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Posts Tagged ‘carbon emissions’

AMAZON FIRE: WHO OWNS THE AMAZON?

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY CATHERINE SEAVITT NORDENSON, ASLA

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2020 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Who owns the Amazon? In news reports about the unprecedented number of fires burning in this vast forest during the past several months, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has vehemently answered “Brazil”—punctuating that claim with the charge that any nation holding a different opinion is simply a colonizer, usually a European one. Yet defined in terms of the river’s massive watershed, the Amazon rain forest—the world’s largest such tropical biome—falls within eight South American countries: Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Suriname, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, and Guyana.

Those same eight polities have been embroiled in a seven-year legal battle with Amazon.com, Inc. and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, who would very much like to own .amazon—the domain name, that is. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers—the independent body that vets global Internet addresses—has sided with Bezos. American corporate interests, once again, seem to have the upper hand over local cultural heritage and place-name identity, despite concerns voiced by Brazil’s minister of foreign affairs and representatives from other governments that share the watershed.

Certainly, “owning” the Amazon has always been bound up in questions of sovereignty. And sovereignty has long been caught up in authoritative claims of possession. (more…)

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BY MEG CALKINS, FASLA

New technologies can reduce the environmental footprint of the most-used construction material.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE JULY 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Concrete in the 21st century promises to be a more sustainable material, and given the nine billion metric tons used globally each year, it must be. Portland cement, the binding agent in ordinary concrete, has a very high carbon footprint, resulting in just under one ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) released for every ton of cement produced. With 4.2 billion metric tons of the binder used each year worldwide, cement production is responsible for nearly 8 percent of total global carbon emissions. The high lime content of ordinary portland cement contributes about two-thirds of cement’s CO2 impact through the process of limestone calcination. The other one-third of CO2 released is from combustion of fossil fuels.

Technologies to improve the carbon footprint of concrete are currently in the early stages of development, but some, including carbon sequestration in concrete and substantial reductions of cement using energetically modified cement, are now commercially available. Concrete surface products for paving and walls to scrub air pollution, as well as new self-healing concrete products, are also worth investigating. We have heard about some of these innovations for a decade or more in the research community, but many are finally being brought to market—some more quickly than others. Europe is ahead of the United States in the adoption of these technologies, largely because of more rigorous clean air and carbon reduction initiatives.

New technologies in any field can take a long time to move from the laboratory to the marketplace, but (more…)

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BY TIMOTHY A. SCHULER

An ambitious forest restoration project in Ashland, Oregon, aims to reduce the risk that wildfire poses to residents—and their water supply.

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE MARCH 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Though the warning signs had been present for months, the bad news officially came in March 2018, when forecasters at the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center (NWCC) in Portland, Oregon, released their long-range forecast of the upcoming fire season. Though it varied from state to state, in Oregon, light snowpack and higher-than-average temperatures combined to create a highly combustible landscape. “I’m worried about the 2018 fire season,” John Saltenberger, the fire weather program manager at the NWCC, told a Portland television station.

It was discouraging news for a state that, like California and other western states, has seen a growing number of increasingly intense wildfires in recent years. According to Oregon Department of Forestry statistics, 69 percent of the state’s largest recorded wildfires have occurred in the past 20 years. The largest, 2012’s Long Draw Fire, scorched nearly 560,000 acres of predominantly federal land in the southeastern part of the state. In the geological age known as the Anthropocene, the current epoch might one day be known as the Era of Megafires. A megafire is typically defined as a single wildfire that exceeds 100,000 acres. Such fires are “nearly commonplace now,” says Chris Chambers, who for the past 15 years has served as the forest division chief for the City of Ashland, Oregon. “Whereas 20, 30 years ago, a 100,000-acre fire was unheard of.” (more…)

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BY MICHAEL DUMIAK

A Dutch vision of clean energy in northern water. Does it have a chance?

This week, LAM is joining more than 250 media outlets for Covering Climate Now, flooding the zone, as it were, with climate coverage in the run-up to the United Nations Climate Action Summit on September 23. Landscape and landscape architecture are deeply implicated in the future of climate progress, or a lack of it. Over the past decade, LAM has dug into climate issues of landscape in numerous dimensions, mapping the big resource picture as well as local attempts to fend off increasingly apparent hazards of global warming—from the procurement of materials to the integrity of the food supply chain. Each day this week we’ll bring you excellent stories from recent years that follow landscape architects acting and thinking about climate change and the landscape.

FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

A tall blond man is walking a Russian wolfhound along a stream. The stream is moving through beach sand into a large lagoon off the Kijkduin promenade in a seaside suburb of The Hague, Netherlands. It’s not quite beach season, and it’s blustery. Over scudding clouds the sun coming up is bright, but the gray sea is running fast and flecked with white, and the wind blows foam up the beach. Over the man’s shoulder are tall, reedy dunes and the tips of towering chimneys, billowing clouds of steam.

