Archive for the ‘Movements’ Category

Movements refer to social and environmental movements located occurring in cities that are associated with contributing to urban sustainability. Although they may appear to be isolated, they contribute to a larger movement of action and thought. Consider the “relocalisation” movement. If you are part of such a movement you are welcome to post your experiences on the site. To do so visit the “How to use this site” page and follow the prompts.


(Em)Powering Communities: SolarKiosk

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on February 15th, 2013

 Source: TransitionsFF

CIMG0790
Photo from SolarKiosk.

From ‘SolarKiosk: mobile modular power for really remote areas” on Good.is

For those who’ve grown up constantly plugged into the power grid, it’s almost impossible to think of life without an endless supply of outlets, power cords, and technology. But for an estimated 1.5 billion people around the world, power—from cutting and burning firewood to lighting kerosene lamps, paraffin, and candles—doesn’t come easy. According to the United Nations Foundation, almost 3 billion people rely on traditional biomass for cooking and heating, about 1.5 billion have no access to electricity, and 1 billion more have access only to unreliable electricity networks. Smoke from polluting and inefficient cooking, lighting, and heating devices kills nearly two million people a year and causes a range of chronic illnesses and other health impacts.

In an effort to tackle health and development-related obstacles in developing countries, a company based in Germany and Ethiopia is bringing clean energy to “off-grid areas” around the world. Housed in a metal hut topped with a solar panel-filled roof, the designers have named their creation a “SolarKiosk,” a small-scale power source for communities without electricity. Each SolarKiosk is expected to provide enough power for villagers to charge their mobile phones and car batteries, run a computer, or power up a solar fridge. Goods sold from the Kiosk include solar lanterns, mobile phones, and cards to top-up cellular devices. Considering that the Kiosk’s fridge may be the community’s only one, it could be used to house everything from medication to chilled drinks. The kiosk could also provide television, music, and internet depending on the locale. The creators project that a larger-size SolarKiosk could even produce enough energy to run a telecom tower reliably, while also providing security and maintenance. It will even be possible to connect multiple kiosks to create a local grid.

The world’s first SolarKiosk set up shop on July 15 [2012] near Lake Langana in Ethiopia. Designed by Graft Architects, the project not only provides clean energy solutions to “off-grid” countries, but once installed, becomes a power-generating shop and business hub, providing jobs to community members and education on how solar products work. It also becomes a glowing, solar-powered light source at night. Each kiosk comes in a lightweight, DIY kit, making it is easy to transport and build a kiosk in off-road, rural areas—the package could even be carried to its target location on the back of a donkey. With the exception of pre-manufactured electrical components, the kiosk’s parts can be constructed from a range of local materials including bamboo, wood, adobe, stone, metal, or even recycled goods. Post-assembly, the entire structure is firmly anchored in the ground. […]

NB. The second SolarKiosk was installed in Teppi, Ethiopia, in November last year. – [JB]

>>> You can read the full article on Good.is.
>>> You can learn more about SolarKiosk on their website.


Innovative Urbanism: Crowdsourcing change

Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on February 8th, 2013

Source: Mesh Cities.


Image from I Make Rotterdam.

From the article “Crowd funding city innovation” by Mesh Cities.

[…] We all know or suspect that riding a populist, demographically-driven wave is the essence of electability. This era’s politicians (generally) know it’s best not to think too big in terms of urban-improving expenditures. Time is better spent learning how to deftly kick the can of crumbling infrastructure down the road—increasingly potholed though that road may be. “Let my successor manage the impending crisis,” their inner voices might be heard to say, “I’ll lose the next election if I raise taxes to fix x,y, or z let alone build something new.” This attitude is closely related to the one that causes well-established, successful companies like Nortel to go from world leaders to market flameouts almost overnight. Why improve something that the investors think to be a world beater? Behind the scenes, however, key players are running for the exits with whatever spoils they can carry before the whole operation collapses due to inattention. There is an alternative to the destructiveness of this self serving, near-term thinking about our cities: Crowd funded urban innovation. It is not a fantasy. Some cities are already doing it.

