A new documentary called Garbage Dreams will be screening at Manhattan’s IFC Center for one week starting today, January 6th. The film follows three teenage boys who grow up in a “garbage village” on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, where residents are referred to as Zaballeen, Arabic for “garbage people.” For years, the city of Cairo has relied on Zaballeen to collect municipal garbage.
These entrepreneurial garbage workers recycle 80% of the garbage they collect, creating what is arguably the world’s most efficient waste disposal system.
The director, Mai Iskander, will be present (and, we imagine, will answer questions) tonight through Sunday at the 6:30pm shows.
Photographer Chris Jordan makes staggering representations of human waste, consumerism and cultural practices, focusing on the immense environmental impact of collective consumption. Jordan illustrates daunting statistics–4 million plastic cups used each day on airline flights alone, 166,000 overnight packages shipped by air in the U.S. every hour–that transform abstract data into palpable visual language. From a distance, his large-scale images resemble pointillism, but zoomed in, they are composed of individual cups, bottles or prison uniforms. This is pretty powerful stuff–it can be hard to get a grip on the scale of these numbers in abstraction, as we’ve learned talking about the 150 million tons of waste buried at Fresh Kills. Visualization helps.
Jordan has published a book of his photos, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait and recently completed Midway: Message from the Gyre, a series of stills taken of albatross carcasses in the North Pacific, where colorful bits of plastic have been mistaken for food by the birds.
Eli Cohen gave a terrific talk Monday night on his work, as director of Ayala Water and Ecology, using plants to remove pollutants and contaminants from water, soil and air. We’re grateful to the huge crowd that poured into the Arsenal gallery for the event, to Laura Starr and Yamit Perez for putting us in touch with Eli and, of course, to Eli himself for sharing his work and his thoughts.
One of his bigger themes, telegraphed by the title of the talk, “Sustainability in Practice,” was his strong belief that “Natural Biological Systems”– systems constructed of plants, soil, rocks and other natural materials and supported by forces like gravity and sunlight–are not only just as effective as more expensive, technological solutions to environmental remediation, but also, literally, much more sustainable. He walked through a number of Ayala’s Natural Biological Systems, which filtered and cleaned runoff and sewage from a variety of sites including private residences, a dairy farm, a landfill, a cosmetics plant and an entire city (Hyderabad, India). His full slideshow is available as a PDF (6MB).
You can stream the entire audio of the talk, below, as you page through the slides. You can also download that audio directly as an MP3 (71 minutes, 66MB).
LentSpace is a 37,000 square foot temporary park and cultural space at Canal and Sullivan Streets in lower Manhattan. The site opened to the public on September 18th–Park(ing) Day–and is on loan to the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council for three years from Trinity Real Estate, which hopes to build on it when the City’s real estate market improves. The video above depicts the site’s construction.
This particular economic moment seems ripe with opportunities to build parks like these–“pop-up parks”–where construction projects have stalled indefinitely or where there happens to be temporarily vacant land:
- The hugely popular Brooklyn Bridge Park-adjacent pop-up park that appeared in summer 2008 offered the only view of all four of Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls in addition to hosting a picnic spot, sand play area and an outdoor cafe and bar.
- In London, the site of a mothballed 48-story building project was the subject of a public design competition, the winner of which proposed Leadenhall City Farm, a temporary, low-budget park featuring a garden, market and soup kitchen.
- A three month-long art park in London called Wonderwood, which transformed an abandoned building into a public play space, won honors in the Leeds Architecture Awards new Temporary Works category.
- There were 51 participating parks in this year’s NYC Park(ing) Day:
Norway-based company Statkraft has just opened the world’s first osmotic power plant, tapping into the emissions-free energy produced when fresh water and salt water mix. Osmotic power harnesses osmosis, the natural process by which a solute in solution travels from an area of lower to higher concentration across a semi-permeable membrane (permeable to the solvent but not the solute). In the case of osmotic power, the combination of salt water and fresh water produces movement from areas of lower to higher salinity. Osmotic pressure created during this process is the potential force that can be used to power energy generation turbines in an osmotic power plant.
The Statkraft plant is being opened as a testing site for the technology, but it has the potential to output up to 1,600-1,700 terawatt-hours per year, or approximately 50% of the European Union’s total power production.
Partners Waste Management and Linde Group have begun processing fuel at the world’s largest Landfill Gas (LFG) to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant, located at Altamont Landfill near Livermore, CA. Waste Management–the leading US waste services company and largest national operator of refuse and recycling trucks–collects the garbage, and Linde, an engineering company, purifies and liquifies the LFG produced by the waste. LFG goes through a purification process and is then fed into a natural gas liquifier, where it is cooled below the natural gas boiling point of -260 degrees Fahrenheit, yielding LNG. Unlike the energy harvested from LFG at the Freshkills Park site, which is used for residential energy needs, the Altamont facility’s Liquified Natural Gas can be used as a gasoline or diesel fuel substitute in heavy duty vehicles.
The Open Source Live Solar Mapping Project, recently released by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, tracks private installations of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels by location in the US and maps them in time. The map-video, spanning from 1998 to the present day, highlights the spatial concentration of solar energy harvest with changing colors that indicate the number of PV installations in each state. Solar energy has been identified as the world’s fastest-growing energy technology, with the number of photovoltaic installations doubling every 2 years since 2002. The Solar Mapping Project is community-driven, relying on information submitted by individuals, industry professionals and government officials.
(via Clean Technica)
According to the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), biking in New York City has increased by 26% in 2009. This is following a 35% increase in 2008 and corresponds with 200 miles of new striped or separated bike routes developed over the past three years. DOT’s graph, below, shows just how big the uptick has been.
The ‘Indicator Values’ on the Y-axis are derived by dividing the cyclist count for each year by the value for the year 2000 and multiplied by 100 (further explanation of the data is available through DOT). DOT collected their data by counting cyclists crossing 50th Street on the Hudson River Greenway, riding over the four East River bridges, and entering and exiting the Staten Island Ferry at Whitehall Terminal.
The Parks Department’s Greenbelt Native Plant Center (GNPC), on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island, sits on the site of what was once the Mollenhoff Family Farm. From 1911 to 1992, the Molenhoffs operated a 32-acre vegetable farm that was well-renowned among small growers for its innovations in farming methods, including a mechanical watering system and steam-heated greenhouses.
In 1950, the US Army shot an ‘educational’ film about the Mohlenoff farm to be shown in Japan, extolling the virtues of the American farmer and the prosperity that small family businesses are afforded in a free society. It’s propaganda, but it’s also a terrific portrait of 1950s New York City and American values. Staten Island is described as “64 square miles of small towns and spacious farmland where life moves at a calm pace.” The film is available for streaming online, near the bottom of the GNPC’s history page.
The Native Plant Center has been the talk of the town recently–literally, it was featured in last week’s Talk of the Town section of The New Yorker for its efforts to collect and archive seed native to the New York metropolitan region. The article is only available online to subscribers. It’s in the November 16th print edition.
UbuWeb, the large online archive of avant-garde art, has posted a streaming video of Gordon Matta-Clark‘s 1972 “Freshkill,” filmed at the Fresh Kills Landfill. The short film depicts the destruction of the artist’s truck by a bulldozer. The video is also available for download as an MP4.