Information and reflection on plastic marine pollution continues to increase: as if the Great Pacific Garbage Patch weren’t cause for enough distress,the Sea Education Association (SEA) recently completed a two-decade study on the Atlantic Ocean and reports that a large volume of discarded plastic also floats in the North Atlantic Gyre, trapped together by ocean currents and causing harm to fish and bird species inhabiting the area.
If you’re interested in learning more, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at California’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation, will be speaking at the American Museum of Natural History this Sunday, March 14th, about his research and about the impact of plastic marine pollution in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Sunday, March 14, 12pm
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, first floor
The American Museum of Natural History
Admission is free with museum admission
And for a more fable-like, existential take on the journey of plastic to this watery grave, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s short film Plastic Bag is now viewable online. The film follows the lifetime of one plastic bag, from initial use to disposal and, eventually, out to sea. At 18 minutes long, it’s not just a public service announcement but also an art film. Fittingly, then, it features music by Sigur Ros‘s Kjartan Sveinsson and narration by German filmmaker Werner Herzog.
A couple of exciting exhibitions and projects featuring the built and natural environments are currently underway at the MoMA and P.S.1. The MoMA exhibition, “In Situ: Architecture and Landscape”, opened last April and will be running through February 22nd. A small but succinct show, it’s worth visiting.
P.S.1’s recent program “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront” included a studio residency for Architecture Research Office (ARO), which developed designs for “adaptive ‘soft’ infrastructures” to address rising tidewaters in New York and New Jersey, taking into account the needs of both the metropolis and the coastline ecology. An exhibit of models, drawings and analytical materials produced during the residency will be opening at the MoMA March 24th. In the meantime, the Rising Currents Blog continues to offer interesting reflections on the intersections of urban and hydrological systems.
The Freshkills Park Talks lecture series continues on Tuesday with John McLaughlin, Director of Ecological Services for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). John designed and oversees the ecological reclamation of the Pennsylvania and Fountain Avenue landfills, sited along Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn. Together, the two landfills, which operated from the late 1950s and early 1960s through the early 1980s, comprise 400 acres and contain millions of tons of waste–primarily residential waste and construction and demolition debris. As with other landfills in the City and elsewhere, there grew concern about the impact of the landfill on adjoining populations and ecosystems. After a commitment from the City to address these concerns, ecological rehabilitation began in 2004, under John’s managment. The sites will ultimately be opened to public access as natural areas.
The rehabilitation work has been a massive and fascinating undertaking–it was featured in The New York Times in September. John will discuss the history of the two landfill sites, the development of their reclamation plans and the lessons learned from the project. The talk will be co-hosted by the Metropolitan Exchange, an architecture, urban planning and research cooperative in downtown Brooklyn.
Tuesday, January 26, 6:30 p.m. @ the Metropolitan Exchange
33 Flatbush Avenue, 6th floor, Brooklyn
A new online data mapping tool called IMBY – or In My Backyard (a play on NIMBY)– allows users to estimate the potential for renewable energy production on any given site, whether it’s a backyard, a roof or an empty lot. The IMBY tool was developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the federal agency dedicated to renewable energy research, development and outreach. Using a Google Maps interface, IMBY locates a specific address and allows the user to choose either wind or solar power and then draw the perimeter for a future renewable energy site. Based on information from geostationary satellites, AWS Truewind data, and NREL renewable energy databases, IMBY provides an estimate on the given site’s production potential. For solar energy, this includes the initial cost of the system, amount of cash incentives expected and the approximate number of payback years. For wind power, IMBY estimates the local wind resource based on the time of year and provides an estimated electricity output. The tool was designed for homeowners, businesses and researchers to access quick estimates for sites in the continental United States, Hawaii and northern Mexico.
The New York Times documents a rise in university programs focused on sustainability, especially regarding the urban environment. The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education lists nine universities with master’s and doctoral programs in urban sustainability studies. Most of these programs are interdisciplinary in nature, like the new graduate program at the City College of New York that will focus on sustainability in the urban environment, incorporating the approaches of architecture, engineering and science. The growth of sustainability programs represents a shift from a focus within environmental studies on rural areas to an emphasis on the urban environment.
In 2002, a year after the Department of Sanitation and and the Municipal Arts Society announced the design competition for the reuse of the Fresh Kills landfill, the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) embarked on an investigative project called Garbage Problems aimed at understanding the processes behind waste management in New York City. Working in collaboration with students from City-As-School high school, CUP produced a variety of compelling educational materials: a playful model and design plan for the reuse of the landfill called “Garbage City“; a 30 minute video on the project; and “The Making of Garbage Problems,” a large-format collage brochure explaining the project and providing a variety of resources on waste management in the wake of the closure of Fresh Kills.
As part of the Bureau of Land Management‘s Seeds of Success project, The Dixon National Tallgrass Prairie Seed Bank at the Chicago Botanic Garden is preserving the seeds of thousands of prairie species–1,500 by 2010 and 3,000 by 2020–that are native to the Midwest, as far west as the Rockies. The seeds will be preserved for future use and used in research for assisted migration, a controversial technique to relocate species in anticipation of global changes in climate and habitat. In addition to collecting a diversity of species, mapping GPS coordinates and documenting soil composition, part of this research includes predicting relocation habitats, a process that has begun in seven climate-change gardens where species from four hardiness zones (zones 4,5,6, and 7) have been planted this fall. A story in The New York Times about the project interviews Kayri Havens, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s director of plant science and conservation:
“If plants grown from seed collected in Zone 4, 5 or 6 can’t withstand Texas conditions,” Dr. Havens said, “that’s a good sign they’re going to become extinct here, if there’s no way for them to migrate on their own or human-assisted.”
Scientists hope that assisted migration research will aid future restoration projects. The mother project, Seeds of Success, has so far collected over a fifth of its hoped-for 14,000 native U.S. species, sending a collection of each species to the Millennium Seed Bank Project of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in Britain, which contains the largest seed collection in the world, housed in frozen underground vaults, with the goal of collecting 25% of the world’s flora by 2020.
(via The New York Times)
MillionTreesNYC is hosting a research symposium on green infrastructure and urban ecology and is accepting submissions of papers to be presented at that symposium.
The purpose of this symposium is to showcase research and projects that contribute to knowledge on urban landscapes, green infrastructure, and public health in cities and urban areas. We are soliciting papers on research that is either completed or substantially in progress that addresses diverse science questions in the following areas:
- Local Air Quality and Urban Heat Island
- Water Quality, Storm Water Management
- Economic Impacts and Quantifying Returns on Investment
- Urban Environmental Education, Ecological Literacy, and Curriculum Development
- Human Health and Well-Being
- Civic and Municipal Stewardship
- Green Jobs and Social Justice
- Reforestation Dynamics and Forest Health
- Biodiversity and Ecological Communities
- Green Infrastructure and Planting Designs
Submissions deadline is January 8th, and the symposium is March 5th and 6th.
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)
Researchers at the University of Milan Bicocca in Monza, Italy are working to harvest energy offset by the mixture of fresh and salt water. The process uses electrodes to draw apart positively charged sodium ions and negatively charged chlorine ions in salt water, then forces those ions away from the electrodes by flooding them with fresh water. The forced diffusion of ions away from the electrodes to which they’re attracted creates electrostatic energy, which can be extracted as useable power. The methodology is still under development, but it could potentially be used for the continuous harvest of energy from the junctions of fresh water estuaries with salt water bodies, as happens throughout the creeks that flow through the Freshkills Park site.