PARK(ing) Day: A Celebration of Public Space

Park(ing) Day
Park Space > Car Space

Today is Park(ing) day, a day where hundreds of parking spaces in cities around the world will be overtaken by the people, turned into public, park space. This is a wonderful idea – taking back car space for the people and the planet.

As the campaign website states it, “PARK(ing) Day is an annual, worldwide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good.”

From the press release (pdf): [emphasis/links added]

Originally invented in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio, PARK(ing) Day is a grassroots, “open-source” art project that challenges people to rethink the way streets are used. “In urban centers around the world, inexpensive curbside parking results in increased traffic, wasted fuel and more pollution,” says Rebar’s Matthew Passmore. “The strategies that generated these conditions are not sustainable, nor do they promote a healthy, vibrant human habitat. PARK(ing) Day is about re-imagining the possibilities of the urban landscape.

Since 2005, the project has blossomed into a worldwide grassroots movement: PARK(ing) Day 2009 included more than 700 “PARK” installations in more than 140 cities in 21 countries on six continents. This year, the project continues to expand to urban centers across the globe, including first-time PARK installation in Tehran, Iran.

More information regarding local PARK(ing) Day activities and a global map of all participating cities are available at parkingday.org.

Similar ideas have been taking form around the world in the last decade: reclaiming areas of the city for nature, converting roadways into pedestrian-only areas and making cities more people-friendly. I hope that someday all our cities will look more like the people are the dominate species, not cars.

How Much Is Left?

How Long Will The Bounty Last?

I’m taking the week off to head out of town with the family. I’ve got some drafts in the works, but it won’t be until I get back before I finish them. Expect some posts next week sometime. Until then, enjoy this great interactive inforgraphic…

I’ve been discussing limits in the last few posts. Here is a great interactive infographic put together by Scientific America that shows the limits of what our planet can provide. If we keep growing our economy, producing (mostly) useless junk and waste, how long can we expect to keep it up?

It reminds me of peak oil. Of all the wasteful things we use oil for (fuel is the biggest one – so many other things we are capable of using as fuel and energy that are renewable and sustainable), we are running out of oil incredibly quickly. But there are much more important things that we use from oil, like plastics and rubber for medical supplies, for instance. we would be able to keep these more important (and less destructive) uses of oil longer if we gave up the heavily destructive and wasteful uses like fuel. It’s all about sustainable scale and efficient allocation. We’ve got to make the non-renewable resources last and focus on transitioning to using only renewable resources within their ecological limits.

Have a good week, I’ll be back…

Earth Overshoot & Natural Debt


Earth Overshoot Day 2010
Our Natural Accounts Run Red

Today is the official day of Earth Overshoot: the first day of the year our natural capital spending is in the red. This type of natural debt is far more destructive than its monetary counterpart (natural debt meaning debt owed of natural capital, not a debt that is natural – there is no such thing). Instead of being able to pay back this loan, we’re actually making it harder to pay our bills next year and the year after.

Overshoot is a term used often by biologists to describe a population that consumes more than the system can support. This could be a pack of grey wolves in the Northern Territories that is eating more deer than can possible be born and grow within the year. What does that mean? With less deer this year to breed, there will be less deer next year to eat. The deer the wolves eat next year will deplete their reserve even further. Eventually no deer will be around to eat and the wolves will starve.

We’re doing the same thing today with the Earth. As the Global Footprint Network puts it,

“For most of human history, humanity has been able to live off of nature’s interest – consuming resources and producing carbon dioxide at a rate lower than what the planet was able to regenerate and reabsorb each year.

But approximately three decades ago, we crossed a critical threshold, and the rate of human demand for ecological services began to outpace the rate at which nature could provide them. This gap between demand and supply – known as ecological overshoot – has grown steadily each year. It now takes one year and six months to regenerate the resources that humanity requires in one year.

The bummer here is that we can’t migrate to a new territory: there’s only one Earth. There will only ever be one Earth. One Planet. That’s how much we’ve been given, best we figure out how to use it well. We need to create a sustainable scale to our society and economy.

Gas Tank
Maxed Out: Earth Doesn't Have Give Out Credit

Overshoot is directly related to carrying capacity – and biologists know that when a population consumes more than the system can renew, this overshoot often leads to a mass die-off.  We’re already watching the most massive extinction since the dinosaurs, our biological diversity is dwindling at unheard-of rates. Perhaps this should be seen as a warning to our own existence? After all, we are part of nature.

Celebrate Earth Overshoot Day by donating your car and buying a bike, calling your congressman, writing the president, trading your oil company job for a green job, building resiliency in your local community and supporting your local economy. Have a great anti-Holiday!

See my cross-post on Post Growth and out my guest post on Green Growth Cascadia about Earth Overshoot Day. Image Credits: Global Footprint Network.

