RIP Dennis Oppenheim

Annual Rings 1968

Earth artist Dennis Oppenheim (1938-2011) has passed into the great sculpture park in the sky. One of the icons of the 1970s NY art world, his oeuvre included body art, conceptual art, ‘machine peices’, drawings, pop art, and most recently, public art. But I will always appreciate him best for his delicate, at times fleetingly ephemeral, approach to earthworks that still resonates with me. NYT obit. Continue reading

Karen Piper on Owens Lake

Over on Places, there is a thoughtful essay on Owens Lake by english professor and Ridgecrest native,  Karen Piper, titled ‘Dreams, Dust and Birds: The Trashing of Owens Lake’ about the unfeasible proposed solar farm.

Preliminary engineering tests show that if solar panel platforms were placed at the southern end of the nearly dry 110-square-mile Owens Lake, they would sink as much as several inches into extremely corrosive soil.” [LATimes]

Beyond offering some fresh views on the infrastructural void left by the Los Angeles Aquaduct, the editors at Places asked to use one of my photos (above)!

The post also contains one of the first pics of ‘moat and row’ in the bottom left below:

Top: Owens Lake and the Sierra Nevada. [by Satoshi Nakagawa] Bottom left: Moat and Row dust control at Owens Lake. [by Karen Piper] Bottom right: The Karen Piper’s white Kia. [by Karen Piper]

Wildlife crossing – do you want fries with that?

the NYT reports on the winner of a design competition for a wildlife overpass on i-70 near Vail CO. The winning land bridge was designed by Van Valkenberg, HNTB, and my friends at Applied Ecological Services to be as ecologically appropriate from the materials to the construction practices.

Here are pdf downloads for all the entries:

Since there are no plans for Colorado DOT to actually construct the winning design, we are left with a supersized idea that is empty of calories.

“As you fragment the habitat, the long-term prognosis for wildlife is bad,” said Rob Ament, the project manager for the group sponsoring the competition, which bestows a $40,000 award and was initiated by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University and the Woodcock Foundation in New York.

Powell’s Water-based States

Spotted on Strangemaps is a great post about John Westley Powell’s Report on the Lands of the Arid Regions of the United States, which presented an alternative to the orthogonal public land survey system dominated boundaries of the western states. Since Owens Valley is a reoccurring topic here on InfrascapeDesign, it’s rather fascinating to see Owens lake and the outlines of the Pleistocene Lake Manley that are discernible in the larger versions of the map (see below).

[map from: Freinds of the Pleistocene aka FOP]

A larger PDF of Powell’s map is here from the aqueousadvisors, who credits William deBuys’s book and the USGS annual report for the reproduction of the map. Other posts about Powell’s map on ecopolitology, & good.

147 tips for teaching sustainability

Just bought 147 Tips for Teaching Sustainability: Connecting the Environment, the Economy, and Society by Timpson with a who’s who of sustainability (David Orr & more). Yes, I do occasionally will spend my own $$$ on books. Got a bunch of great tips that will enrich both class that I’m teaching this semester (LA 1001 and LA 4002). While it seems aimed at k-12, the book seems useful for folks teaching higher-ed, and even nursery school too.

My favorite tips are:

30.Compare Needs With Wants

35. Understand How Classrooms Can Teach

47. Use Precaution as Wisdom

55. Remember to Save the Humans

99. Look Twice at What’s Disturbing

101. Emphasize Soft Skills and Hard Sciences Equally

106. Encourage Specificity

126. Change Periods into Question Marks

140. Create a Peer Culture of Behavior Change.

& my favorite:

130. Be a Wide-Eyed Skeptic and Demand Precision

This is my new motto for the spring. Are you a wide-eyed skeptic that demands precision too?

Tip # 148 – this book is worth reading if you give a damn about the future of the planet and find yourself anywhere near a classroom!

