Posts Tagged ‘knowledge’

It’s Not Easy Being Green: Impressions From Curitiba

Posted in Movements, Research by Kate Archdeacon on April 27th, 2011

Source: Core 77

Photo: It’s Not Easy Being Green “waste” paper materials workshop in Curitiba

From “It’s Not Easy Being Green: Brazil” by Aart van Bezooyen and Paula Raché:

“Last Monday, our Brazilian friend Claudia offered to drive us to the airport…until she realized that Monday was her “car-free day.” Cars in São Paulo have to stay off the road one day a week, a regulation that was introduced to reduce the city’s heavy traffic. Even the city’s own mayor uses a helicopter in order to be on time for his meetings. Of course it’s a pity that we lost our ride to the airport but somehow we appreciated the sustainable sound of this solution to reduce heavy traffic in a city where traffic is a monster. That is, until our friend explained that this “sustainable idea” resulted in most people buying two cars allowing them to (again) drive all week long. It’s not easy being green.” –Observations on São Paulo, on our way to Argentina

Two designers, six months and a dozen countries. São Paulo’s traffic rule is just one the everyday discoveries for the It’s Not Easy Being Green project, an initiative by two designers exploring sustainability in materials and design around the world.

First Impressions From Curitiba, Brazil. March 5-17, 2011

On March 4th, we traveled from Rio de Janeiro to Curitiba by bus. What should have been a 12-hour bus trip turned into an 18-hour experience due to heavy traffic surrounding the Carnaval holidays. During Carnaval, thousands of people travel in two directions: while one half travels to Rio de Janeiro to party at the biggest street festival in the world, the other half escapes to the coast to relax—it seems we were caught somewhere in the middle.

Curitiba is the 8th largest city in Brazil and often recognized as the most sustainable city in Brazil. Before our journey we read articles about the city’s recycling programs and world-famous bus system that allows almost everyone to get anywhere with public transport. The city also has many parks and forests to enjoy on foot or bicycle. In other words, the city serves as an example of green urban planning.

Arriving in Curitiba we found ourselves in the middle of a city full of skyscrapers with more infamous cars than famous buses. The city center is anything but green and riding a bike downtown seemed to be a sure way to get seriously injured or killed. For a so-called “Green Capital,” we were quite disappointed. The next day, our local host took us for a drive around the city—only then did we discover the green parks of Curitiba. Unlike Central Park in New York City, Curitiba has some 30 parks and forests along the outside ring of the city. We enjoyed this green discovery and hope that the parks will be cherished since the city is rapidly expanding making the conservation of its green perimeter a significant challenge for the near future. During our stay we also learned that most of the “green” success stories including the bus system, green parks and high recycling rates originated in the early 1970’s when architect Jaime Lerner was mayor of the city. Today, many of these systems are under strain. Most young people we spoke with would prefer a car due to the unpredictable and sometimes unsafe bus system. The parks are being swallowed by the ever-expanding city of Curitiba (the population tripled in the past 20 years) making the conservation of its green surroundings a big challenge for the near future.

Curitiba’s trash bins allow separated waste disposal up to five categories: paper, plastic, metal, glass and organic waste. When we looked into the trash bins we noticed that oftentimes the waste was not separated at all. Of course separating waste is only the beginning of a sustainable system. Recycling seems to work pretty well but there are still few programs for reusing or recycling the collected waste (which became one of topics we focused on during our workshop).

Read the full article from Aart & Paula on Core 77 to find out more about their project, including materials reuse workshops in Curitiba.


Aart van Bezooyen and Paula Raché are a Dutch-German design couple living and working in Hamburg, Germany. With the “It’s Not Easy Being Green” project, they are using their creative skills to give our tired planet a helping hand. Paula Raché is a Berlin-born designer with work experience in graphic, packaging and exhibition design. Aart van Bezooyen is a design teacher and founder of Material Stories where he inspires and enables the best use of materials to make design more competitive, creative and sustainable. Together they provide lectures and workshops to explore and share alternatives in materials and design that can give our world a better future.

Find EV Charging Stations with Google Maps

Posted in Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 22nd, 2011

Source: Autopia

From “Google Maps Now Features EV Charging Stations” by Keith Barry:

Google Maps now features a definitive list of EV charging stations, available at the click of a mouse. The setup is really just a friendlier face for the U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) list of charging stations. Those 600 or so stations are compiled from contributions to the GeoEVSE forum, and comprise the master list of public charging stations that appear online and in the in-car navigation systems of cars like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf. While the information is readily available on the DOE site, it’s easier for many users to get it from Google Maps, which they’re likely already using. For instance, if you’re going on a trip in your Volt and want to plug in near your hotel, you can now search for a hotel with positive reviews and then search nearby for a public plug. Right now, a search of many areas shows how woefully inadequate the official charging infrastructure remains. Major cities like Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., only have a handful of charging stations. For most of the Midwest, EV early adopters will find a hotel parking lot here and a “green-themed” business there.

