Monday, June 13, 2011

Watch this Video. Just Watch It.

Last year one of my professors warned my class not to associate extreme weather events with climate change, a point I explored in several posts that spring (See here, here, and here). In this video Stephen Thomson narrates Bill McKibben's Washington Post op-ed over images of these disasters and relevant political tidbits, creating an incredibly haunting and convincing portrait of recent events. At this point I'm not really sure what to think, but I'm now asking myself this question: If no one extreme weather event can be linked to climate change then at what point (if any) can a series of such catastrophes be attributed to a changing climate? And if this connection is made, can they even be called "natural" disasters anymore?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Nissan Asks, What if Everything Ran on Gas?

The marketing team at Nissan is at it again, and this time they've struck gold.

I saw this commercial for the first time last night, and I have seen it everywhere since (including the preview advertisement for another Youtube video of the ad itself. So meta, right?). The concept is incredible, so much so that I actually uttered the word "brilliant" when the commercial ended. After watching it several times through, I realize its message is different from the one I initially took away from it but that doesn't detract from the creativity of the clip nor the intended message itself.

When I first watched it, I thought what the heck could this be for? A bunch of appliances running on two-stroke engines and spewing (noticeable) exhaust into the surrounding air? I was captivated by it because it visually represented an important connection -- that each of these technological amenities uses energy. It would be more obvious if we lived in a world where everything ran on gas, but when the plants spewing the same pollutants into the atmosphere are located in someone else's backyard this connection is more difficult to draw. I like this commercial for the same reason I like the wall decal below, from Hu2 Design. Both are innovative ways to remind people of their environmental impacts.

The subtle aspects of the commercial really make it shine. It is meant to make you feel bored and uncomfortable. Watching someone go through their daily routine really gets you going, doesn't it? Waking up at 6:20? Yuck. And no one likes the dentist, especially if they try to put a sawzall in your mouth. After all, thinking about gasoline should unnerve you and to them I say job well done.

My "Aha" moment came when we finally arrive at our tragic hero filling his Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid electric car (which means it can run on gas or electricity, or both), at the pump. Clever, I thought, to use gas-powered electric appliances to make the case for electrifying a typically gas-powered vehicle. But, of course, the magicians at Nissan weren't done yet. They took the commercial as an opportunity to make a light jab at their chief competitor, clearly taking pride in the fact that their car doesn't rely on the Volt's gas-dependent safety net. The only problem I have with their message is that the electricity they purport to be vastly better than gasoline isn't emissions-free either. Roughly two-thirds of the electricity produced in this country is done so using dirty sources such as coal or natural gas. Nissan Leafs (Leaves?) nor Chevy Volts will be true zero-emissions vehicles until we grow the percentage of renewables in our national energy portfolio. To the Volt's defense, there clearly aren't charging stations yet on the average street like the one shown beside the Leaf in this commercial. Because of this the Chevy hybrid model could be a more than acceptable stepping stone to a complete EV future, as long as its electric refueling capacity isn't ignored in practice in favor of the more familiar gasoline routine.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flickering Lights: Another NYC Timelapse

Earlier this year I posted this time-lapse video of New York City made by photographer Josh Owens. In that post, I commented on how cities are visually striking places and images like these have the power to illicit emotional responses in those viewing them. In case you found yourself wanting, don't worry -- Owens is at it again. Last week he released a second video of New York, once which incorporates many of the same elements of the first while focusing on different themes:

One of the aspects that stands out to me is the way Owens captures light. From the first few seconds of the video when the sun rises and bathes the rooftops in its glow, to the city streets flanked by tall buildings that only receive complete sun for moments each day, to the blurring red tail lights streaking through the streets, and then the office lights that blink on and off along the various facades, light is central to our impressions and understanding of cities.

And like his first video, you can't ignore the sheer beauty of the images he captures.