Did you know that only .007% of Earth’s water is available to drink?
This is an excellent presentation about the emerging water shortage, I encourage you to check it out.

View SlideShare or your own. (tags: )

Volcanoes Seen From Orbit

Saturday, August 23rd, 2008

Came across an incredible series of images at of volcanic eruptions, many of which were captured by astronauts on the International Space Station or from an orbiting Space Shuttle. The picture above is of Sicily’s erupting back in 2002 and shot by astronauts on the ISS. Below, the 1994 eruption of the Kliuchevskoi Volcano in Russia as captured by astronauts onboard the orbitting Space Shuttle Endeavor:

An Energy Protection Force

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

I have been reading and researching more intensely about and the intricacies and intrigues of U.S. energy policy. I found an excellent resource in the comprehensive blog , as well as , and the . It was at The Oil Drum that I came across this video of Bill Moyers from June of this year. Moyers ties a few things together, and makes some assertions that are worth serious consideration:

For CCTV, The Fog of Reality

Friday, July 4th, 2008

I came across the image above, taken by  on June 20, 2008, this morning at . I have been following the progress of the OMA team’s CCTV tower in Beijing for the last few months as it has been an incredibly interesting project to see come together. I said before that the construction of this tower is at least as interesting as the design itself.

This picture of the CCTV tower blanketed in the thick smog of Beijing is quite a contrast to the other crisp, clear images I have shown here. Sadly, this will be how people experience this structure a good part of the time, at least those times that there is a lack of the strong, but infrequent, northerly wind that can clear the air of the city. In the brief dispatch from James Follows at The Atlantic, he points out that the Olympics are less than two months away. This pollution is creating a serious image problem for the city of Beijing, especially given the enormous emphasis the Chinese government has put on hosting the Olympics this year, and the symbolism of hosting this event to the rest of the world.

Making Fuel Efficiency Cool (and Sexy)

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

I don’t think this is an issue for most of the rest of the world, but for the United States this is a serious design challenge. This is mostly due to our long established culture of valuing big and fast when it comes to our personal transportation. In the U.S., we’re just catching wind of small and efficient, and this is being driven by our pocketbooks at the moment, and not necessarily by doing what is right. Whatever works to achieve change…

Being an absolute gearhead has presented some interesting dilemmas for me, personally, as I reconcile this fact with my work in sustainable design. I love cars, but I do not love the current range of high-mileage fuel efficient vehicles currently on offer. Yes, the is sexy and it is indeed fast. It is also around $100k and only six or so have been made and delivered (far below the pace for the 650 promised this year). More options are going to be available in the near future from a range of manufacturers, and these options will begin to push into performance territory while also delivering on great design.

The concept pictured above appears to be one of these options, at least from the perspective of design. A concept car from a couple years ago, and not tentatively scheduled for production until 2012, the One-Liter seems to be getting more attention from VW. There are plans to produce limited numbers of this 282 mpg, two seat microcar (around 1000 vehicles) over the next year or so with planning being done around it being a mainstream production model by 2012. I like this car. I like the influences of mid-century automobile and aircraft design that doesn’t feel too retro. I like that you access it via a pop-up cockpit canopy, and that the passenger sits behind the driver. I especially like the interior, which looks purposeful and performance focused:

Engineers at VW made good use of materials like magnesium, titanium and aluminum to greatly reduce the weight of the One-Liter, down to a third the weight of a Toyota Echo. Carbon fiber also figures prominently in the design of the vehicle, and is actually a big reason VW is considering production much sooner for this car. The cost of carbon fiber has dropped dramatically much faster than VW had expected, making the production of the One-Liter much more viable. I want to drive one very badly.

via via (thanks Garrick)

North Pole. No Ice. Soon.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2008

It’s true. The ice of the North Pole is melting at an exaggerated rate, so much so that we may see the North Pole lose all of its ice in the near future, like this year. While this has been making the rounds in most of the major news outlets as a story, I am somewhat surprised that it is not being reported as a much more serious situation than it seems to be. We are distracted.