Read the full article by Keith Barry on Autopia.

Local Food Systems Put To The Test During QLD Floods

Posted in Models, Movements by Kate Archdeacon on March 18th, 2011

Source: Australian City Farms & Community Gardens Network

Photo of Rocklea Markets by Marty 1989 via flickr CC

From “Where big food fails in the floods, Food Connect connects”  Emma-Kate Rose reports from Brisbane:

“The resilience of this local food system: being small, nimble, armed with local knowledge – really showed itself up through this event.”

As we all clean up after the floods, we’re also now hearing about the difficult times ahead – rising costs, rising expenditure, inflationary pressure, higher rates, etc. One of the major shortages ahead will be food. Not only have the farms been wiped out, but it’s going to take them years to re-establish crops and plantations. We’ve all heard about the problems at the Rocklea markets, but we haven’t heard about how food supplier, Food Connect, has been faring.  Food Connect is a social business which aims as much as possible to put the face on farmers’ food, act as a facilitator between farmers and city folk, create drop off spots called City Cousins for city people to pick up fresh produce, get to know their farmer and get a connection with the land in their bioregion.

Mainstream suppliers go under but Food Connect keeps its head above the floodwaters

The Rocklea Markets were taken out during the floods, and they are the major distribution point in SEQ [South East Queensland]. Food Connect were also on tender [sic] hooks on the Thursday night because they couldn’t deliver on Thursday. But by Friday, the Produce Coordinators Reuben and Luke gave the thumbs up. They were worried because most of the farmers are located within the flood-prone areas… the farmers were ready to supply and they’d worked out alternative transport arrangements for some badly affected farmers. Food Connect went through unabated and actually ended up with excess produce and, in the process, also managed to supply 3,000 meals over the weekend and delivered ice to all the areas with no power. Over the course of the weekend, chefs and volunteers turned up to the warehouse, in non-flood affected Salisbury, to cook up all the excess produce. On the Friday many trucks turned up all through the night and it soon became clear that the humble Food Connect warehouse acted as THE transport hub, because Rocklea was completely under.  Robert Pekin, the founder of Food Connect, found that living without power at his home in West End was losing its attraction, so he, his family and a few staff took refuge at the warehouse to receive goods for many small businesses and restaurants who’d heard about them and used them as an interim pick up spot.  During the floods, Gympie’s supermarket shelves were empty but the little guys had plenty of stock. It surprised even Robert, and he’s been on about a local food system for 15 years now. He thought, “Here we go, this is the test”.  Pretty much all of SEQ was wiped out and Food Connect has about 120 farmers in that area. Astonishingly, only five farmers required help and working bees were organised to help them out with mending fences and other clean up jobs.  This shows the strength of local family farms having a direct network to their consumers and the advantages in by-passing the major supermarkets. The sheer power of the major logistics chains, owned by the big supermarkets, clearly didn’t cut it in times of emergency.

Read the rest of this entry »

Constantinople: An Example of Urban Resilience

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on March 10th, 2011

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Image: Ian W Scott via flickr CC

From “Revisiting urban resilience: Echoes from ancient Constantinople can inspire visions for modern green urbanism:

You may love it or loath it, but the contrasts of Istanbul are impossible to ignore. It is a city where history meets modernity, where palaces, mosques and cathedrals lie next to chaotic bazaars, steaming hamam baths and small shops selling things you never need. It is a city that, despite plague, war and economic regression for more than 2000 years has always stood up against the test of time. Today, it is one of the 25 largest cities in the world and the bridge (literally) between Europe and Asia.

2000 years and still relevant
In a new book on urbanism and environmental dynamics, centre researchers Stephan Barthel and Sverker Sörlin have looked at how Constantinople has succeeded to persist and develop despite regularly occurring disturbances. Their findings demonstrate that in the quest for more ecologically sound urbanisation, urban planners of today have a lot to learn from this ancient city. “Our message from having revisited the resilience history of Constantinople during more than three millennia is that the keeping of green space for tacit co-production and community-based relationships to land and water have been essential properties for long-term survival and success”, Barthel and Sörlin say.

Strategic location and smart food production
Constantinople is a city whose origin can be traced back to the establishment of Greek cities and colonies in early antiquity. Eventually it became the capital of the East Roman Empire and since then its role in the region has never really diminished. One answer to this long-term resilience is the city’s capacity to produce significant amounts of food within the urban settlement itself rather than having to rely on others. The productivity of gardening, livestock keeping and fishing proved essential to how well the city could cope in times of stress. Even in periods with population peaks such as the early 6th and 12th centuries, Constantinople was resilient in terms of food and water when trade was cut off. “The rulers of the city invested not only in military infrastructure but also in systems for supplying and storing food and water. And when sieges were efficient and supplies ran dry, there were still possibilities to cultivate food within the city walls and catch fish in the Golden Horn. Hence Constantinople had a variety of options to sustain the city with food.”

