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Archive for June, 2007

One of the most important tools for insurers and governments are maps produced by the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program. These are officially accepted maps that insurance companies use to determine insurance rates for homes and businesses in case of flooding and to set zoning ordinances by governments. The maps are available, but rarely seen by the public. One artist, Eve Mosher, in New York is making the information accessible (and updated for a global warming scenario) by chalking the streets and sidewalks of Brooklyn. Excerpt from the New York Times article:

The chalk demarcates a point 10 feet above sea level, a boundary now used by federal and state agencies and insurance companies to show where waters could rise after a major storm. Relying partly on research conducted by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies at Columbia University, Ms. Mosher is trying to draw attention to projections that the chance of flooding up to or beyond her line could increase significantly as a result of global warming.

In a worst-case scenario, according to the research, the line could mark the zone for flooding that would occur every eight years, on average, by the year 2050, meaning that dozens of neighborhoods would soon come to resemble Venice, or maybe ancient Alexandria.

Over the next several months, Ms. Mosher, 38, will extend her line through the coastal neighborhoods of southernmost Brooklyn and then move on to Manhattan to draw a line that begins at East 14th Street and loops around the bottom of the island, back up to West 14th Street.

Next she will return to Brooklyn and work her way from the Verrazano Bridge to the Battery Tunnel to Newtown Creek in Greenpoint, whose sludgy industrial topography could serve as a wanted poster for the kind of environmental damage that her project, called “High Water Line,” is warning against.

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Books for Foodies

If you’re still looking for books to round out your summer reading list and you like reading about food, the New York Times has a condensed review of a bunch of food books (many focused on ethical eating choices and the carbon footprint of your dininer) – Eating the Environment: A Literary Kitchen Cornucopia. The reviews include:

Alice Waters and Chez Panisse by Thomas McNamee
A Moveable Feast: Ten Millennia of Food Globalization by Kenneth F. Kiple
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table by Russ Parsons
The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink edited by Andrew F. Smith
Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally by Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon
The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy by Sasha Issenberg
The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket by Trevor Corson

An excerpt:

Marks & Spencer, the British department-store chain, recently started putting a new symbol on its packaged foods. The store already labels its food with the country of origin and often the name of the farmer. But shoppers who buy strawberries and beans, for example, now see a white airplane on a black circle with the words “air-freighted.” This means that the food in question was transported by airplane, leaving a big carbon footprint in the sky. In other words, go ahead and eat the beans, but you have been warned.

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StartMotions

Finally, some more trashy art! Via the NRDC magazine, OnEarth, I learned of StartMotions a studio that generates stop-motion animation films of animals made from trash!

The studio’s mission is:

We create fun and entertaining animations that inform and enthuse audiences around the world about animals, plants, and the environment. We explore current events and environmental issues and use them to metaphor the relationships between humans and animals in memorable animations. Our main goals are to promote compassion and interest in animals so people invest in their long-term survival, to improve people’s knowledge about pressing environmental issues, to encourage recycling, preservation, and efficiency, and to inspire other projects of similar nature and mission.

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Seven Facts Meme

I’ve been tagged by Chile Chews for the “Seven Facts” meme. The rules come from The Bedroom Reader and are as follows: “Each person tagged gives seven random facts about themselves. Those tagged need to write on their blog seven facts, as well as the rules of the game. You need to tag seven others and list their names on your blog. You have to leave those you plan on tagging a note in their comments so they know that they have been tagged and need to read your blog.”

Well, I’m going to break the rules a bit. I’ll give seven random facts, but I’m not going to tag anyone.  You know what they say, well behaved women rarely make history.

So here goes:

  1. I have been vegetarian since I was 16 (and for those of you interested in a little math, that was 19 years ago) and vegan since I was 20.
  2. I studied marine science in school (college and graduate) because I wanted to live near the ocean for my entire life (that plan has not worked out as intended). Originally, I thought I would study dolphin and whale communication but I got more caught up in ecology and ecosystem function. I’m not doing either of those things now, and I live four hours away from the nearest coast. My heart will always belong to the sea and its creatures.
  3. I worked for a year for a Republican member of Congress (!)
  4. I have kept a list of all the books I’ve read since 2005 and wish I’d started earlier.
  5. This is one of three blogs I maintain – the other two are personal and anonymous.

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There was an article in today’s New York Times about people who illegally re-pipe their houses to take advantage of graywater (any water that goes down the drain besides the toilet). Here is a link to the article and some excerpts:

The Dirty Water Underground
By GREGORY DICUM

Greywater Guerrillas, a team focused on promoting and installing clandestine plumbing systems that recycle gray water — the effluent of sinks, showers and washing machines — to flush toilets or irrigate gardens.

To her, this house is as much an emblem of her belief system as a home. Although gray water use is legal in California, systems that conform to the state’s complicated code tend to be very expensive, and Ms. Allen and her fellow guerrilla, Cleo Woelfle-Erskine, are out to persuade the world that water recycling can be a simple and affordable option, as well as being a morally essential one.

They are part of a larger movement centered in the West — especially in arid regions like Arizona, New Mexico and Southern California — that includes both groups that operate within the law and ones that skirt it. The goal is the reuse of home gray water as a way to live within the region’s ecological means. Using their own experience and contributions from others, they have just published a do-it-yourself guide to gray water systems that is also a manifesto for the movement, “Dam Nation: Dispatches From the Water Underground.”

Obviously, the point of plumbing codes is for public health reasons – you wouldn’t want gray or black water getting mixed in with drinking water or even with bathing water. I’m not sure I’d be willing to fiddle with my plumbing any further than running a pipe directly from my kitchen sink into the garden. But even that would be an act of “guerrilla” conservation.

How far would you be willing to go to live by your principles? Would you break the law?

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