Why is crowd funded urbanism different than what we’ve seen in the past? In a way, it isn’t. It is fundamentally old school thinking brought into the digital age. In the farming communities of our parent’s parents, when people saw something that needed doing they pitched in to get it done. That’s the way crowd funded urbanism works. See it. Fix it. New communications tools are shrinking our complex world to the point where direct action is possible even where political action is an oxymoron. Even better, in a connected world we can assemble best-practice solutions in one easily accessible place for everyone’s use. Talk about efficiency.

Take a look at I Make Rotterdam for one example of a crowd funded pedestrian bridge that is a prototype for this nascent, city-changing movement. The public in that city cared enough to invest real money in the project after being inspired by New York’s High Line Park (good ideas are contagious). What’s more interesting is that their commitment spurred local government to get behind the project as well. […] That’s the power of this idea. It is not about finding new ways of taxing people. What it is about is unequivocally showing where people want their communities improved so governments can act. Another example is the U.K.’s Space Hive. Broader in scope than I Make Rotterdam, Space Hive offers opportunities to tackle the needs of communities across the U.K.

Are these projects reinventing the way representative taxation will work a generation from now; or, are they just another example of online art projects that capture our collective imagination? We will find out, but our guess is that the future of cities demands better forms of community representation. These just may be the early models that will evolve to greatness.

>>> You can read the full article on Mesh Cities.
>>> Check out I Make Rotterdam, SeeClickFix, and Space Hive for some great examples of crowdfunded urbanism in action.


Trellises protecting tropical fruit from cyclones

Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on January 9th, 2013

Source: ABC Rural

tropical fruit tree trellise
Photo by Marty McCarthy

From “Cyclone-proofing Queensland orchards” by Marty McCarthy

Tropical fruit growers near Tully in north Queensland were dealt a hard blow when Cyclone Yasi ripped apart orchards in the area in February 2011. Many farmers not only lost their fruit for the season, but also the trees on which they grow. But two years on from Yasi locals are now using trellises to make sure their trees stay in the ground next time a cyclone hits.

Peter Salleras owns a plantation in the rainforest north of Tully at Feluga, where he grows an array of tropical fruits using trellises. “It’s an insurance policy we have that we can plant a tree and be pretty confident even if a category five hits we’ll still have our trees there,” he said. “With some species we didn’t lose a single tree whereas in [Cyclone] Larry we lost about 80 to 90 per cent. Supporting the trees in a big wind is a bonus for us but it’s not just about cyclone insurance – it’s the ease of harvest, ease of netting, ease of pruning and ability to control pests better.”

Ten minutes up the road from Peter’s farm is Feluga State School, where students are now using trellises to grow tropical fruits as part of an outdoor classroom. Trina McKiernan works with the students in caring for the trees. “Each family here has their own tree that they’ve adopted,’ she said. “A lot of these kids don’t get the interaction with food… it’s really important [for them] to know that things don’t just come out of a box.” And this understanding is already starting to show in the attitudes of students like school captain Madison Styve, who’s using the trellis to grow a rollinia tree. “I still have quite a lot to do with it,” she said. “I still have to do some trimming and hopefully it will get some fruit on it. It’s not just about putting it in the ground and waiting for it to grow by itself. You’ve got to water it you’ve got to feed it with fertiliser and you’ve got to make sure the conditions are right,”

The work students like Madison are doing with trellises is critical to the region because although trellising is common practice in Australia’s southern states, the structures are rarely used to help grow tropical fruits. Kath Gregory is a local lettuce grower and volunteers at the Feluga State School helping the children care for their trees. “It [trellising] has been tried in southern climates, but not for growing tropical trees,” she said. “I think the most important thing [about trellising] is you can grow a huge amount of stuff in a very small place and the fruit trees are all going to survive a cyclone. In the previous two cyclones a lot of us lost most of our fruit trees with not a lot remaining. But with this system the trees remain alive and you can still pick the fruit. It’s just magic.”

>>> You can find the original article on ABC Rural.


2,012 Food Growing Spaces in London by the end of 2012? Done!

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 27th, 2012

Press Release from Capital Growth:

Capital Growth target

100,000 green-fingered Londoners deliver Mayor’s 2012 food growing target.