Read the rest of this entry »

High-Speed Rail: A Catalyst for Sustainable City Development

Posted in Models, Research by Kate Archdeacon on February 2nd, 2011

Source: Going Solar Transport Newsletter

Image: paularps via flickr CC

From A Track Record of Success High-Speed Rail Around the World and Its Promise for America by the US PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) Education Fund:
As America moves toward construction of new high-speed rail networks in regions throughout the country, we have much to learn from experiences abroad. High-speed rail lines have operated for more than 45 years in Japan and for three decades in Europe, providing a wealth of information about what the United States can expect from high-speed rail and how we can receive the greatest possible benefits from our investment. Indeed, the experience of high-speed rail lines abroad, as well as America’s limited experience with high-speed rail on the East Coast, suggests that the United States can expect great benefits from investing in a high-speed passenger rail system, particularly if it makes steady commitments to rail improvements and designs the system wisely.

High-speed rail systems in other nations have been able to dramatically reduce the volume of short-haul flights between nearby cities and significantly reduce inter-city car travel. In the United States, similar shifts would ease congestion in the skies and offer alternatives to congested highways, reducing the need for expensive new investments in highways and airports. Short-haul plane trips are the least efficient in terms of time and fuel, and replacing those trips allows air travel to be more efficient and focused on long-haul trips. High-speed rail service has almost completely replaced short-haul air service on several corridors in Europe, such as between Paris and Lyon, France, and between Cologne and Frankfurt, Germany.

  • The number of air passengers between London and Paris has been cut in half since high-speed rail service was initiated between the two cities through the Channel Tunnel.
  • In Spain, high-speed rail service between Madrid and Seville reduced the share of travel by car between the two cities from 60 percent to 34 percent. The recent launch of high-speed rail service between Madrid and Barcelona has cut air travel on what was once one of the world’s busiest passenger air routes by one-third.
  • Even in the northeastern United States, where Amtrak Acela Express A Track Record of Success service is slow by international standards, rail service accounts for 65 percent of the air/rail market on trips between New York and Washington, D.C., and 52 percent of the air/rail market on trips between Boston and New York.

Read the rest of this entry »

Resilience Thinking Seminars: Free to download

Posted in Research by Kate Archdeacon on December 20th, 2010

Source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

Photo of Elinor Ostrom via US Embassy Sweden –  flickr CC

Listen to more than 50 seminars with the world’s most renowned thinkers in resilience.

The Stockholm Resilience Centre website isn’t the only place you can access the latest in resilience thinking: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all provide you with the latest videos and news on social-ecological research.  Now the most important and popular seminars and presentations that have taken place at the centre are also free to download from iTunes.

The list includes presentations by Elinor Ostrom, Will Steffen, Brian Walker, Frances Westley, Johan Rockströmand many more.

Find all the centre lectures and seminars by searching for “Stockholm Resilience Centre” in the top right corner of the iTunes page.

Low cost soil conservation measures empower local farmers

Posted in Models, Visions by Kate Archdeacon on November 14th, 2010

Via International Insitute for Environment and Development

Image from video 'More people, more trees', International Institute for Environment and Development

Image from video ‘More people, more trees’, part funded by the International Institute for Environment and Development

More people, more trees by Camilla Toulmin

This is the name of a new video, part-funded by IIED, which shows two decades of progress in addressing soil erosion in Burkina Faso and Kenya that have significantly improved rural livelihoods and farm productivity.

Twenty years ago, we noticed that some new projects across dryland Africa were attracting a lot of interest for their positive impacts on restoring degraded soils and building more resilient cropping systems. I had recently set up the Drylands programme here at IIED, and was working in partnership with Oxfam’s then-newly established Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN), led by drylands expert, Ced Hesse. We produced a video and booklet — Looking after our land — under the direction of Will Critchley from the Free University of Amsterdam. It showed the growing evidence that simple, low cost soil conservation measures can empower local farmers to restore their lands and improve the fertility of their soil.

Nearly twenty years on, Ced Hesse has been with IIED for more than 12 years and we were keen to find out whether the dryland projects had been a ‘flash in the pan’, or the foundations for a better way of managing soils and landscapes. We asked Will Critchley to go back to look at two of the six original sites from Looking after our land — one in Machakos District, Kenya and the other on the central plateau of Burkina Faso.

