Frank Lloyd Wright by The Green Medium

When we think about the connections we have to nature, there are plenty of complex systems that have been explained in a variety of ways which try to better illustrate our indirect impacts on the world that surrounds us. Whether in classes, or sustainability campaigns, or insightful posts previously made on this blog, there exists an effort to uncover linkages to our environment to which we may be otherwise in the dark.

These paths of thinking have helped me better conceptualize what effects we have as organisms and what role we play in a greater ecosystem, but I also think there’s a benefit to starting from a surface view. 

Let’s take our direct contact to this planet as a starting point. What is more tangible than our homes? The constructed places in which we make our own declaration of space?

Frank Lloyd Wright was a pioneer of architecture, a visionary designer, and was arguably an early leader of the ’sustainable architecture’ movement, albeit under a different name - during his time, Wright proclaimed himself an educator of the style “organic architecture”, which he himself was the founder of as a field of study.

The buildings first thought of at the mention of his name are likely those best-known and frequently pictured on coffee table books and postcards. There’s the Fallingwater structure in Pennsylvania - so-named as it partially reaches out and over a waterfall. Or the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, for which Wright made the housing of numerous art pieces a statement in artistic vision itself. Then there's Taliesin, Wright’s own private residence, stretching along the particularly peaceful landscape of small village Spring Green in Wisconsin.

In these pieces, Wright’s early commitment to the reconciliation of artificial structure with the environment around is seen. But this underlying promise to a respect of environment persists even in his final projects - in particular, Usonia.

The Usonian houses and Usonian architecture movement were thought of initially by Wright in reaction to the Depression, which Wright saw as a swinging point in architecture, demanding a future in which the design of homes would need to reflect post-crisis concerns. A future which would necessitate the convergence of utilitarian, simplistic design and the principles of organic architecture.

The original Usonian homes were built by Wright, later on directly disseminating into the work of his students, and with time, reaching further on in later inspired works by those who had only ever had the chance to study Wright in reading. 

Characteristic of the Usonian homes is a smaller structure, with an emphasis on natural building materials. Windows often extended the length of walls. Floors in Usonian homes were typically concrete - a practical choice, as they would retain heat in the winter and keep cool in the summer. Kitchens were small, and the houses themselves were often but one story. 

Unique communities were built in the areas wherein multiple Usonian homes were situated. There were no fences, and land plots were circular rather than square. These elements, along with the opportunity to be custom-built a house by Frank Lloyd Wright himself, peaked the interest of those who would become future Usonian homeowners. Many of them would stay in these Usonian communities well into old age. Roland Reisley, a resident of one of the original Usonian homes built by Wright himself, said of his home “I came to realize after some years living here that there’d not been a day in my life when I didn’t see something beautiful."

Wright’s work never stopped at “working with” the land. It instead extended beyond, acting itself as an ode to embracing the space granted to us.

 

https://www.thoughtco.com/usonian-style-home-frank-lloyd-wright-177787

https://www.dezeen.com/2015/02/03/frank-lloyd-wright-buildings-nominated-unesco-world-heritage-list-guggenheim-taliesin-fallingwater/

 http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/usonia-1/

http://99percentinvisible.org/episode/usonia-the-beautiful/

OCEARCH by The Green Medium

I love sharks and I love to snoop, and because we live in a beautiful and great world ripe with huge amounts of technological innovation and growth, these seemingly unrelated interests of mine have found a convergence. With the help of OCEARCH, I have been keeping tabs on my friend Oscar for a couple months now. OCEARCH.org provides information about the movement of sharks around the world, Oscar the Mako shark being just one of many subjects of study. In collaboration with other partners in oceanographic and marine biology research, OCEARCH pilots research expeditions in order to gather data on shark biology, health, and movement. They do so through a process of tagging. To illustrate the process of tagging which these institutes use to keep track of the sharks, a video is provided on their site.

 

Shark tagging requires the capture of the animals on a platform structure, wherein they are raised out of water, and are then subject to the process the research team must perform on each shark. Blood samples are taken, sharks are checked for bodily health (including a search for parasites), and finally, a satellite transmitter is drilled onto the each shark’s dorsal fin.

