Thursday, September 29, 2011

Hiking With Reindeer and Robots

Some fellow creatures on a hike that took place around here.

Robot by Niki Passath.

Reindeer by.. mother nature? 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Natural Reactions

I've landed in Lapland of Northern Finland for a week workshop/think tank to consider the relationship between humans and nature. In the dialogues (between artists, scientists, and those of us who fall un-categorically between), we make the point of understanding humans as a part of nature - reversing "scientific" thought of removing oneself from the equation. Already on the first day, some interesting points have come up and I believe that I'm starting to reshape (or sharpen the focus of) my perspectives on sustainability.

One question from this morning was - since we humans are looking at nature and attempting to learn from what we deem as 'positive' or 'effective' qualities, do other objects in nature do this? Butterflies move their wings when hanging on trees to resemble leafs when predators are near without any cognitive ability to consciously know that their movement protects them. We had read some Darwin in the build up to the program, and we (as humans) tend to believe that plants and non-conscientious species adapt in reactive ways to somehow better themselves/the future of their species. An interesting note here is the habit of separating humans from the rest, but perhaps we too are simply reacting to our surroundings.

There has been a lot of talk about human impacts and how to mitigate the disturbances to ecosystems that we are causing - from lessening our consumption, to the potentials of creating new species to replace those that go extinct. There is a wide range of backgrounds and expertise at this workshop which bring a lot of new perspectives, reactions, and possibilities together (for better or worse). A point can be made in looking objectively at the human species on the planet that we are a biological case of overpopulation - a simple scientific thought with very complex ethical implications.

Fortunately so far, humans are not subscribing to the prescription of culling that we use when other species overpopulate an area and ruin resource bases or cause pollution (as you hear of for deer perhaps), but many are realizing that our impact must be lessened. Many people like to argue for or against sustainability as some kind of human duty to the planet, but I am realizing it can also be seen as a human duty to humans. Sustainability is a reaction the human species is developing to a threat - adaptations to species and to life habits are necessary if we are to continue to survive at current or projected population levels. Some questions remain in do we try to change ourselves, or do we try to change the world around us to accommodate us, or are both approaches necessary for the planet to support us?

road art between Rovaniemi and Kilpisjaarvi

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Oslo Urbanism

I have noticed some seasonal effects to my blog writing - namely, that during the winter the weather and snow cover makes many observations difficult and that during the summer the weather and sunshine make sitting at a computer to write difficult. Keeping this in mind, I've spent a summer enjoying Oslo and taking photos, making mental notes of things to write about. Now that autumn has arrived in it's chilly gray splendor, I am finding some quality computer time to go back over those photos and thoughts.

In general, it seems like urbanism is a new, but snowballing concept for Oslo. Norwegians are not accustomed to density, but the pressures are here and they're growing at a rapid pace. Globalization and rising populations are happening here as in any other world city, but there are some Oslo specific geographical aspects that currently prohibit sprawl. Oslo is located on a fjord and otherwise surrounded by an incredible >300 sq km cover of hilly forest. The forests are protected, and they are building into the water but for the most part, densification is the answer. It is interesting to watch the construction trends and see the car mentality of the last decades clashing with the progressive hopes for a sustainable city.

The future waterfront of Oslo with Bjørvika's center extension.

I am certain to come back with more detail on this topic later, but for now I offer two takes on pedestrianization.

Torggata - the almost pedestrian street.

Bar Code Area plaza and pedestrian bridge in background (urban design by MVRDV and others)

The pedestrian bridge, currently linking a gas station with a construction site over the train tracks, someday will connect the new "Opera Quarter" with whatever post-gentrification brings to (currently multicultural, working class) Grønland.