Sound of Brisbane Flooding

Dan Hill of CityofSound wrote an amazingly lucid post about experiencing the flooding in Queensland and what some of the long term implications for infrastructure and the city might be.

…In less than four years here, I’ve become aware, in a very visceral sense, that Australia suffers extreme weather so regularly that it doesn’t really make sense to talk of it as extreme. When extreme becomes regular is it still extreme?

…But there is nothing around us, barely pavements, and now the connecting infrastructure of roads is so easily compromised. ‘Network redundancy’ is not a particularly motivating term for wider propagation, but it will be an increasingly important idea for Australian cities, whether they like it or not. The flood makes that much clear.

Certainly worth reading the entire post.

Interview with Peter Newman

One of the books that I’m using this semester is Resilient Cities: Responding to Peak Oil and Climate Change by Peter Newman, Timothy Beatley, and Heather Boyer. The ASLA interview with Peter Newman is has few excerpts worth sharing as I develop the syllabus for LA 4002 Implementation of Sustainable Landscape Design and Planning Practices. The two paragraphs worth citing are:

A resilient city is sustainable in its economy, environment, and community, but it has a deeper quality which enables it to quickly adapt to challenges and rebuild itself for any challenge it faces. This is a spiritual quality, which we can see in individuals, families, communities, and businesses, when they are able to face their problems honestly and reinvent themselves rather than live in denial. The reality of the peak oil and climate change crises is that most cities are in denial and not prepared for the big changes that are required.

Green infrastructure has moved from being “the bits left over in urban design” to being “sensitive to the underlying ecology,” and a concept that needs to be respected. Now we need green infrastructure to go to a third level — to help facilitate the Resilient City. This will require green infrastructure to have an integrated function in recreational activity, regenerative activity (carbon sinks and biodiversity), and regional agricultural activity.

Continue reading

Finite Travel

One of the major impacts of peak oil will be the shrinking of personal miles traveled. The US and other industrialized countries has already achieved peak-travel, with the plateauing of air travel, vehicle miles traveled, and other forms of long distance excursions over the past 5 years. Currently, peak oil has little to do with end of growth in the travel sector, but the high oil prices of 2007/8 certainly accelerated this emergent trend.

A study [pdf] by Adam Millard-Ball and Lee Schipper of Stanford, that Miller-McCune just reported on shows that ‘The U.S. appears to have peaked at an annual 8,100 miles by car per capita, and Japan is holding steady at 2,500 miles.’

Miller-McCune article builds on the Stanford study, but does not really discuss other major factors contributing to peak travel like the overwhelming congestion of our roads and skies. Travel is no longer a pleasant experience for most in the steerage class, and the TSA’s invasion of privacy is only exacerbating the personal discomfort and deprivation suffered.

This has major infrastructure and societal implications. Even as the population grows, folks will need to get around to local destination. The question is, will there be sufficient mass transit or will peak-oil result in the return to an 18th c. pedestrian world?

the biggest impact will be felt in rural and exurban communities that will become isolated in the post-oil world. But cities will also need with logistics of providing for their populations.

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2010 blog stats

Thanks to all the readers of Infrascape Design, 2010 was a very good year! A perk of being part of wordpress is that they compiled this end-of-the-year review. The main reason why I’m sharing this is wordpress’s ‘container ship’ analogy for blog visitors (see below). With about 16,000 views, my blog would fit on a Malaccamax ship if each visit was a TEU.
Please stay tuned, got posts in the works about: post-carbon urban scenarios, peak-travel, the infrastructure gap, resilient cities, sustainability/urbanism book reviews, student work from fall 2010, and links to a few of my lectures.

2010 year in blogging

Crunchy numbers

Featured imageThe average container ship can carry about 4,500 containers. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2010. If each view were a shipping container, your blog would have filled about 4 fully loaded ships.

In 2010, there were 58 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 71 posts. There were 123 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 184mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was March 18th with 286 views. The most popular post that day was Scaling Gehry’s toxic fish.

Continue reading