When I first viewed this video, the process seemed invasive and I immediately wondered how the painful process would be justified by this organization. It turns out, I wasn’t the first for whom the footage sparked this question. Chris Fischer, Founding Chairman and Expedition Leader of OCEARCH, has responded to these concerns and uses behaviour sharks exhibit amongst themselves to explain why tagging is not harmful. The drilling process causes no more harm to the sharks than their recreational biting, which happens even in shark mating rituals. Additionally, shark fins lack nerve supply and therefore the process is not painful. Additionally, the drilling seems to have no long-term effects beyond the first couple of hours after release. The tracking data allows for data collection and observance of shark behaviour and trends in movement which can then be used by students, researchers, and educators alike within related studies. Or, people in completely unrelated fields - people like me - might decide to keep tabs on a shark named Oscar for months.

 

http://www.wired.co.uk/article/secret-lives-great-white-sharks

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2014/01/30/shark-tagging-tracking-separating-fact-from-fiction/

https://www.liveviewgps.com/blog/great-white-sharks-behavior-location-monitored-gps-trackers/

This Term's Writer: Isabella Nikolaidis by The Green Medium

Hello all! I’m Bella and I’ll be your resident writer at the Green Medium this week. 

I’m currently a student living in Montreal. Now in the summer, I’ve been spending time off from work in some beautiful public parks (and, I will admit, an equal amount indoors, lazing and reading in front of a fan to escape the heat). 

I have had the opportunity to write for the Green Medium once before, and am so proud and excited to have seen this project grow since. It’s an absolute privilege to be able to share this online space with other youth interested in combatting a response of apathy to environmental issues, and Elizabeth, Matt, and Sam deserve huge congratulations in recently receiving an Alberta Emerald Award for maintaining this platform since it was but a humble sprout!

Thank you! I’ll be back in subsequent posts to talk about shark tracking, as well as everyone’s favourite architecture brat, Frank Lloyd Wright.

Wishing you a mind-clearing walk in the sun,

Bella 

(As far as introductory pictures go - here's a capture of me feeling guilty after picking some daisies on a nighttime bike ride. Thanks as always to Julia Heaton for keeping me accountable!)

The Paris Agreement Beyond Trump - A Look at the Bigger Picture by The Green Medium

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Let’s not talk about Donald Trump. I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I’m tired of hearing about Donald Trump and the United States. I didn't want to ignore the rest of the world and was curious to find out about the plans of the other signatories of the Paris Agreement. Because while the US Government takes a step back, the rest of the world is making huge strides. Let’s look at the bigger picture, shall we?

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Climate Agreement is one of the most monumental global achievements since the Kyoto Protocol and brings together 146 countries to fight climate change. It sets the firm objective of limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C and instructs member nations to formulate policies outlined in Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (iNDCs).

Delegates celebrate after the signing of the Paris Agreement. Source: Carbonbrief.org

Delegates celebrate after the signing of the Paris Agreement. Source: Carbonbrief.org

However, assigning responsibility and deciding what constitutes a country’s fair contribution to such an agreement can be very complicated. One could add up a country's total greenhouse gas emissions [3] but this neglects the fact that a lot of developed countries “outsource” their emissions to developing countries for manufacturing goods [1] [2]. According to The Guardian, the most fair way is to calculate the per-person carbon footprint [10]. With these complications in place, I picked some of the most egregious countries based on different criteria for analysis - China, India, Brazil, and Canada.

With a population of 1.3 billion, China needs to balance rapid industrialization and urbanization with environmental care and climate change. It is currently the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases [3]. It ratified the Paris agreement on 3rd September 2016 and according to its iNDC, it will, peak CO2 emissions around 2030 and will lower them by 60% to 65% from 2005 levels, increase its share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption by around 20%, and increase forest stock volume by 4.5 billion cubic meters. It is on track to meeting these requirements and is trailblazing the path ahead.