Sometimes you can be disappointed going back to places you knew long ago — but this time there was no need to worry. In both cases, both soils and plant cover have been clearly restored, with greater investment in trees of all sorts. By following a participatory approach, in which people learn together about better ways to care for their soils, much has been achieved. Many farmers now harvest enough grain to meet all their needs, with extra to sell.

Read the rest and see the the promotional preview film

Scottish Orchards

Posted in Movements by Rob Eales on September 17th, 2010

Source: SustainWeb

Apple on a table, Scottish Orchards,

Image via Scottish Orchards

From the Scottish Orchards website,

Scottish Orchards is a network designed to bring together useful information and to help people develop their own community orchards, share information  with others across the country and help create a Fruitful Scotland.

With a list of events, a members map and a fantastic ‘Apple ID Gallery’ this site is a great localised resource for Scots and other interested fruit growers.

See it all at Scottish Orchards

Low-Income Nations: Becoming Climate Resilient

Posted in Opinion by Kate Archdeacon on August 3rd, 2010

Source: Worldchanging

From “Leapfrogging into a Carbon-Light Future: The End of High-Carbon Prosperity and How Low-Income Nations Are Becoming Climate Resilient” by Martin Wright:

The idea that Africa could somehow leap to a boom economy will strike some as hopelessly wishful thinking. But the seeds of this possible future already exist.  The combination of solar power, mobile phones and IT, for example, is already transforming the economic prospects for villagers across the continent. A simple piece of software enabling the transfer of small amounts of money instantly and cheaply by mobile is plugging remote rural backwaters into the global economy as never before. Millions are saving money, time and their health by switching to clean, efficient sources of energy – from solar to biogas, biomass to hydro. Agricultural innovations, too, are mushrooming, from water harvesting and hydroponics to the precise application of fertilizer and irrigation via GPS.

All such breakthroughs have one common characteristic: they are low-carbon technologies. The phrase has a rather worthy feel – especially when applied to developing countries. But it masks an intriguing possibility: that low-income nations could outflank the industrialized world, skipping the heavyweight, fossil fuel-dependent economic model and leapfrogging into a carbon-light future.

Read the rest of this entry »

Sharing Knowledge: Farmer-to-farmer videos

Posted in Models by Kate Archdeacon on July 5th, 2010

Source: Nourishing the Planet: Worldwatch Institute

From “Innovation of the Week: Messages From One Rice Farmer to Another” by Alex Tung:

Some 80 percent of the world’s rice production is grown by smallholder farmers in developing countries, according to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). From Bangladesh to Benin, these farmers continue to develop different solutions to improve the process of rice production. These methods include using flotation to sort seeds, and parboiling, which removes impurities and reduces grain breakage. The Africa Rice Centre (AfricaRice) has developed a simple solution to help farmers share this knowledge: Farmer to farmer videos

Working with researchers, rice farmers and processors, they have developed a series of videos to instruct farmers, including, manual seed sorting manually and by flotation, seed drying and preservation in Bangladesh; rice quality and parboiling in Benin; land preparation for planting rice in Burkina Faso; and seedbed preparation, transplanting, weeding and soil fertility management in Mali.

Farmers in Guinea watched videos of Bangladeshi women creating solutions to improve the quality of farm-saved rice-seed. “The farmers pay a lot of attention to the quality of their seed that they store for the next season,” said Louis Béavogui, researcher at the Institut de recherche agronomique de Guinée (IRAG). “Watching the videos on seed has stimulated them to start looking for local solutions to common problems that farmers face. It is by drawing on local knowledge that sustainable solutions can often be found at almost no cost.”

To pique farmers’ interest in the project, AfricaRice researchers approach them with videos on topics relevant to that particular region. And farmers are involved in the production of the videos from the very beginning, helping researchers decide which methods should be highlighted. Edith Dah Tossounon, chairperson from a rice processing group in Southern Benin, was one of the many women who demonstrated how to parboil rice in a video.

The strong presence of women in the videos also helps local NGOs and extension offices—which tend to be made up mostly of male agents—engage women’s groups. A survey of 160 women in Central Benin comparing the use of video with conventional training workshops showed that videos reached 74 percent of women compared with 27 percent in conventional training. Women who watched the videos worked with NGOs to formulate requests for training in building improved stoves and to seek financial assistance to buy inputs such as paddy rice and improved parboilers that allow rice to stay above the water during steaming, so more nutritional value is preserved. More than 95 percent of those who watched the video adopted drying their rice on tarpaulins and removed their shoes before stirring the rice to preserve cleanliness and avoid contamination, compared to about 50 percent of those who only received traditional training. In addition, illiterate woman could easily learn from the simple language and clear visuals of the examples shown in the videos.

Read the full article by Alex Tung, and for more about innovative ways to share knowledge among rural populations, see Acting it Out For Advocacy.