Celebrating Fathers… and Families…

Hi Folks:

I’m old enough to remember when a family was considered to be a combination of a mother, a father and 1.8 children – although I was never sure which one of the kids lost out on that one.  But if that was considered ‘normal’, my family was, and continues to be anything but normal.  Of course, if you go back 600 years or so the word family meant ‘servants, domestics or members of a household’ (from the Latin familia) so the etymology has changed a bit over time.

In his book ‘Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah‘, Richard Bach wrote:

“The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life. Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof.” Continue Reading →

You Like Me! You Really Like Me!!

Hi Folks:

So far as I know, Facebook was the first to introduce the concept of the ‘Like’ button to user posts and comments, and it’s such a good idea that it’s been adopted by others as well.  Google+ uses the ‘+1’ button instead, but it’s the same idea.  The folks at TED.com used to give users the ability to up vote or down vote another user’s comments, but they changed that policy so that only up votes are possible.  The people at 50opx.com have both ‘Like’ and ‘Dislike’ buttons on the images displayed there; I suggested to them that they remove the ‘Dislike’ button but the choice is of course theirs.

Why is this so important?  Well, in a pre-internet world (yes, I’m old enough to remember such a time), personal interactions were less frequent and more intimate.  People waited days, weeks, even months sometimes to hear from a friend or loved one, and as such contacts were treasured.  People exchanged long notes, thank you cards and more. Today we live in a much different world. Long letters are hardly ever written, thank you cards are almost forgotten, and even e-mail has become passé, especially among the younger generation.  We’re swamped with ever more information, almost all of it short and almost all of it impersonal.  The internet is largely considered anonymous and while on one hand that gives people the freedom to express their ‘true’ feelings behind that mask of anonymity it also distances the connections we have with those who are close to us in different ways.  Internet friendships can be as strong as any ‘personal’ relationship, but without being face to face we lack inflection, touch and more.  Apparently studies have shown that people are more likely to ‘trust’ links that their friends have ‘liked’, but I think it’s much more than that. Continue Reading →

Being Green – The Future of Education

Hi Folks:

Saturday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  It’s usually posted on Fridays, but not always… 😉

Anyway, while my blog posts are, by definition, my thoughts and ideas, this week I’m going to dust off the old soap box on a topic that I think is very important: education.  In this society we have a somewhat limited and very rigid view of what ‘education’ means; if you ask them, I believe most people would likely give an answer related to schools, classrooms and the like.  Personally, I invested some 18 years of my life in various classrooms… and then they had the nerve to tell me I had to go to high school!  I told them to forget it.  Continue Reading →

Being Green – ‘Biophilic Design’

Hi Folks:

Friday once again, and time for this week’s ‘Being Green‘ post.  The title for this week’s post came from a webinar I watched this week called, “What is Biophilia, and What Does It Have To Do with Sustainability and Illusions of Nature in Architecture?”  It was the title of that webinar that attracted me to it, because ‘biophilia’ translates as ‘love of life’.  It’s a term first coined by biologist E. O. Wilson and described in his book of the same name.  Basically, biophilia means that we have an innate and unbreakable connection to this little blue marble we call earth.  Nalini Nadkarni’s TED talk “Life science in prison” speaks well to this. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Update

Hi Folks:

Friday once again!  It’s also the end of the month, and that means our “Eating Our Way Through Victoria” post and my “Photo of the Month” post as well as our usual Sunday “He Says, She Says…” and Monday’s “Marcia’s Meanderings” posts are coming due as well!  Going to have to limber up those typing fingers.

