Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Profile of Vaclav Smil

The Walrus has a great profile of controversial writer Vaclav Smil, a prolific scribe of non-fiction about whom Bill Gates said “I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie.”

Smil is a complicated figure, often pitting himself against environmental activists. I expected to disagree with a lot of his points, but after reading the profile I find myself much more in sync with his views than I would have expected, particularly with his view that decarbonization of the economy is going to be problematic, if not outright impossible. It pains me, but I’ve thought that for years. I’ve gotten into more than one argument with positive-thinking people who told me straight-faced that our economy would be totally de-carbonized within a couple decades. I’m much more pessimistic, despite going to great lengths de-carbonize my own life.

As the profile reminds us:

Vaclav Smil has spent half a century provoking combatants on all sides to examine their assumptions.

Read the Entire Profile →

Book: The Lost Supper

Friend of Elsewhat’s Taras Grescoe‘s new book, The Lost Supper, follows the author as he tries to track down foods which have been lost to history, or otherwise forgotten or neglected by humanity. His journey is also a lens through which he looks at our own modern diet and its various impacts.

This has changed my day-to-day relationship with food, in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Before this journey began, I flattered myself that, with my diet heavy on small fish, vegetables, grains, and pulses, I was one of the world’s responsible eaters. My thoughtfulness, though, was limited to my consumer choices the items I picked off the shelves of local stores and markets. Thinking about the past of food has made me think harder about what I eat in the present, and every trip has changed the way I cook and eat.

Among the lost food he looks at are Garum (previously mentioned on this blog). He also looks at the (mostly) lost practice of eating insects, which lead to this little jab at paleo dieters:

“Paleo dieters are one of my favorite groups to pick on,” Lesnik added, with a chuckle. “They don’t have any real knowledge of what the paleo diet actually was. I always ask them, “Oh, so you eat a lot of insects?’ Consistently eating almond milk and bacon is not reflective of any form of the actual paleo diet. Eating bugs is.”

This was a great little book which combined food history with some healthy reflection on our modern diets, combined with some neat detective work and travel writing that is definitely off the beaten path.

Prescience of Environmental Posters

The New York Times has a review of an exhibition of vintage environmental posters. The article has a nice gallery of some wonderfully designed and often poignant examples of graphic design with a message.

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Via Rafa

Ghost Rivers of Baltimore

Photo by Frank Hamilton

It’s easy to miss the fact that our cities often cover up existing streams and rivers, often diverting them underground or into existing storm drain systems. Back in 2009, Spacing posted a wonderful map of Montréal’s hidden rivers.

Ghost rivers is a street-level art project tracking a submerged river in Baltimore:

Ghost Rivers is a new 1.5-mile-long public art installation and walking tour by artist Bruce Willen that visualizes a lost stream buried below the streets of Baltimore.

This project explores the hidden history and path of Sumwalt Run, which now flows through underground culverts beneath the Remington and Charles Village neighborhoods.

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Sea Trash Scrimshaw

Artist Duke Riley makes scrimshaw-inspired art on plastic sea garbage. For the uninitiated, Scrimshaw are ink-engraved bones most commonly made by sailors. Thanks, Lily!

See the Gallery Here →

Busy Bee

Orange Sky

The skies above Montréal, and much of the East coast, are tinted an eerie yellow orange due to smoke from forest fires. Climate change is making these sort of events more and more common.

Map of current smoke distribution by Smoke Forecast:

El Niño is Coming, and It's Going to Get Hot

That one-two punch from El Niño and climate change is expected to “push global temperatures into uncharted territory,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said in a press release today. “This will have far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. We need to be prepared.”

Read More at The Verge →

Cavern of Lost Souls

Reading through Robert MacFarlane’s Underland (a book I’ll write about more once I’ve finished it) I stumbled on ‘The Cavern of Lost Souls’. The cavern is an abandoned Welsh mine, which at one point became a popular way for the locals to dispose themselves of old cars.

The locals would reportedly take cars they no longer wanted to a certain point above the mine shaft, put them in neutral, and let them roll to their doom. The result was hundreds of broken cars creating this nightmarish, but eerily beautiful underground space.

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