Friday, 7 April 2023

exposome (10. 658)

We learn via the New Shelton wet/dry that the field of exposomics was coined in 2005 to describe the <aetiology of chronic disease and cancers due to environmental factors and has since been expanded as a heuristic approach to gauging exposure to pollutants and how toxins are metabolised and change in the body once incorporated. Taken rather dismissively like the statistic that we swallow a fair share of spiders annually, the idea that we ingest a credit card per week of microplastics ought to be a cause for alarm and what’s inert and what’s potentially reactive and enduring is a big unknown for public health and well-being as we continue to trash our planet.

Thursday, 23 March 2023

poly s tyrene (10. 631)

Artist and beachcomber Duke Riley has turned the trash he has gathered washed up on the shore into art in various forms including a selection of oceanic plastic transformed into scrimshaw recalling its original motifs, portraying those whom profit off of our collective addiction to single-use and out-of-sight conundrums just like the ships’ captains and corporations, addressing both past and present injustices and criminal exploitation of the environment and the inured consumer.

Sunday, 19 March 2023

cross-cut (10. 620)

Introduced with the invention of the process of paper recycling, pulping (plus the discussion of the printed page as the medium of record) in an exchange between Matthias Koops and King George III, Tedium presents an interesting historical survey of the development of paper shredding, destroying that record of information, promoting privacy and salvaging the base medium, the mechanism first patented in 1910 by Abbot Augustus Low, a serial tinkerer and possibly by modern reckoning “patent troll” now forgotten but contemporarily only surpassed Thomas Edison. The shredding strips, called fantastically paper excelsior, and how they were created were subject to a series of lawsuits beginning in the 1930s with the publisher of anti-Nazi material, Adolf Ehinger, adapting a pasta maker to destroy errant copies of his pamphlets with competitors suppressing the innovative process with legal wrangling and countersuits. While Ehinger may not have been the paper shredders first and only inventor, he was the first to recognise its practical use in the Information Age and informed (see also) the industry as it exists today. Much more at Tedium at the link above.

Thursday, 23 February 2023

8x8 (10. 566)

scoby: manufacturing electronics out of a kombucha culture  

ngc 1433: more incredible infrared imaging of neighbouring galaxies from JWST  

meanwhile back at the manse: documenting changing American architectural aesthetics in Barbie’s Dream Home  

recalculating: Karen Jacobsen—the original GPS voice multi-modal: code-switching in texting in Hong Kong  

kbbl: music streaming service is offering AI hosts with generative chatter—via Super Punch  

55 cancri ๐›ฟ: a collection of the most bizarre exoplanets discovered so far  

fomes formentarius: introducing the fungus that has the potential to replace plastics

Wednesday, 7 December 2022

blue marble (10. 368)

Photographed by one of the crew, likely Harrison Schmitt or Gene Cernan but ever member took turns taking pictures with the Hasselblad camera, of the Apollo XVII mission on its way to the Moon from a distance of just under thirty thousand kilometers on this day in 1972. Backlit and slightly rounded—gibbous and hence the name—from the astronauts’ perspective and after Earthrise only the second whole planet image captured by a human photographer, the Blue Marble is among the most widely reproduced and circulated images in existence, it was received by the public at a moment of increased environmental activism and awareness and helped focus the movement by framing Earth’s uniqueness and vulnerability set against the endless expanse of space. Although recreated by satellite imagining, there have been no crewed excursions since that taken us high enough aloft—yet—to fit the entire planet in the view-finder.

Friday, 22 April 2022

earth day

Organisers Denis Hayes and Wisconsin senator Gaylord Nelson who championed the establishment of the annual observance in support of environmental protection and better stewardship of the planet in congress—plus drumming up the earnest support of the United Auto Workers union which without the backing of the labour movement probably would have had no staying power—chose the date strategically as to time the holiday outside of college exams and Spring Break, student activism being among the important targets to carry the cause forward, and with the happy coincidence that the date range included the anniversary of the 1838 birth of John Muir—an American of Scottish extract regarded as the Father of the National Parks, avid naturalist, ecologist and conservationist who co-founded the Sierra Club and pushed the government to establish a nature reserve in the Yosemite region of California. 

Reportedly unbeknownst to Nelson and Hayes, the first 1970 celebration fell on the hundredth anniversary of the birth of Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin (New Style, 1870), causing some media outlets to speculate at the time that it was not an unfortunately coincidence but rather signaled that the environmental movement was a “Communist trick” to subvert and indoctrinate the youth—apparently into caring for Nature and the world around them and engendered guilt over polluting and over-consumption. The themes for this year include Sustainable Fashion, the Great Global Clean-up, the Canopy Project (reforestation) and Climate and Environmental Literacy.