I was going to write a post this week about “Intentional Communities“, but I’m going to postpone that for a week.  Please bear with me.  In exchange, I’ll offer a couple of reminders of upcoming events this weekend.  If you live in the US or know someone who does, the premiere of Jamie Oliver’s program “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” begins this evening on ABC.  If you’re asking yourself, “What’s green about that?” consider the enormous amounts of water and energy that go into not only the production of ‘fast food’ and prepackaged foods, but also the environmental costs of the packaging, transport, etc.  There’s a link on ‘hidden water use’ in the list below.  Also in the news this week are plans to ‘downsize’ parts of Detroit. Suggestions include the creation of a series of ‘urban farms’, more parks, and interconnected ‘villages’.  Not a simple idea by any means, but it’s an idea Jame will agree with, I’m sure. Greensburg, KS might serve as a role model of sorts, since almost the entire town was wiped out by a tornado a few short years ago and rebuilt as a model green town. Continue Reading →

Being Green – Green Walls

Hello, Dear Reader!

A few weeks back I did a post on roofing materials; one strategy for a roof is a ‘green roof’ or a vegetated roof. Green roofs have many advantages, but one need not stop there. Vegetated walls are also an option. Sometimes called living walls or biowalls, green walls can be used inside or outside a building. Used outside, green walls can help to control stormwater runoff and to cool the building. Used inside, a living wall can help cool the building, purify the air, lower energy costs, and improve people’s health and morale. I recently watched a TED talk by Kamal Meattle on ‘How to Grow Fresh Air‘. The first such ‘natural air purifier’ I heard about is at the University of Guelph-Humber in Toronto, ON. Their living wall was designed into the structure, completed in 2002. Another living wall in Toronto is located at The Robertson Building, and there’s also a green wall at the Integrated Learning Centre at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON and at the Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo in Waterloo, ON. In Madrid, the CaixaForum gallery space has a very large outdoor living wall, and in Paris, the office wing of the Quai Branly Museum has an outdoor green wall as well. Both of these walls were designed by Patrick Franc of Paris. Also in Paris, the Pershing Hall Hotel has a large green wall in the patio area of their dining room.

Speaking of dining, one possibility for an indoor green wall is to grow food plants. At Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles, a green wall installed by Tournesol Siteworks is used to grow rosemary, lettuce, etc. Going beyond that is the idea of a ‘Vertical Farm’, which is basically a multi-storey greenhouse. More information on that may be found at ‘The Vertical Farm Project‘. In a similar vein, there’s a plan in the works to convert some Detroit neighbourhoods into urban farms, but that’s getting away from green walls per se.

More information on green walls can be found here:

Okay, other news and information I’ve come across this week includes:

Okay, that’s it for today. Have a great week, and if you have any links to add, feel free to leave us a comment!

Take care,
Mike.

P.S. Since I’ve been talking about living walls ‘n’ things, I came across an interesting article in National Geographic on ‘Terra Preta‘. Terra preta is a Portugese term for ‘black earth’; basically, it’s an ancient technique that was practiced in the Amazon basin, adding charcoal, bone and organic matter to the rainforest’s relatively infertile soils. It’s a practice that built up the soil over generations. Some of the terra preta soils discovered are 2 metres deep. Scientists today are trying to tease apart this puzzle, in part because the process sequesters much more CO2 than the slash and burn agriculture practiced today in much of the Amazon.

Poetry Corner – Science as Poetry

Hello Dear Ones!

Mike and I are very much into innovation and inspiration. Anything fun, informative and uplifting nurtures us. As a result we find ourselves watching TED and other web videos rather than the television these days. When I saw the following YouTube video – attached here for your viewing pleasure – I had to use it for my Poetry Corner this week. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll understand why!

As a preamble first, though, if you are like me you would not likely have thought you’d ever see the words ‘science’ and ‘poetry’ in the same paragraph, let alone paired together. But it will become clear and logical once you’ve viewed the video. Enjoy!

The Poetry of Science

The Poetry of Science

In Light and Laughter,

Marcia

He Says, She Says…

Greetings, Dear Reader!

Thanks so much for stopping by!!

If you’ve read these posts before, you’ll know that every Sunday Marcia and Mike pick a common topic and write about it individually.  Neither reads the other’s posts until both are finished.  The title for this week’s talk, ‘The Elephant in the Room‘, comes from a post written by journalist Robert Scoble during his time at the 2010 TED Conference in Long Beach, CA.  You can read his article here: The elephants in the room at TED.  The ‘elephant’ in this case is money.  Those having taken a vow of poverty aside, money is often among the most challenging of ideas held by many if not most people.   It doesn’t matter if you are a street person, a corporate executive or a subsistence farmer, or whether the currency is dollars, pounds, rubles, kroner, baht, pesos, rand or yen.  Both Marcia and Mike have been included in this, at least at times.

