Saturday, May 16, 2009

Maybe we should litter..

I've been reading Paul Shepard, "Where We Belong", and wanted to share some of his thoughts that I found striking. There has been a building aggression in my mind, the more I hear about recycled content and sustainable materials, and building - when the obvious contradiction that no one seems to admit is that the most sustainable building practice is to not build at all. To make his point, the words are strong and ideas provocative, even if disturbingly so. I find myself wondering why sustainability has taken the market driven course it has when there were scholars publishing such words as early as the 1960s..

"If you must have some symbolic actions, I recommend the following: throw your wrappers, papers, butts anywhere, beer cans in the streets, bottles on the berms and terraces; uproot and cut down all ornamental trees and replace them with native fruit-bearing trees and bushes; sabotage all watering systems on all lawns everywhere; pile leaves, manure, and garbage among growing things; return used oil, tires, mattresses, bedsprings, machines, appliances, boxes, foil, plastic containers, rubber goods, and all other debris to their origins - seller or manufacturer, whichever is easier - and dump them there; unwrap packages in the place of purchase and leave the wrappings.

When this has gone on long enough, some tokens of the glut of overconsumption will at least be evident. Equally important, there will be less refuge from the countryside with its regimented monocultures, scalped slopes, poisoned rivers, and degraded rangelands. Our society goes for letting it all hang out, so let's do it. Are encounter groups in? Let's raise the encounter a whole octave and confront the real human ecosystem that we live in. Some great Avon lady keeps rouge on the cheeks of the middle-class neighborhood, the industrial park, and the college campus; the same tinsel earth mother in whose name the slaughterhouse is hidden, the zoo's dead are unobtrusively replaced, and the human dead are pseudo-fossilized." (Shepard, 'Ugly is Better')

Granted, any "civilized" place would never act by these measures, but a point still stands.. If we all had to live in the refuse which we produce, perhaps everyone would be forced to second think their habits?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Infrastructure of Scale - World

Having spent a reasonable amount of time looking around me and focusing on the day to day, even micro-scale - I decided to back up for just a bit.. A lot of aspects of my life and observation are changing, slowly the day to day perspective in my mind, and soon the day to day physical surroundings. I have began reading Paul Shepard while reflecting on my upcoming move - Norway. It seems only fair to dwell for a second on the global scale at the very most basic and historic infrastructure existing - Geology. Beneath everything that we have ever built or dreamt of building are often overlooked layers of soil and rock - land formations with specific identities and traits that have existed long before us..

Roughly, this is the path I will be taking later this summer. At this scale it appears manageable enough, but scrolling north and east on Google maps between New York, NY and Trondheim, Norway shows it to be an impressive distance, a bit over 3600 miles to be more precise. The change in latitude is most striking when comparing relative location to Italy or Ireland.

As Google's aerial views are taken in winter, the differences between these places stand out even moreso. The following shots are of the areas around New York and Trondheim taken at the same scale:

Long Island really is quite large for the record. The area is impressively flat when it comes down to it.

Norway is dark in the winter. From what I've read, the Trondheim area experiences approximately 3 months of 3-5 hours of daylight or less each year. Zoom into the city of Trondheim in Google and it's covered both in patches of snow and a consistent gray mist, also typical for the Scandinavian countries. The topography is intense - a mountain range runs along the right edge of this image, while the country slowly opens up to Atlantic Ocean further west.

New York and Trondheim are both somewhat coastal, but with various layers of protection from open sea. Beyond this, I expect that both the geologic and climatic differences will be great. As daunting as Norway's winter may be, I continue to believe that it sets up great groundwork for research. How do people live in these conditions, and exactly what infrastructure (on a local scale) is necessary to deal with such an agressive natural infrastructure dealt to this country over the past millions of years on the global scale?