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Cities 1 September 11, 2007

Posted by Tom in Cities, future, Long Now.
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I am going to dedicate a series of posts to cities as they are quickly becoming one of the most popular solutions when thinking about a sustainable future.

To get an idea of future and scale, the Long Now Foundation blog has found this excellent video.

The video is a time lapse of 35 years of Tokyo’s skyline. That is two more years than I have lived.

It reminds me of building a city in Sim City then pressing fast forward as you can see in the trailer for the game (about half way through):


Vertical Farming June 20, 2007

Posted by Tom in anti-car, Cities, Environment, future, Science Fiction (for now), tech news, Techstuff.
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One of the vertcal farm ideas
I have many visions of the future of humanity living in a world that we have finally grown old enough to manage sensibly. I have lots of ideas on this topic but one area I like to dwell on is the future of cities.

I would love to share them all now but I think I will finish my second degree first and get some more knowledge, then they (my ideas) might be taken more seriously and have some positive effect other than spreading ideas (which is, of course, useful). That is how I would like them to be taken so that’s the way I’m doing this.

Anyway one of my personal visions is that we all live close to one another. By this I don’t mean that all humans live crammed into a tiny space.

We will, I hope, reach a collective realization that our personal goals are less fulfilling than that of our planet’s and species’ survival and we will live in communities (I’m not envisaging some future communism) in which all services and needs are taken care of close by. If they aren’t serviced in that region they will be in the next. This will involve a dramatic decrease in the use of transportation of goods and people.

I cannot go into too much detail here as I mentioned earlier I wish to be able to develop this idea further.
What has struck me in the news this week was Vertical farms.We are one step closer to this idea. Vertical farms are skyscrapers built with farms on every floor. They will have a renewable power generator (solar or wind) on the roof that provide energy throughout the building and will have elaborate irrigation systems that recycle all the water.

So while people in cities live close to their food supply (that hasn’t been flown in from miles away), the countryside, outside the population centres, can thrive and seeds can evolve as they should.Some may feel this is removing the natural from food. What many don’t perhaps realize is that this happened a long time ago. What we may be looking at here, is allowing the natural food sources to develop themselves so we can develop our own versions safely without destroying the source.

One has to be careful though as with all miracle solutions, we do not then want to turn the solution into another problem. I would hate to see the remaining countryside be used for biofuel production.
Another projectAll images from the project’s site: http://www.verticalfarm.com/index.php

China sets example for Europe June 18, 2007

Posted by Tom in anti-car, Cities, Environment, tech news.
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In my search for an interesting piece to follow up on that had nothing to do with phones or Leopards I stumbled across a brilliant technological solution to decrease greenhouse gasses and energy consumption.
This can only deemed as brilliant for its simplicity.Europe should wake up and take notice.
Yes that’s right. T-shirts.
Planetsave is reporting that Chinese workers now have to wear T-shirts instead of suits in a move to turn air-conditioning down.
I have frequently discussed this with friends, colleagues and students and we all agree it is sheer idiocy to wear a suit in August to get to the office and sit in cold air-conditioning.
The sight of men in suits in 35ºC + (95ºF) temperatures walking to lunch is very common. I wonder what they would be wearing if there was no air-conditioning in their cars or offices.
I vote to start a pro T-Shirt movement. The cooler the better (and once we are all wearing t-shirts we can also wear trainers and walk to work).

No tech legs May 22, 2007

Posted by Tom in Cities, Environment, health.
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In reference to Seacat’s post in What it’s like, I thought I’d add a few simple thoughts.When I go to work on public transport:I leave my houseI wait for a busI get on the busI get off the busI get on the metroI get off the metroI walk about 5 mins to workI arrive at workTotal time taken: 20 minutesActivity undertaken: avoiding looking at people, reading for 10 mins (if I get a seat)When walking to work:I leave my houseI walk down the roadI walk through the parkI walk down a polluted streetI walk through another parkI notice the architectureI stop for a coffeeI speak to someoneI notice a different view of the building on the cornerI think about my dayI appreciate my cityI get annoyed that there is a hole in the pavementI see stressed people waiting at the traffic lights (and smile inwardly)I find a new road to go downI notice the ground (and appreciate it)Oh and I listen to my latest acquirements from emusicTime taken: 1 hour and 20 minutesActivities undertaken: see above and add 1 hour twenty minutes of exercise.Satisfaction rate HUGENote Anyone attempting to do this should wear deodorant and carry work shoes in a bag :-)Also… I tend to take Public transport home after work.

Hot Energy Issues May 15, 2007

Posted by Tom in Cities, Environment, future.

Solucar solar thermal power station
Solucar solar thermal power station

I remembered this story today when talking to João and Hugo, a couple of witty students in my BEC Higher course, about my latest project for my technology degree. It was about solar power, more specifically, photovoltaic panels (the solar power panels we see on roofs). I then remembered a story(real player needed) I’d seen on the BBC’s sci-tech website about a new type of solar plant in Spain.
This is solar thermal power and it is truly awe inspiring. Very basically, there is field of very, very large mirrors that shine the rays of the sun onto a tower. There, water is heated by the concentrated rays of the sun (over 400ºC) which is used to create electrical energy. One field creates 11 Megawatts of power, enough for 6000 homes.
There are zero emissions.
Some will say the tower and its light is unsightly. I would say that it is, in fact, beautiful like I think wind power mills are awe inspiring. I am amazed that people still prefer to protect a landscape while breathing noxious air.

Australia's solar tower
Australia’s projected Solar tower
Another , even more amazing project is in Australia where the technology simply takes heat from the sun and directs it up a tower. What makes it potentially more interesting than solar thermal power is that it does not need water (making deserts more feasible for location) and that they can generate more than 200MW. Having said that, the project’s own website includes a warning that deserts need to be protected as they are also necessary to our climate and the earth’s systems.
These new power stations are truly the power of the future… Now to buy property in the sahara :-)

Stressless Cities with Urban Nature May 11, 2007

Posted by Tom in Alta de Lisboa, Cities, social problems.
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Next time you’re feeling stressed while walking around town… Stop, breathe in and remember to look for any signs of Urban Nature.