In too many parts of the world, the places producing most of the food are also places that require significant irrigation. This represents about 70 percent of global fresh water withdrawal, and produces about a third of the world's crops. Many of the places we're growing our food aren’t the places getting the rainfall needed to support such growth, which has caused us to find other ways of getting the water where we want or need it. But groundwater supplies are diminishing.
If the web of the 2000s was social, the web of this next decade will be civic. Every time you “like” something on Facebook, you’re voting. And it only takes a click of a mouse to sign a petition on Twitter. But what if this kind of civic action can spill off the network and into local government and our neighborhoods?
It’s interesting (and drearily predictable) to see the media and the government co-operating to formulate a narrative (“mindless violence, thuggery, etc.) as the sole explanation for what’s going on in London right now. But we’ve known forever that explosions like this stem from deeper causes — as Nina Power points out in this excellent Guardian comment piece. The levels of social and economic inequality in Britain and the US have become so obscene that the only viable strategy for the established order is to try to focus attention somewhere else.
Venice, Italy is sinking. To save it, Rachel Armstrong says we need to outgrow architecture made of inert materials and, well, make architecture that grows itself. She proposes a not-quite-alive material that does its own repairs and sequesters carbon, too.
Now, as the realization dawns that global food systems are neither resilient nor sustainable, small-scale urban plots are sprouting up everywhere - 2,000 new projects in London alone, by some accounts. In their wake a new phenomenon is evident: design-led proposals to optimise urban food production that combine elements of permaculture, technology, and a whole-systems approach. One such project, proposed by Except Integrated Sustainability, is called Polydome. It offers, say its designers, "a revolutionary approach to greenhouse agriculture with the possibility of commercial scale, net-zero-impact food production".
The Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning Sustainability, along with a few partners, commissioned a plane to fly over the city and capture its every contour with a system of lasers. The result: a map of the city that shows how much energy every single rooftop could be generating, if it had solar panels installed. If the city’s solar potential were realized, the study showed, New York City could get half of the electricity it needs at peak times from rooftop installations.
"The stack flow above depicts the 590 most populated cities sorted column by column by their population between 1950 and 2010, in 5 year intervals, and projected for 2015,2020,2025. You can rollover shapes in order to highlight individual cities and see how their population changed through time compared to the others."
Los Angeles has no business being a major city. That is to say, through the plain, unforgiving lens of physical geography, there simply isn’t enough water to quench the collective thirst of the roughly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. If it weren’t for a handful of visionaries who imagined, planned, and built the L.A. Aqueduct—one of mankind’s most incredible civic work projects to date when it was built back in 1913—the Los Angeles we know and love today would never have been.
Kevin Slavin argues that we're living in a world designed for -- and increasingly controlled by -- algorithms. In this riveting talk from TEDGlobal, he shows how these complex computer programs determine: espionage tactics, stock prices, movie scripts, and architecture. And he warns that we are writing code we can't understand, with implications we can't control.
Calling all couch potatoes. You can live an extra three years if you exercise for just 15 minutes a day – half the 30-minute minimum prescribed by the World Health Organization. That's the heart-warming news from an eight-year study on 400,000 people of all ages in Taiwan. Further studies will be needed to confirm the effect is applicable worldwide, though.
'Largely unseen by public and media, data on players have begun driving clubs’ decisions', Kuper writes, 'particularly decisions about which players to buy and sell'. Chelsea’s performance director, for example, has amassed 32 million data points over 13,000 games. At other clubs, too, obscure statisticians in back-rooms will help shape this summer’s player transfer market. Just as baseball has turned into more of a science, Kuper concludes, soccer will too. This prompted me to wonder: Could statistics and data-mining come to dominate food growing, too? My curiosity was further piqued when I hard about a 'computer that runs your garden' also known as an Automated Garden Facility (AGF) also known as Garduino.
Livable cities draw creative people, and creative people spawn jobs. Some places you’d never expect—small cities not dominated by a university—are learning how to lure knowledge workers, entrepreneurs, and other imaginative types at levels that track or even exceed the US average (30 percent of workers). Here are some surprising destinations from the data of the Martin Prosperity Institute, directed by Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class.
This is an open question, but one I'm going to try (to some extent) to figure out. How much food can urban farms produce, and is it feasible to try to mostly feed a city's population with food grown within a certain distance? I'm trying to think of this purely in numbers. How many calories does a person consume a year? How much growing area would be needed to feed that one person? To feed 1000 people? Or a million?
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