The estimated equivalent of 69 Wembley football pitches or 124 acres of disused land in London now brimming with fruit and veg.

The Mayor of London today [Dec 14] announced that the ambitious target to deliver 2012 Capital Growth spaces has been reached, following a four-year scheme to turn disused plots of land into community spaces abundant with fruit and veg. Nearly 100,000 green fingered Londoners have rolled up their sleeves to deliver this leafy Olympic legacy.

The Capital Growth scheme, run by London Food Link, was launched by the Mayor and Rosie Boycott, Chair of London Food, in November 2008. It aimed to create 2,012 growing spaces in London by the end of 2012 with funding from the Mayor and the Big Lottery Fund’s Local Food programme.

The idea is to bring local neighbourhoods and communities together while giving Londoners a chance to grow their own food and green their local area. It is also a response to growing allotment waiting lists, particularly in inner London boroughs, which can be decades long. Capital Growth has worked with landowners and local groups to help identify land for growing and then help people get started in creating successful gardens by providing training and tools.

There are now Capital Growth spaces in every London borough. Food gardens signed up to the scheme have flourished in an extraordinarily diverse and creative range of places, covering an estimated 124 acres of previously disused land. Capital Growth spaces are now growing on roofs, in donated recycling boxes, in skips, alongside canals and in builders’ bags providing healthy food to a range of places including shops and restaurants. The spaces have supported skills and enterprise training, market gardening initiatives and even the development of 50 community bee hives.

Some of the Capital Growth spaces have now scaled up into social enterprises selling produce into cafes, restaurants and market stalls and providing jobs for local people. Other projects that the campaign has supported include larger farms, such as Organic Lea in Waltham Forest that employs 13 full and part time staff doing market gardening under glass houses leased from the local authority. The biggest response to the Capital Growth challenge has come from schools with 687 schools signed up involving 66,000 pupils.

The 2012th space was today announced by the Mayor as St Charles Centre for health and wellbeing in North Kensington. The project, based in a disused courtyard of a hospital, will engage a range of community groups, including youth groups and Age UK, as well as hospital staff to grow their own healthier food.

>> Read more about the projects at Capital Growth.


Open-Source Modular Design Systems

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on December 20th, 2012

Source: Resilience

Evolution of Coffee Filter

From “How to make everything ourselves: Open modular hardware” by Kris de Decker:

Reverting to traditional handicrafts is one way to sabotage the throwaway society. In this article, we discuss another possibility: the design of modular consumer products, whose parts and components could be re-used for the design of other products.

Initiatives like OpenStructures, Grid Beam, and Contraptor combine the modularity of systems like LEGO, Meccano and Erector with the collaborative power of digital success stories like Wikipedia, Linux or WordPress. An economy based on the concept of re-use would not only bring important advantages in terms of sustainability, but would also save consumers money, speed up innovation, and take manufacturing out of the hands of multinationals. A modular system unites the advantages of standardisation (as parts can be produced cheaply in large amounts) with the advantages of customisation (since a large diversity of unique objects can be made with relatively few parts). Modularity can be found to a greater or lesser extent in many products (like bicycles and computers) and systems (like trains and logistics), but the best examples of modular systems are toys: LEGO, Meccano, and Erector (which is now the brand name of Meccano in the US).

[…]

In spite of the similarities, there is one fundamental difference between modular construction systems such as OpenStructures, Grid Beam and Contraptor, and modular toys such as LEGO, Meccano and Erector. The first group consists of “open” modular systems, where everyone is free to design and produce parts, while the second consists of “closed” modular systems, where all parts are designed and produced by one manufacturer. Closed modular systems produce uniform parts. For instance, all LEGO building blocks are made of plastic. LEGO does not produce building blocks made of wood, aluminium, glass or ceramics. There is a limited range of colours. And because LEGO is a closed system, nobody else is allowed to produce LEGO pieces.

[…]

An open modular system has many advantages over a closed modular system. Since anyone can design parts in an open system, it generates a much larger diversity of parts: they can be made in different colours and materials, and none of the producers can set a fixed price for all consumers. And because many designers constantly review, adapt and improve each others’ work, innovation is accelerated. All open software systems described above are arguably better than their closed counterparts, and some of them have become more successful. A closed modular system only has one advantage: the one who holds the copyright makes a lot of money.