The title of this week’s post came from Robert Scoble, but the inspiration for this week’s post came from our wise and wondrous friend, Samantha Standish and a series of blog posts she has written recently on her ‘I Am Pollyana‘ blog.  Our thanks to her and to the many, many people who have been and continue to be our guides, our teachers and our friends.

Hugs,
M&M

Follow these links to read what He Says/She Says: Marcia’s View / Mike’s View.

Being Green – Social Networking

Greetings!  Friday once again… where did the week go?  Ah well, as the saying goes, there are 168 hours in a week; what you do with them is up to you.  I was sitting at my computer, staring at a blank screen (that adamantly refused to write anything on itself), when my wife (who sits at the computer beside me) suggested I ‘follow’ on Twitter someone from England who blogs about rooftop gardens, green roofs, etc. (@gardenbeet on Twitter).  That got me thinking about an article I had read earlier today entitled, “Why you have to engage in social media, even if you don’t want to“.

While it’s true that twenty years ago few people had ever heard of a ‘web site’, the simple truth is that websites now get lost in their sheer numbers and social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and more are sweeping the world and very directly changing the way we do business.  Marcia and I wrote a post last month about our own foray into Social Networking, and we now have a Twitter landing page on this site, where we provide links and information related to social networking information (updated as we can).  Social networking affects every group or business, in every field.   During the recent 2010 TED Conference in California, there were over 40,000 ‘tweets’ (short posts) about the conference.   Chris Anderson of TED can be found at @TEDChris. More and more businesses are allowing/encouraging their employees to post about their experiences with and within the company, and while there have been a couple of instances of people being dismissed as a result of their posts, these events were anything but private and reflect back to the company as well.  ‘CoTweet‘ for example is a resource that allows the employees of a company to share one Twitter account, engaging with their clients online.

Curious, I went to the US Green Building Council home page, and they have a Twitter account (@usgbc).  Being Canadian, I also went to the Canada Green Building Council home page, and they’re not (yet?) hooked up to Twitter.  I’ve sent them an e-mail letting them know that when they do, I’ll be happy to update this post!  Some of the groups, organizations and companies I ‘follow’ on Twitter in relation to sustainability and green building, in addition to those mentioned above, are:

I’m sure you’ll develop your own lists.  Oh, BTW, if you’re like me and tend to be a bit loquacious, I highly recommend Twitlonger.

Articles, sites and news I found this week include the following.  Before I get to that, a reminder that there’s a webinar on ‘Understanding Green Schools‘ on March 17, 2:00 p.m. EDT.  Click on the link to register.

In no particular order:

Have a great week!

Mike.

P.S.

If you’re in the Portland, OR area on March 20–21 and are looking for a way to release some of the stress in your life, drop by the Ohara Ikebana Exhibition at the Portland Japanese Garden.

Being Green: Body and Mind – The Olympics and TED

Hi Folks:

Well, another week has flown by!  The Vancouver 2010 Olympics begin today, and there’s been a lot of effort put into making this Olympics the ‘greenest’ one ever.  There are, of course, two opposing views on their efforts.  On one side, Daily Planet has created an extensive chronicle of the science and technology that has gone into the preparations for this event, and a part of their efforts include eight segments highlighting different ways in which this Olympics are ‘going for green‘.  The official Vancouver Olympics website also has a section of their site devoted to explaining their sustainability efforts.  Even the Olympic medals are made partially from metals recycled from electronic waste.  On the other side of the table, a recent article by Dr. David Suzuki serves to highlight the (many?) ways in which the 2010 Olympics has fallen  short, and the ways in which future games might be improved. As an example, one new structure at Whistler is a chalet designed to PassivHaus standards.  A PassivHaus consumes 90% less energy than one built to standard building code.  I think that’s wonderful, and ideas like this need to be incorporated into every new building.  At the same time, the building was created in a factory in Austria and then shipped around the world to BC where it was erected, so that process itself may negate the environmental benefits of having such a tight structure.  I can’t say for sure.  Can we do more?  Need we do more?  For my part I say yes, certainly, on both counts.  At the same time, I believe we advance ourselves further with compliments than criticisms, so I offer my congratulations to all involved with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics for their efforts in sustainability, and I trust that future events will greatly exceed the efforts made here.

