Friday, May 28, 2010

New Video, No Cars

So it seems like I've been on a little bit of a video tear lately, and what's one more to add to the list? After all, if a picture is worth a thousand words than a moving picture must be worth a heck of a lot more than that, right?

I'll tell you what's NOT moving, though, and that's anything on the (in)famous highways and byways of Los Angeles in the following clip made by Ross Ching and posted on Good (which happens to be my new favorite blog, fyi. you should check it out).


Eerie, right? It's hard to imagine streets without their primary occupants - cars - yet here is that vision realized. The following is Ching's motivation and inspiration for the video (from his website):

I live in Los Angeles. I drive in Los Angeles. I think about traffic a lot in Los Angeles. A few months ago, I discovered Matt Logue’s Empty LA photographs. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but every time I was stuck in rush hour all-hour traffic, I found myself thinking, “What if tomorrow everyone’s car disappeared.”

What would that scene look like? How would people react? How quickly would the atmosphere rebound from centuries of fossil fuel emissions?

So I took Matt Logue’s still photography concept and applied it to something that I do best — time lapse. I built a story around the idea of us being shackled to this ball and chain; this love-hate relationship with whom we spend so much time with here in LA.

This is a very cool concept, to be sure, and speaks volumes about how much we take our current primary mode of transportation (and the infrastructure needed to support it) for granted. An eight-plus lane highway looks a lot more bleak, and not to mention imposing, when there aren't cars whizzing along it, filling the empty space and distracting our wandering eyes.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Collaborative Consumption

I just came across a link to the following video on Colin Beavan's (aka No Impact Man's) Twitter. Made by the folks at Collaborative Consumption, it depicts the growing support for sharing programs like Zipcar and CouchSurfing, founded on the principle that use of a product does not have to be dependent on ownership of it. I think the essence of the movement can be summed up by this quote from the clip: "To reinvent not just what we consume, but how we consume."


This video reminds me pretty distinctly of the book Cradle to Cradle in which designer William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart advocate for a "transformation of human industry through ecologically intelligent design," or a shift away from our current cycle of cradle-to-grave disposable culture. They devote an entire section to examples of manufacturers who lease the use of their products to their customers instead of selling it to them, thereby assuming full responsibility for the product and it's eventual disposal or recommissioning. We don't need a chair or a car, they argue, we simply need the services they provide: a place to sit and a way to travel from point A to point B. If the movement documented and promoted by Collaborative Consumption is any indication, the seeds planted in McDonough and Braungart's 2002 book may finally be taking root.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

An Interview with Tom Vanderbilt

One of the first posts I ever wrote on The Green Lantern included commentary on Tom Vanderbilt's book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What it Says About Us. Late last month Vanderbilt was interviewed by Mark Gorton, founder of OpenPlans, on Streetfilms, the visual media arm of the Livable Streets Initiative. Watch the full segment below:

Gorton does a good job of capturing some of the major points of Vanderbilt's work, and the author's comments shed additional light on what is already a groundbreaking book (Traffic was a National Bestseller, after all). One of the main points of the book, and something he outlines heavily in the interview, is the psychological complexities of automobile use on everything from lack of feedback while driving (we drive more and more recklessly because we've gotten away with it before) to the lack of eye contact between drivers and pedestrians above 20 or 25 miles per hour. As Vanderbilt argues, it is not until we understand these complexities that we will be able to fix our transportation system.

At the end of the clip, Gorton says, "And once again, an excellent book for anyone who is interested or having to deal with the topic of traffic." I'm going to take this a step further, well maybe a couple of steps further, and more directly state what I think Gorton was getting at. If you have driven or ridden in a car, ever, this book is relevant to you. Go read it!