Monday, March 22, 2010

World Water Day: The Story of Bottled Water

Today marks the 18th annual World Water Day. In honor of this initiative which tries to raise awareness about the injustices and inequality, not to mention the outright absurdity, of our current water system, I want to share this great video from The Story of Stuff Project:

SSP Director Annie Leonard narrates this simply-animated but fascinating history of our system of bottled water in this country, and profiles the lengths to which corporations will go to "manufacture demand" for a products that we don't inherently need (tap water is free, after all). By playing on our fears and spreading misinformation, companies have turned bottled water into a $5 billion-a-year industry in the US alone. Unfortunately, it's also one that creates unnecessary waste (the burden of which is heaped onto faraway populations), pollutes our planet (including, ironically, our waterways), and contributes to the paradox of a world in which some can afford to spend millions on portable water, while one billion others lack sufficient access to clean water every day.

So the next time you have the opportunity to choose tap over bottled water, make the informed choice. Your body, your wallet, your neighbors (near and far), and your planet will thank you.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Quote of the Day: 3/14/10

"When our own ability to analyze and understand the details of a situation fail, we are left to fall back on our value judgments."

From Treehugger's Christine Lepisto

Image: Flickr beautifulcataya

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Follow Up: Times Square and the Cheonggyecheon River

Last July I profiled efforts by city officials to deconstruct automobile-centric urban design and reclaim these spaces for pedestrian use. Two of these projects, the conversion of Times Square to the world's most famous patio (complete with lawn furniture) and the daylighting of the Cheonggyecheon River in Seoul, South Korea, are supreme representations of the power of place.

The first video below describes pedestrian reactions to the transformation of Times Square, as well as the motivations on the part of NYC transportation officials and Mayor Bloomberg to make the drastic change. It also includes striking before and after shots of the automobile-dominated streets in 2005 and the pedestrian-only block it became last summer:

In this second video, urban designers comment on what the daylighting of Cheonggyecheon means for the people of Seoul, and how the creation of public space reshuffles the urban transportation hierarchy and forms the "glue that keeps the city together":

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Watch Charlotte, NC Unfold Before Your Eyes

Artist Rob Carter made the above video back in 2008. Using stop-motion animation, a stack of paper, and a heck of a lot of patience, he managed to profile the development of Charlotte, North Carolina from it's origins as a Native American trading path to the bustling metropolitan center it is today.

From Carter's website:

Charlotte is one of the fastest growing cities in the country, primarily due to the continuing influx of the banking community, resulting in an unusually fast architectural and population expansion that shows no sign of faltering despite the current economic climate. However, this new downtown Metropolis is therefore subject to the whim of the market and the interest of the giant corporations that choose to do business there. Made entirely from images printed on paper, the animation literally represents this sped up urban planners dream, but suggests the frailty of that dream, however concrete it may feel on the ground today. Ultimately the video continues the city development into an imagined hubristic future, of more and more skyscrapers and sports arenas and into a bleak environmental future. It is an extreme representation of the already serious water shortages that face many expanding American cities today; but this is less a warning, as much as a statement of our paper thin significance no matter how many monuments of steel, glass and concrete we build.

The video I've included is only the final three minutes of Carter's work. To view the full ten minute video, click here.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Is Too Much Evidence Delaying Action on Climate Change? Climate Skeptics and the OJ Simpson Trial

Have you been frustrated or perplexed lately by how effective global warming skeptics have been at casting doubt on the mountain of evidence that suggests the climate is changing? How about the fact that they are getting away with it? If so, I have an article for you.

In a recent op-ed on Mother Jones, co-founder and Middlebury College Professor Bill McKibben compares increased confusion about climate change to the OJ Simpson trial, i.e. where a preponderance of evidence wasn't enough to let justice be served.

McKibben says, "Without hard evidence to support their claims, climate denialists are attacking the process of climate-change science." The skeptics' search for the error in the integrity or validity of climate research is like looking for a needle in a haystack. But a bigger haystack means the potential for more needles.

McKibben also stresses how we can't rely on straight science to solve this issue for us, and we need to become more politically savvy in order to convince the American public that this is something they should be concerned about. "Science may be what we know about the world, but politics is how we feel about the world," he says, "And feelings count at least as much as knowledge."

Since McKibben is far more eloquent and well-versed on this issue than I am, I am going to let him do the rest of the talking. Read his full article here. Seriously, click on the link. It's one of the best pieces I've read in recent weeks. I promise you won't be disappointed.