Now the Olympics is primarily about the body.  Yes, there’s technology and development and mental acuity and more, but overall the Olympics is about physical excellence.  There’s another ‘Olympics’ of sorts that’s also going on right now, a little farther south, in Long Beach, CA – the 2010 TED ConferenceTED is an acronym for ‘Technology – Entertainment – Design’ and in some respects TED is a mental olympics.  But while the Olympics proper is about competition, striving to be the best, TED is about cooperation, perhaps coopetiton.  Some of the most important minds in the world gather every year at TED.  There’s also ‘William’.  He’s 11, and the youngest TED attendee to date.  At TED you’ll find doctors, engineers, business leaders, and also people like William Kamkwamba.  A native of Malawi, at 14 William had to leave school to support his family.  He went to the closest library and found a book on wind energy, and using some wonderful adaptive engineering he built a wind generator for his parent’s home.  Basically he built a wooden tower, formed blades out of melted PVC pipe, and connected these blades to the pedal arm of a bicycle.  When the wind turned the propeller blades, the rotating crank would ‘pedal’ the bicycle, spinning the rear wheel and generating electricity using a small generator designed to operate a bicycle headlight.  He generated enough power to provide for four lights in his parent’s home, and so he went beyond that, adding in a circuit breaker and four light switches.

To say a lot has been written about TED – some good, some less than flattering – would be a vast understatement.  There’s such a broad scope of topics covered at the main conference every year, and increasingly in independent ‘TEDx’ conferences (300 so far), that any attempt to cover them all would fall short.  But since these weekly posts are about green building and sustainability, I thought I’d highlight just a few to get you started.  Hundreds more can be seen and/or downloaded from the TED website.

Rachel Armstrong presented an idea to use ‘protocells’ to create building structures that sequester CO2 from the atmosphere or from water, creating carbonate ‘reefs’ that build and repair themselves.

Juan Enriquez talked about the tremendous advances in agriculture caused by shifting our thinking from using ‘force’ to grow food to using biology, and how this concept is our way forward to a sustainable energy future.

Norman Foster discussed how architects can design buildings that are “green, beautiful and basically pollution-free.”

Willie Smits spoke about recreating a clear-cut tropical rainforest in Borneo, providing habitat for local orangutans and providing food, homes, and a sustainable wage for communities of local people.

The winner of the 2010 TED Prize, Jamie Oliver outlined a plan on how to make children (and their parents, and everyone) food aware.  Malnutrition and obesity are linked if we’re eating foods that our bodies can’t effectively utilize.  How does this relate to green building and/or sustainability?  Americans invest $150 billion a year on healthcare issues related to preventable disease arising from obesity and food disorders.  As things are, this will only increase.  The production, transportation, marketing and distribution of ‘unhealthy food’ has costs that are staggering, and not just in an economic sense.  I’ve mentioned this before, and while I can’t remember the name of the original author, the ‘triple bottom line’ for businesses today involve environmental sensitivity, corporate sustainability and profit.  What the speaker said was to consider this as a three-legged stool.  He went on to say that what’s important to remember is not that if you remove one of the legs the stool will fall over.  What’s important to remember is that it doesn’t matter which one of the legs you remove, the stool still falls over.

Okay, the links this week are:

Okay, that’s it for now.  Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to leave us a comment to say hi!

Mike.

P.S.
Something a little different – a touch screen you don’t need to touch.  Gesture Cube: No need to touch – just give it a wave!