Resiliency & Peak Oil

Something I have been thinking a lot about lately is resiliency, both personal and communal. It’s a main topic in the book of the month, The Transition Handbook, too. What is resilience? It is the ability of a system to absorb or adapt to external changes and shocks. Essentially, it’s the ability to roll with the punches. This seems to me to be an incredibly valuable trait to have as a strong, independent human being. More importantly, it’s something we should instill in our communities and the systems upon which we rely for sustaining and enriching our lives.

We seem to be talking a lot about climate change lately, yet we should be just as worried about peak oil. I am begining to think we should worry a bit more about it, actually. Oil is in everything. Either directly or indirectly, oil rules our lives and touches everything we rely on. So what happens when we run out? Well, it’s not as important as what happens after the peak. After we cross the point of less supply yet increasing demand.

After the peak prices go up, quickly. The rise in oil prices will result in a rise in food prices, clothing prices, transportation costs, and just about everything else. This wave of cost increases will make it very difficult for everyone who is not extremely rich, especially those of us in the middle class, and even more so for those near or just under the poverty level.

Watch this little video and think about how your community. Are you fostering resilience? Perhaps you should investigate the Transition Movement, too.

Oh, a site note: I am officially a licensed professional engineer. I passed my exams. Cheers!

The Earth Bleeds Out

If only the words “back from whence ye came” could really have magical powers and plug the mortal wound we have inflicted upon the Gulf of Mexico (and soon her bigger cousin, the Atlantic Ocean and Eastern Coastline). Whilst our human brains convince us over and over again that we are above nature, can outsmart her, or take over her services, she shows us again and again the error in our ways. From Katrina, to Taiwan, to Haiti and many more, Mother Nature is an unrelenting and all-powerful presence in our lives. This shouldn’t be seen as an unwelcomed presence – far too often we seem to run away from nature, when we are, in fact, of nature and in nature.

I have been avoiding writing about the Gulf Disaster because it seems pretty well covered: it’s everywhere, whether you read it, watch it, or listen to it. However, I couldn’t resist promoting this incredibly moving image tool: Ifitwasmyhome.com. What would the oil disaster look like if it was centered over your home? Check it out for me here in Seattle: (Thanks to nef’s Triple Crunch Blog for first showing me this site)

Gush Forth! Oh, Mighty Earth!

Imagine this were true: the largest populated area in the Pacific Northwest would be almost entirely covered in oil, even up over the Canadian border. They’re our allies, but I can’t imagine they’d be happy with that type of sharing. All of the Olympic Rainforest and National Park would be dripping wet with crude. Lake Chelan would be filled with black gold. As far south as Centralia and stretching over the many islands of the Puget Sound – all wiped out by BP’s greed for a fossil fuel. Good-bye Orcas! good-bye Salmon! Audios watersheds, fisheries, and my beautiful hometown.

They seem completely incapable of stopping the leak (some wonder if they won’t be able to do it or it might wait until Christmas). Personally, I think it is motivation to sell your car, ride your bike, and vote for a constitutional amendment outlawing corporate personhood (had this occurred prior to 1886, the government could have liquidated BP’s assets to cover everything and thrown everyone involved in jail).

All of this is the direct result of our lust for oil. We are destroying the largest fishery in the US (something like 70% of our shellfish and 30% of all our seafood comes from the Gulf), destroying priceless natural capital. For what? BP’s giant profits. This won’t finish them unless we take them to court, and even that is doubtful to have a large, positive result within a decade. At least the local economy will get a bump in GDP while everyone rushes down there to clean it up, right?

What do you think of the developments down there?

Obama, Lead Us To Clean Energy Now!

God love the actor who stands up for the environment, but there is something a little more significant (for me at least) when if comes from Robert Redford. (Maybe because he’s one of my favorites and one of the most respectable actors in Hollywood) See his challenge to President Obama:

Way to go, Mr. Redford! Thanks to Climate Progress for introducing this video to me.

Four Years. Go.

We have four years to set how the quality of life will be for the 1000 years on this planet. These next few years represent the most pivotal in the history of humankind. We have significantly altered the face of our planet and it is coming down to the wire: we only have a short time before our actions will have either set in motion huge, destructive environmental changes or alter the face of human society to live within the means our planet provides us.

The Four Years. Go. campaign is a new way of “inciting a movement,” present initially by a core group of four organizations. However, they note that this is a global issue and once enough funding is raised the campaign will expand to include a more global group of organizations. As they website says,

“There is no plan, at least no ‘master plan’, managed from the top.

The path, instead, will be to foster a self-organizing, emerging open-space of collaboration and creativity among individuals, NGOs, companies and communities.

The idea is to incite a movement.  And, for that movement to catalyze a newly vibrant world of wildly diverse and inspired initiatives to co-create a transformed human future.

However, so that we don’t rely on self-organization alone, FOUR YEARS. GO.does plan to provide tools and resources that will genuinely empower an authentic global conversation and catalyze the prevailing sense of urgency into creative, effective action.”

Watch their great video that aims to help inspire movement on this front:

The video is available for download and on YouTube. Check out the campaign site here.