[…]

Open modular construction does not mean that everyone should make their own consumer products. An object like a coffee maker or a workbench could be obtained in at least three ways. Firstly, the consumer can download the digital design and then assemble the object with parts that he or she buys, re-uses, or makes using a 3D-printer or laser cutter, whether at home or at a fab lab or tech shop. It can also happen in a more low-tech fashion, as is the case with Grid Beam: the consumer buys wood or metal beams, and drills the holes himself.

A second option is that a company buys the license of the design (if it is not free) and converts it into a building kit, comparable to a kit from LEGO, Meccano or Erector. In this case, the consumer would not have to search for the parts himself, but he still assembles the product himself, just like he would assemble a piece of furniture by IKEA. Similarly, a company could offer a more general building kit, which can be used to make whatever one would like, similar to a box of basic LEGO bricks. Bit Beam, Contraptor, Open Beam, Maker Beam and, recently, Grid Beam offer one or both of these options.

The third possibility is that a manufacturer places the object on the market as a finished, assembled product. The coffee maker or the workbench would then be sold and bought just as any other product today, but it can be disassembled after use, and its parts can be re-used for other objects.

[…]

Read the full article by Kris de Decker at Resilience or at Low-Tech – the grabs (above) from the article don’t do true justice to the original.

 


Seed Matters: Sowing more good

Posted in Movements by Jessica Bird on December 12th, 2012


Screenshot from the Seed Matters website.

An initiative of the Cliff Bar Family Foundation, Seed Matters is dedicated to protecting and ameliorating organic seed, thus increasing the abundance of healthy, nutritious crops that benefit both people and the planet. Their goals are to ‘conserve crop genetic diversity, promote farmers’ roles and rights as seed innovators and stewards, and reinvigorate public seed research and education.’ The Seed Matters website tells the story of seed, about the programs aimed at achieving their goals, and how you can get involved. Oh, and the website is really quite beautiful. – [JB]

From ‘Why Seed Matters: We reap what we sow‘ on the Seed Matters site:

We probably don’t think about it when we sit down to eat our cereal in the morning or tuck the kids into cotton sheets at night, but it all starts with seed.  Seed matters. And the seed we sow affects the quality, nutrition, cost and environmental impact of all the food we eat and every fiber we wear.

It’s time we sow more good. The last several decades of industrial agriculture have developed seed that is suited to intensive chemical agriculture. While this has sometimes resulted in higher yields, it has come with very real costs. Unintended consequences include air and water pollution, increased pesticide use, greater dependence on fossil fuels, degraded soil health, and the loss of biological and genetic diversity. These are facts.

The success of diverse, regional, and resilient food systems requires a different approach to seed – an organic approach.

And yet, today’s farmers don’t have access to sufficient seed developed for organic systems. Worldwide, 95% of organic farmers rely on seed bred for conventional, high-input chemical agriculture. There’s an alternative. Organic plant breeding can increase yields, improve nutrition, and reduce usage of pesticides, fertilizer, and energy. We invite you to join us – engage and grow the work of improving organic seed systems.

>> Find out more from Seed Matters


Alternative currency creating positive change: Volos, Greece

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on December 5th, 2012

Source: Shareable

Screenshot from the BBC News video ‘Greek town develops bartering system without Euro

From the article ‘Greek Town Taps Bartering for a More Shareable City‘ by Kelly McCartney

As Greece continues to search for solutions to its national economic crisis, the port town of Volos has adopted an old-school barter system to help its citizens muddle through. Five years into their recession with 21 percent unemployment, some Volos residents who were short on Euros but long on other resources created a local currency (called TEMs in Greek) that is traded based on non-monetary contributions into the online system. People sign up for a TEMs network account, see what services they might offer to other folks in their area who are in need, and start amassing credits that can be cashed in for things they themselves need. TEMs can be used for everything from bakers to babysitters, teachers to technicians. In theory, the value of one TEM is equal to the value of one Euro.

