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Archive for the ‘ENERGY’ Category

On the blog Energy Economics Exchange, Maximilian Auffhammer, a professor of sustainable development at the University of California, Berkeley, conjectures why economists, while they are flocking to the field of energy economics, are not paying as much attention to water economics. “The reason is simple,” he writes. “The data are terrible.” He expands on this point, and a few others, in an open letter/rant to his water utility, which keeps urging its customers to conserve water during the drought that grinds on in California.  We took particular note of the following:

I get a letter every three months telling me how much water I consumed. I have no idea or way to figure out how much water the drip irrigation I put in with my bare hands uses (compared to the inefficient spray system the previous owner had). Trust me. I tried. I lifted the 30 pound concrete plate over my water meter and chased away a few black widows the size of chickens to find out that my water meter is analog (yes with a needle). Even running my irrigation system at full speed for 15 minutes did not move it significantly. There must be a better way. I can monitor real time electricity load for my house using my cell phone and a rainforest gateway. It must be possible to replace the 19th century meter on my house with something that uploads consumption data to my phone. The black widows want to be left alone.


The way households are left to measure their water usage is archaic, Auffhamer taunts: “How about you roll out some real time meters and let us energy people do some experiments in your service territory!”

 

(via Brett Walton @waltonwater)

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Frack Blog 2

A Pennsylvania village. Photo by Kim Sorvig.

We’re pretty jazzed that the venerable Utne Reader picked up our article on fracking  for its March issue. “Welcome to Frackville” by Kim Sorvig appeared in the June 2013 issue of LAM, and it’s part of Utne’s themed issue on global climate and environmental issues. Utne’s recognition of Sorvig’s piece helps to underscore the ways in which the work of landscape architecture is becoming increasingly critical to cities, regions, and nations that are feeling the effects of fast-unfolding environmental issues and climate change. Here, Sorvig heads to Pennsylvania to try to piece together the many facets of fracking in the landscape.

The ground is pockmarked with pads and pits, the sky aflame with waste gas flaring from tall stacks, visible for miles. “I’ve been to public meetings where drillers say they don’t want to flare; they’d rather be more green,” White says. But new wells are still flared for the first few weeks, when gas may be contaminated. Lack of pipeline and storage capacity may also result in burn-offs. Below us, a flare towers directly over a high-school running track.

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The Fluid and the Solid TRAILER from Alex + Ben on Vimeo.

If you haven’t used the term “Anthropocene” much, you can be forgiven. The term is of fairly recent origin, and it’s used to describe what some believe is a new geologic age: one in which human activity has changed the earth and its atmosphere. It’s a big idea, one that catches a lot of other ideas in its net—climate change being the most powerful. The idea of the Anthropocene lends more weight to what we already understand are the consequences of human activity. Our impact is not just local, national, or global, but temporal. We’ve literally changed the scale of geologic time.

The awesome consequences of human agency on the land are tough to convey without sounding ponderous, but for the filmmakers Alex Chohlas-Wood and Ben Mendelsohn, who are interested in things like infrastructure, technology, and the human/nature interface, much of the story can be told by the landscapes where these earth-changing processes take place. Which is how they came to make a documentary nominally about dredging, dredge landscapes, and sediment flow: The Fluid and the Solid.

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By Arthur Allen

"Get your Farm in the Fight", 1941 - 1945." Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

“Get your Farm in the Fight”, 1941 – 1945.” Courtesy U.S. National Archives.

Environmental issues don’t always focus the minds of the people who write the nation’s farm bills. A 2012 report showing that corn and soy plantings had chewed up 1.3 million acres of grassland in the upper Midwest raised hardly an eyebrow in Congress. Perhaps unsurprising, it took people with guns to draw the legislators’ attention to conservation.

The warnings came from pheasant hunters, who spend $175 million a year in eastern South Dakota (“It’s fun—like shooting free-range chickens,” says one) and have grown increasingly disheartened at seeing their best hunting spots turned into rows of corn. According to a 2012 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the loss in grassland—two Rhode Islands’ worth over five northern states—occurred during five years starting in 2006.

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POWER TO THE PEOPLE

BY MIMI ZEIGER

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You’ve likely heard of William Mulholland. There’s a ridgetop road in the Santa Monica Mountains, Mulholland Drive, named after him that offers breathtaking views of the Los Angeles basin and was the namesake of a David Lynch movie. Tall tales and mythologies swirl around Mulholland, the civil engineer who founded the Los Angeles Aqueduct and brought water to the desert. The aqueduct, which opened on November 5, 1913, and recently celebrated its centennial, would eventually become the water half of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Mulholland’s life would transform into legend. But if the story of L.A. water is well known, what of the power supply, the last letter in LADWP? That’s the question posed by the exhibition LADWP Power, on view at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) through February 2014.

The one-room show, presented on three touch screens and two walls of the center, examines the overlooked electrical infrastructure that seamlessly, almost invisibly, illuminates and drives Los Angeles. “The DWP is iconic and welded to the city’s culture,” says Matthew Coolidge, who founded CLUI in 1994 and is its director. “Mythologized through various media, such as the film Chinatown, it’s part of the noir history of L.A.”

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2000px-Moose-warning.svgPeople living and working in critical wildlife habitat have a new tool in the box, thanks to big data and the Western Governor’s Wildlife Council. The Wildlife Council has just released the Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool (CHAT), which displays information on important wildlife habitat and corridors across 16 western states.

The new mapping tool will allow planners, students, developers, and communities to see what is described as “crucial habitat” at the regional as well as the state and local level. CHATs will enable users to see where wildlife habitat exists and how potential development may affect those areas. The GIS mapping application coordinates data for energy, transportation, and land use planners, but could be used by any member of the public. Several state CHATs are already in use.

Information about the release of the Western Regional CHAT can be found here, but if you want to play around with the state CHATs, they can be accessed below:

State CHATs

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Maybe you’ve noticed things have been a bit more lively here at the  Landscape Architecture Magazine blog of late, and you’d be right. In addition to cranking up our posting to twice a week (!), we’ve been thinking a bit about what we might do to expand our audience and create more of a community of landscape-minded readers.  There are many changes afoot that will be rolled out in 2014, but we’d like your help with some low-hanging fruit, namely our blog roll.

Yes, the blog roll is a venerated tradition in the webs, but often it just becomes a mutual linkfest that highlights the same five well-known news aggregators over and over. We’d like to do something more substantial, and we’d like your help, friendly reader.

Our current blog roll (over on the right—->>) is pretty good, but some of our favorites aren’t posting so much anymore and our sense is that there are a lot more landscape-oriented blogs out there than there were a year ago when we first made the list. That’s where we’d like your help.

So tell us your favorite landscape blogs in the comments below.  We’re interested in original content, rather than aggregators, and we’re curious about anything that shapes landscape, from agriculture to climate to infrastructure to policy to design theory to design tech.  

Here are some we’ve been reading lately–

Rust Wire. Always a fave. News and urban grit from the rust belt.

BakkenBlog. North Dakota oil and gas.

Big Picture Ag. Perspectives on ag policy, food, science.

The Prairie Ecologist. Notes on prairie ecology, restoration, and management.

Small Streets Blog. Life at a plausible scale.

Gizmodo. New life under Geoff Manaugh of bldgblog, but you knew that.

Garden Rant. Various garden-related posts with a strong point of view.

99% Invisible. Blog to accompany the excellent design-oriented podcast.

What are you reading and liking? Suggest blogs in the comments or on Twitter @LandArchMag.

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