Here’s the deal. If this happens, and all Arctic ice is lost, this will be the first time this has occurred in all recorded human history. To be fair, scientists give this a 50/50 chance of happening, but even 50/50 seems to be dangerous odds for something that has not happened in a very, very long time and with as yet unknown implications. If this does happen, it means that you could sail completely across the Arctic and cross the North Pole on the ocean surface, as opposed to having to travel underneath the Arctic ice inside a nuclear powered submarine. This is bad news for the already threatened species of the Arctic. It also means that the nations that border the Arctic will have ready access to exploit the natural resources (oil, minerals, natural gas) that were previously unreachable, and would probably race to do so.

The shrinking Arctic ice is not a new phenomenon, as the sea ice loss has been increasing each year. The thick ice that makes up the Arctic had been built up over many, many years. This ice has been melting, with last year’s melt being especially dramatic, and this year’s already on pace. The problem is that the melted old, thick sea ice is replaced by very thin ice that is built up in only a year. This ice is totally vulnerable, and without the ability to replace the thicker sea ice means that the ice footprint of the Arctic is very precarious. This is attributed to rising ocean temperatures and changing climate patterns.

While reading more about this I came across an EU sponsored program named that measures the environmental impact on the Arctic. Their site is packed with information and I highly suggest checking it out.

Found original story .

Robots For Oil Spills

Friday, June 20th, 2008

There is a very good chance that drilling will begin in the coastal waters of the United States, and perhaps also places like the . This brings the possibility of environmental disasters due to accidents and spills much closer to home. There are arguments for and against doing this, and one of the more interesting arguments for allowing the drilling is that the United States has been outsourcing its environmental disasters for too long, and that the drilling off our coasts is inevitable. We have the technology and care for the environment to drill in a way that will minimize environmental impact and address accidents in a fast and efficient manner. I do not really agree with this logic, but knowing that the drilling is going to happen it is good to have technology on our side.

Enter the OSP robot, a concept by product designer Ji-hoon Kim, which is a modular, easily transportable, solar powered, oil spill containment solution. Once deployed the robots autonomously contain the spill with an inflatable barrier quickly minimizing the impact of the oil spill and supporting the successful cleanup and management of the accident by the cleanup teams. Response to a spill with these robots is swift, as they can be quickly deployed from special dispensers on board helicopters or boats:

OSP Robot deployment options

This is one of many oil spill containment tools that should be investigated, and it would be good to not wait until we are drilling off the coast of the United States to do so. An environmental disaster in Africa or Asia from an oil spill has reverberations throughout the global environment, and establishing and mandating a response protocol would be a very, very good thing.


The Global Distribution of Water

Sunday, May 18th, 2008


I came across the graphic below this morning and found it really interesting, and startlingly revealing of the fragility of freshwater on the planet. It was put together by UNESCO’s , a program that monitors freshwater issues to properly inform decision making and ensure a comprehensive understanding of the status of our planet’s most valuable natural resource. WWAP puts out a report, the , that comprehensively reviews the state of freshwater on the planet. This relates to an earlier post here, What is Important, to Scale, that used a compelling image to represent the proportion of air and water to our planet. The graphic below supports the tenuous nature of freshwater on our planet:

Global Distribution of Water

Let’s summarize:

  • Of the total water on the planet, only 2.5% is freshwater
  • Of that 2.5%, almost 69% is in glaciers
  • About 30% is groundwater
  • Only 0.4% is surface and atmospheric freshwater
  • Of that 0.4%, 67.4% is freshwater lakes
  • 12.2% is made up of soil moisture
  • 9.5% is in the atmosphere
  • And just over 10% is in wetlands, rivers and plants and animals

It is interesting to realize how overwhelmingly abundant freshwater is in certain areas of the world, so much so as to be taken for granted, while in contrast how overwhelmingly scarce it is in others. The net is that there is just not that much freshwater on the planet.