One participant, acupuncturist Bernhardt Koppold, explained, “It’s an easier, more direct way of exchanging goods and services. “It’s also a way of showing practical solidarity — of building relationships.” Maria Choupis, co-founder of the TEMs network, echoed that sentiment regarding the local alternative currency systems: “They are as much social structures as economic ones. They foster intimacy and mutual support.” Speaking to NPR, Volos Mayor Panos Skotiniotis encouraged municipal governments around the world to consider similar programs of their own to fill in where government and the traditional market are failing to adequately serve citizens: “This is a substitution for the welfare state, and that is why this municipality is encouraging it and wants it to grow.” For its part, though, the Greek Parliament is also very supportive, passing legislation to encourage various non-traditional forms of “entrepreneurship and local development.” Thankfully, other governments are listening. Many more Germans have jumped into alternative currency systems since the Euro was launched. More than two dozen systems now exist there. […] The United States, too, has a number of toes in the alternative currency water […]

Back in Greece, the TEMs system is but one of more than a dozen like it around the country. And, as the new thinking and new currencies take root, more opportunities grow. In Volos, daily markets allow people to barter and trade to their heart’s content. Choupis noted, “They’re quite joyous occasions. It’s very liberating, not using money.” By not being limited by price tags, almost anything is possible. Choupis relayed the story of a woman who arrived at a market with three trays of cakes she had made. The woman’s asking price was only one unit per cake, which Choupis questioned: “I asked her: ‘Do you think that’s enough? After all, you had the cost of the ingredients, the electricity to cook …’ “She replied: ‘Wait until the market is over’, and at the end she had three different kinds of fruit, two one-litre bottles of olive oil, soaps, beans, a dozen eggs and a whole lot of yoghurt. ‘If I had bought all this at the supermarket,’ she said, ‘it would have cost me a great deal more than what it cost to make these cakes.’”

No matter the city, keeping resources and economic systems close to home has both a trickle-down and a ripple-out effect. As more and more local governments open their minds and laws to what alternative currencies and sharing economies have to offer, the more resilient, self-sufficient, and sustainable their populations will become. […]

>> You can read the full article on Shareable, or watch the BBC News video report on the BBC website.


Seawater Agriculture: High-tech and Low-tech paths

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on December 3rd, 2012

Source: guardian.co.uk


Image from Seawater Greenhouse

In the Guardian this week, there’s an article by Jonathan Margolis about the commercialisation of a technology that uses seawater as the main element of agriculturally productive greenhouses.  Much of the article focuses on the way the technology, developed by British theatre lighting engineer Charlie Paton, has been scaled up and combined with extra technology to provide consistent, commercial-quality crops from the Sundrop Farms greenhouse in the desert outside Port Augusta, in South Australia.  On it’s own, that’s pretty exciting and well worth a read.

A 75m line of motorised parabolic mirrors that follow the sun all day focuses its heat on a pipe containing a sealed-in supply of oil. The hot oil in turn heats nearby tanks of seawater pumped up from a few metres below ground – the shore is only 100m away. The oil brings the seawater up to 160C and steam from this drives turbines providing electricity. Some of the hot water from the process heats the greenhouse through the cold desert nights, while the rest is fed into a desalination plant that produces the 10,000 litres of fresh water a day needed to keep the plants happy. The water the grower gets is pure and ready for the perfect mix of nutrients to be added. The air in the greenhouse is kept humid and cool by trickling water over a wall of honeycombed cardboard evaporative pads through which air is driven by wind and fans. The system is hi-tech all the way; the greenhouse is in a remote spot, but the grower, a hyper-enthusiastic 27-year-old Canadian, Dave Pratt, can rather delightfully control all the growing conditions for his tonnes of crops from an iPhone app if he’s out on the town – or even home in Ontario.

The remainder of the article touches on the divergence of philosophy between Paton’s Seawater Greenhouse, and SunDrop.

The Seawater Greenhouse method, which they are still promoting actively, involves no desalination plant, no gleaming solar mirrors and little by way of anything electronic. Everything in the Seawater Greenhouse vision is low-tech, cheap to start up and reliant on the subtle, gentle interaction of evaporation and condensation of seawater with wind, both natural and artificial, blown by fans powered by solar panels. If things go wrong and production is disrupted by a glitch in this model, you just persuade people to eat perfectly good but odd-looking produce – or harvest less and stand firm by your sustainable principles.