Jungliangcheng power plant in Tianjin, China. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Jungliangcheng power plant in Tianjin, China. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Moving south, India is currently the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gases even though per capita emissions are much lower than those of developed countries [3] [5]. The bulk of its emissions come from its energy industry with a staggering projected energy demand growth of 660% by 2031 [6]. Reduction of coal use and growth of renewable energy are India’s main tools in the fight to reach the Paris Agreement’s goals [11]. It is set to overachieve its iNDC target of 40% non-fossil fuel capacity by 2030 [12]. In addition, if it’s Draft Electricity Plan is implemented, India could reach 57% non fossil fuel capacity by 2027 [12]. India is setting an example that will hopefully inspire other countries.

The world's largest solar power plant in Kamuthi, TN, India. Source: Electrek.co

The world's largest solar power plant in Kamuthi, TN, India. Source: Electrek.co

Brazil is a very interesting study in greenhouse gas emissions. Most of its emissions come from land-use change which translates to deforestation of the Amazon basin, as opposed to energy use [7] [8]. Due to government policies to combat this deforestation, Brazil’s GHG emissions have significantly reduced since 1990. However, with an economic recession, and reduced spending on environmental matters, its emissions are on the rise [13]. Nevertheless, it has declared an emissions reduction target in its iNDC of 37% below 2005 levels and is a global leader in the fight against climate change [14]. It is times like this that highlight the importance of developed countries financially supporting developing countries.

And finally the Canucks. Canada accounts for 1.6% of current GHG emissions [3]. It ratified the Paris Accord on 5th October 2016. The recently announced Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change is a major step in meeting the accord's goals [9]. According to the tenets of the framework, Canada is targeting an emissions reduction of 30% below 2005 levels [9]. It is aiming to achieve this with measures such as Ontario joining the Western Climate Initiative cap-and-trade system, Alberta’s coal reduction, carbon tax and oil sands emissions cap, Quebec’s new high-rise building rules, and BC’s low carbon fuel standard [9]. However, according to the Climate Action Tracker organisation, Canada’s effort-sharing in this matter, though significant, is inadequate and it needs to do significantly more in order to meet the 2 °C requirement.

All in all, the world is moving forward with the Paris Agreement's stipulations. While the measures may not be enough in many respects, they still show promise for the future.

With lots of love,

Adnan

Works Cited

[1] "What Are 'outsourced Emissions'?" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 14 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 June 2017.

[2] Glen P., Peters, et al. "Growth in Emission Transfers via International Trade from 1990 to 2008." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, no. 21, 2011, p. 8903. EBSCOhost,

[3] Olivier, Jos G. I, Jeroen A. H. W Peters, and Greet Janssens-Maenhout. Trends In Global Co₂ Emissions 2012 Report. The Hague: PBL Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, 2012.

[4] China First iNDC: http://www4.unfccc.int/ndcregistry/PublishedDocuments/China%20First/China%27s%20First%20NDC%20Submission.pd

[5] Thomalla, Frank, et al. "Stockholm Environment Institute, Project Report-2009."

[6] TERI (2008) Mitigation Options for India: the Role of the International Community, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi.

[7] Galford, Gillian L., et al. "The Amazon frontier of land-use change: croplands and consequences for greenhouse gas emissions." Earth Interactions 14.15 (2010): 1-24.

[8] Ferdman, Roberto A., and Lily Kuo. "Brazil Has the World’s Weirdest Carbon Footprint."Quartz. Quartz, 08 Nov. 2013. Web. 13 June 2017. 

[9] Canada.ca Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change

https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/weather/climatechange/pan-canadian-framework/introduction.html#1_4

[10] Clark, Duncan. "Which Nations Are Most Responsible for Climate Change?" The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 21 Apr. 2011. Web. 13 June 2017.

[11] India’s First iNDC:  http://www4.unfccc.int/submissions/INDC/Published%20Documents/India/1/INDIA%20INDC%20TO%20UNFCCC.pdf

[12] Tracker, Climate Action. "India." CLIMATE ACTION TRACKER. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2017. <http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/india.html>

[13] Darby, Megan. "Brazil's Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise on Deforestation Spike." Climate Home - Climate Change News. Climate Home, 28 Oct. 2016. Web. 13 June 2017.

[14] Howard, Brian Clark. "Brazil Leads World in Reducing Carbon Emissions by Slashing Deforestation." National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 25 May 2017. Web. 13 June 2017.