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Posts tagged with ‘ecology’

Mancuso showed a slide depicting how trees in a forest organize themselves into far-flung networks, using the underground web of mycorrhizal fungi which connects their roots to exchange information.

The pattern of nutrient traffic showed how “mother trees” were using the network to nourish shaded seedlings, including their offspring — which the trees can apparently recognize as kin — until they’re tall enough to reach the light. And, in a striking example of interspecies cooperation, Simard found that fir trees were using the fungal web to trade nutrients with paper-bark birch trees over the course of the season. The evergreen species will tide over the deciduous one when it has sugars to spare, and then call in the debt later in the season. For the forest community, the value of this cooperative underground economy appears to be better over-all health, more total photosynthesis, and greater resilience in the face of disturbance.

Michael Pollan, “The Intelligent Plant” 

The trees are socialists.

(via winesburgohio)


Self-annealing properties of trees in a forest. 

(via kthread)


That’s why it’s better to look to nature for organizing metaphors than machines.

(via kthread)

It’s kind of funny, actually: right-wingers love to praise the power of free markets and declare that the private sector can deal with any problem, but then turn around and insist that the private sector will just throw up its hands in despair and collapse in the face of new environmental rules.

Paul Krugman, Invest, Divest and Prosper

Krugman boils down the GOP argument against President Obama’s EPA plans: they have no deep-seated philosophic beliefs other than the powerful should be unfettered by considerations of what is good for the people as a whole. To that end, they wield their ‘conservative’ ideology as a blunt instrument, with no intention of conserving anything aside from the spoils they have stolen from us.


Reinventing Urbanism in a Time of Economic Crisis

Manuel Castells, University Professor and Wallis Annenberg Chair in Communications & Society, University of Southern California


Some points:

  • The current crisis is the end of some world — not the world.
  • The equivalent of 75% of global GDP has been wiped out by the housing bust.
  • We are moving into a post-consumption society. Living to consume is over.
  • The savings rate of US population is up sharply in the past decade, now up to 6%. Reducing demand farther, worsening the cycle.
  • Huge areas of the south and west have been developed for the purpose — solely — for profit. They should never have been built the way they were, specifically suburban tract housing.
  • Why has the system been so resistant to new models of urban housing? Because a cookie cutter approach to suburban single family development supports short term profits.
  • Truly an opportunity to rethink urbanism as if people matter.
  • The suburban age was spawned by the Highway act, and the rise of car culture, along with mortgaged single family homes. A machine that led to unprecedented social stability and wealth creation.
  • Came to a halt in the ’70s with the recapitalization of the world’s markets by globalization, and the US fascination with borrowing against home equity. From 1997 to 2007, debt grew from 3% of personal income to 130%.
  • A new economic model is necessary. On top of the economics, we are confronted by an unsustainable ecological situation.
  • In the current situation and chaos — we are not out of the woods yet — a new sort of urbanism is necessary, and must be based on new ideas.
  • We need to free the land, but freeing up zoning laws and basing them on performance goals, including at the very least: ecological measures, social quality, and esthetic guidelines. Turning all areas into mixed use. A spontaneous, bottom-up community-based entrepreneurialism.
  • This would also include factories, which would end the sequestering of dirty industries in dirty edge communities: instead, the factories would have to be clean, and could be built in with other mixed use neighborhoods.
  • We should relax the limitations against local food production and preparation in neighborhoods, stimulating local entrepreneurialism.
  • The government is actually the basis of housing, though policy supports for development of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure.
  • The government is loaning money to banks in the hope that the housing market will restart, but the banks are not willing to accept the risks. They are requiring 20% down payment, and this effectively locking out people without the funds to do so. As a result, a great number of foreclosed properties go unoccupied and unpurchased.
  • Housing cooperatives could step in to fill this gap, if the government started to divert funds to actors other than banks.
  • This is blocked by the rigidity of local governments and the legal structures on the books.
  • Large houses created in the last period of expansion may be repurposed for communal living, based on new societal models of urban living. But it is impossible, legally, because of ordinances and zoning.
  • It’s important for us to open up ways to innovate with novel living arrangements — space sharing — through new banking relationships.
  • Web-based social spaces are good ways to support these efforts.
  • Fragmented social space leads to fragmentation of social life.
  • So rethinking social space will go hand and hand with a transformation of social interaction.
  • Consider conversion of malls into mixed use areas, including urban farming.
  • Urban farming is exploding, but requires space. And that will require rezoning, like mostly empty shopping malls.
  • No immaculate lawns anymore: people are converting their yards to gardens.
  • The corporate campuses are increasingly underused. But they could be converted to low income housing, work spaces, markets. The overarching concept is the creative reuse of existing built space.
  • The automobile is the epitome of the problems that we have in the future of the city.
  • Urban mobility is the central issue, since without it cities don’t work.
  • He recommends a new book, After The Car by Kingsley Dennis and John Urry.
  • More self-sufficient neighborhoods in the city will decrease inter-nuclear transport, and increase quality of life.
  • Ideologically and emotionally, the question is how much walking and coop biking can transform city transport.
  • But if you have bikes, where will they go? Bicycle freeways! A non-trained bicyclist can ride 15-20 mi/hour, which requires dedicated bicycle freeways. Perhaps above the dedicated automobile freeways.

  • Bicycling leads to the greatest satisfaction of all sorts of commuting, by the way.
  • Cites the City Car design — a foldable car.

  • This freeway program was motivated by Obama’s promises regarding the decaying infrastructure. If you are repairing they freeways, we should add bicycles to the mix, which costs one tenth of what a subway costs.
  • Combining parks, bikes, and commuting is all feasible.
  • The first thing is to liberate our imaginations, and then we are free to act.
  • The way we have been dealing with public space is monumental spaces with statues or monuments. But we could distribute public space: a deliberate policy of small squares, big spaces, all spread out over the entire the city. Public space is where people walk and feel at home, and feel safe.
  • Public space is related to our ability to reclaim our streets.
  • This is all being done, under the radar. The White House lawn is being used for urban farming.
  • There has been a massive shift of millions into alternative lives.
  • Check the Young Foundation website.
  • People all around the world are involved in this change. In the cracks of the current system, alternative forms of life are arising.
  • Ideas are fundamental, but it is finally based on how people can adopt them to shape change in the world.
  • Berkeley has been at the forefront of urbanism, and is likely to play a major role.
  • FarmLab — in LA — has a banner saying “another city is possible”.
Loosely defined, resilience is the capacity of a system—be it an individual, a forest, a city, or an economy—to deal with change and continue to develop. It is both about withstanding shocks and disturbances (like climate change or financial crisis) and using such events to catalyze renewal, novelty, and innovation. In human systems, resilience thinking emphasizes learning and social diversity. And at the level of the biosphere, it focuses on the interdependence of people and nature, the dynamic interplay of slow and gradual change. Resilience, above all, is about turning crisis into opportunity.

A primer on the metabolic theory « Per Square Mile →

Tim De Chant discusses the rise of the metabolic theory through the work of Kleiber, West, Brown, and Enquist.

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