For those of us interested in the gap between local, low-tech production designed to shift society away from BAU, and the changes that occur when those systems scale up to cater to the existing market, this article may also provide a few points of contention.

Read the full article by Jonathan Margolis for the Guardian.


Teaching neighbours to build small renewable energy projects for resilience

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on October 31st, 2012

Source: Resilience


Photo via JfS

From “Transition Town Fujino goes for local energy independence” by Carol Smith via OurWorld 2.0:

Fujino is one of three fully functioning Transition Movement initiatives in Japan, although over twenty are in the works. Established in the fall of 2008, Transition Fujino (which we’ve featured on Our World a few times in the past) started up by sharing information on the core issues through events like briefings and film presentations.

Then a local currency, the Yorozuya (meaning “general store” in Japanese), was launched and began playing a major role in stimulating local networking. The Yorozuya project started with 15 members in 2009 and has now grown to include 150 households. Those participating can exchange goods and eat at restaurants using the currency. The network also thrives by targeting local needs, such as providing pet care, weeding vegetable gardens, and picking up children. It further serves to connect those in need with those who can give a hand. Following the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, the network displayed a great ability to support disaster-affected areas by collecting cash donations, gathering and sorting emergency relief supplies and regularly holding charity events.

In the wake of the [March 03 2011] disaster, the working group Fujino Denryoku (“denryoku” meaning “electric power”) was established to help people break away from their dependence on electricity provided by the traditional power utilities and transition towards self-sufficient, locally-distributed energy created with the participation of local people.  The group’s first project was to supply power for lighting and sound systems at a local festival. Project teams also went out to festivals in the earthquake disaster zones in the Tohoku region and offered support to the affected areas by supplying power generated with renewable energy.

The working group also holds monthly “Solar Power System Workshops”, where participants, including beginners, can easily assemble a home system by connecting photovoltaic (PV) panels and batteries, etc., as part of a campaign called “An Energy Shift Starting at Home”.  At the first workshop in December 2011 participants initially learned from one another, but the workshop began to attract attention from a wider public and within six months it was being introduced on TV and in magazines. Now the workshops host not only local residents, but increasingly people from outside communities.

Read the full article on the Resilience website to find out more about Transition Towns in Japan, energy independence and local resilience, or read the Japan for Sustainability (JfS) newsletter article by Yuriko Yoneda that this article was based on.

 


Fruit trees for Unley Park in Council trial

Posted in Models, Movements by Jessica Bird on August 29th, 2012

Source: Eastern Courier Messenger


Photo by Luke Hemer, AdelaideNow

From “Fruit trees planted in Unley park as part of Unley Council trial” by Emily Griffiths

Dozens of fruit and nut trees have been planted in an Unley reserve in a trial to encourage people to grow produce in their backyards. More than 60 trees, including pears, walnuts and peaches, were planted recently by Unley Council in Morrie Harrell Reserve in Ramage St.

Unley Community Sustainability Advisory Group member Peter Croft, who recommended the trial, said the orchard would provide food for residents and help build a sense of community. “Imagine going to a park for a barbecue and being able to get a lemon straight off a tree to season your meat,” Mr Croft, of Parkside, said. “The idea is to encourage people to grow more in their backyards. This is one of a series (and) hopefully there will be lots more orchards planted.” Under the trial, residents with dead or dying street trees can also apply to the council to have them replaced with fruit trees.

Unley general manager Steven Faulkner welcomed the project. “For a relatively small establishment cost, and given food security and the rising costs of fresh produce are topical, this is considered an innovative trial,” Mr Faulkner told the Eastern Courier Messenger in an emailed statement. Plans for another 20 orchard sites are being investigated by the council. The trial is part of the council’s Food Security Strategy, which was endorsed last year.

Read the original article by Emily Griffiths

Public fruit trees seems to be a hot topic around the world at the moment, see the post on Guerilla Grafters in San Francisco -JB