These chimneys, up to 575 feet high, rise from the Maasvlakte 2 harbor complex, where the Port of Rotterdam sits across from the Hook of Holland. This point is where some of the most important interactions between the North Sea and its neighbors are happening and will happen over the next three decades.

Maasvlakte 2 is a massive human intervention, another grand bargain between Dutch ingenuity and the sea: In exchange for not swallowing them in cold saltwater, the Netherlands promises the sea a modicum of foresight, hardheaded commercial instincts, and very good engineering. With 365 million cubic meters of sand, (more…)

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THE GREEN NEW DEAL, LANDSCAPE, AND PUBLIC IMAGINATION

As part of an ongoing effort to make content more accessible, LAM will be making select stories available to readers in Spanish. For a full list of translated articles, please click here.

BY NICHOLAS PEVZNER

FROM THE JULY 2019 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

 

Since the 2018 midterm elections, the Green New Deal has catapulted into the public conversation about tackling climate change and income inequality in America. It has inspired a diverse coalition of groups on the left, including climate activists, mainstream environmental groups, and social justice warriors. The Green New Deal is not yet fully fleshed out in Congress—the most complete iteration so far is a nonbinding resolution put forward in the House by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and a companion measure introduced in the Senate by Senator Ed Markey (D-MA). At their cores, these bills are an urgent call to arms for accelerating the decarbonization of the U.S. economy through a federal jobs program that would create millions of green jobs—a 10-year national mobilization on a number of fronts aimed at reducing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The resolution text itself is a laundry list of possible goals and strategies aimed at immediately addressing climate change and radically cutting U.S. carbon emissions. These proposals are ambitious in scale and breadth: a national target of 100 percent “clean, renewable, and zero-emission” energy generation; a national “smart” grid; aggressive building upgrades for energy efficiency; decarbonization of the manufacturing, agriculture, and transportation sectors; increased investment in carbon capture technologies; and the establishment of the United States as a global exporter of green technology. What such an effort will entail on the ground is not yet clear, but if even only some of these stated goals are achieved, the Green New Deal will represent a transformation of both the American economy and landscape on a scale not seen since the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his original New Deal of the 1930s and 1940s. (more…)

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BY ZACH MORTICE

Aerial photo of damaged homes along the New Jersey shore after Hurricane Sandy. Photo credit: Greg Thompson/USFWS, Wikimedia Commons.

The Union of Concerned Scientists’ recent report on the economic damage and displacement that sea-level rise flooding will unleash called for investments “in a range of coastal adaptive measures,” such as “the protection of wetlands, and barrier islands, and other natural flood risk reduction methods” and other “natural infrastructure.” That puts the onus of surviving sea-level rise very clearly on landscape architects.

The report, Underwater: Rising Seas, Chronic Floods, and the Implications for US Coastal Real Estate, which the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) compiled with help from the real estate website Zillow, shows the consequences of sea-level rise in the short and long term, down to the state, city, and zip code levels of granularity. Released in June, it estimates lost houses, lost home value, lost tax base, and lost population by the years 2035 and 2100. (more…)

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BY BRADFORD MCKEE

FROM THE FEBRUARY 2018 ISSUE OF LANDSCAPE ARCHITECTURE MAGAZINE.

Image by Jocelyn Augustino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

In November, Moody’s Investors Service, the bond rating agency, released a cautionary report on climate change. Looking ahead, the report said, the effects of what it describes as climate trends and climate shocks are sure to become a “growing negative credit factor” for states, localities, or utilities that don’t appear to be responding to potential climate change effects through mitigation or adaptation. Cities and others issue bonds to borrow money for building things such as infrastructure or schools. They need investors to know they’re a good risk. Moody’s came out to say that it has begun deciding, based on climate resilience among a matrix of other factors, whether a given risk is good or bad. “If you’re exposed,” one Moody’s analyst told Bloomberg, “we know that.”

The other of the two biggest rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, is also keenly onto climate (it and Moody’s together run 80 percent of the bond rating business). It released a report in October to explain how municipal bond issuers will be affected by climate impacts. Like Moody’s, S&P specified two theaters of risk: the sudden extreme event, such as a hurricane, and “more gradual changes to the environment affecting land use, employment, and economic activity that support credit quality.”

This may all seem very back-office in the design world, and for now it is. It is also, critically, moving to the fore as the federal stance on climate change and its many hazards is not only in retreat but in vicious denial. Trump administration appointees, who are like drones for industry, are ordering the removal of references to climate change in agency communications. The administration is also purging our government of good-faith, (more…)

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