Friday, 21 January 2022


wheelie bins: a collection of municipal-issue recycling bins from across the UK—via Pasa Bon! 

filmovรฝ plakรกt: a gallery of vintage Czech movie posters  

1 000 trees: drone footage showcases Heatherwick studios’ Shanghai shopping centre  

northwoods baseball sleep radio: a fake game with no jarring sounds designed for podcast slumber  

holkham bible picture book: a 1330 curiosity that illustrates select passages from the Old and New Testaments  

the great british spring clean: projects and programmes (see also) sponsored by Keep Britain Tidy

Sunday, 21 February 2021

scale model

Via the always marvellous Nag on the Lake’s Sunday Links (lots more to explore here), we are introduced to the life-sized sculptures by Swedish-born, Berlin-based artist Michael Johansson inspired by his fascination growing up with model kits (Plastmodelltillverkning) whose injection-moulded parts, prior to assembly are held in a plastic frame called a sprue or a runner. The pictured piece, this 1:1 dinghy with some assembly-required, is the first in his series spanning a decade with installations decorating recycling centres, fire stations, residential estates as well as an archaeological site, see also here and here. Johansson has also produced some smaller, deconstructed household items as wall hangings.

Monday, 9 March 2020

anima mundi

Adding an extra dimension of respect and upcycling, reviving the mantra of reduce, reuse and recycle among the environmentally-minded (we might also add another r-word in refusal of what does not avail itself of one of the other options in the first place) that’s in danger of becoming a platitude, we thoroughly enjoyed this introduction to the Japanese concept of mottainai (ใ‚‚ใฃใŸใ„ใชใ„) exclaiming lament over waste and regret of something not being used to its full potential.
The sustainable antidote to affluenza—the plague of throw-away culture and disposable society, the term and its meaning correspond with other aspects of Japanese culture and reverence for resource and repair, mottainai premises that if one values an item intrinsically—to include its packaging—there’s no reason for waste at all. Much more to explore at the links above.

Friday, 29 November 2019

uplifting stats

Via Pasa Bon!, we discover a yearlong campaign by Information is Beautiful (see previously), inspired by among other things the disabusing trends illustrated in Hans Rosling’s Factfulness, to release an infographic daily that features enlightening good news and positive trends (trajectories and the headlines not necessarily being the same thing). From their recently featured charts we glean among other things that Iceland had legally mandated equal pay for equal work for men and women, the precipitous fall of the cost of renewable energy, Africa and South America is quashing malaria and there is now a fourth type of chocolate aside from dark, milk and white with ruby.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

susan spotless says every litter bit hurts

Not to discount or dismiss the role of consumer-choice and the positive impact of reduction and reuse—and recycling programmes that are honest-brokers and not more greenwashing out-of-hand, but the manufacturing industry behind throw-away society has managed to deflect attention from itself and conveniently shift the onus and the guilt of pollution and over-consumption from themselves—saving their bottom-line, to the public.
Thoughline shows how industry launched a major re-education campaign to convince the public there was little need for thrift and re-use and to accept the single-use paradigm, seemingly enraged and enervated when the state of Vermont enacted legislation that outlawed the sale disposable glass-bottles, since they were ending up in pastures and the broken shards were dangerous for livestock gazing there. Fully aware of the down-stream effects of their actions and to sustain their profligacy as long as possible, food and beverage makers turned to the Ad Council to craft public sentiment with mascots (to include first that insufferable scolding child above, Lassie the television canine, and later Iron Eyes Cody, “the Crying Indian”) and public service announcements that make the disposable not just more palatable but patriotic (see also here, here and here). Their efforts have been pretty successful and tenacious, people internalising the message that our own greed, laziness and carelessness are the biggest contributors to the climate crisis and not industry or governments too cowed or complicit to regulate them. Listen to more episodes at the link above and subscribe for more disabusing origin stories.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

keep britain tidy

As much of a focus-steeling, attention-grabbing sideshow Brexit and Theresa May’s leadership were her desired legacy and commitment—bringing the UK’s carbon contribution down to net-zero by 2050—is pretty admirable and make up for what she made everyone endure, notwithstanding a predecessor even more repugnant who’ll try to change course, though enshrined in law, it will be tougher to rescind.
Before leaving office nearly thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher made a similar pledge, urging a global treaty on climate change and enacted policies to protect the ozone layer and curb acid rain. Would that all rubbish politicians had such redeeming potential. Although there’s quite some rough terrain yet to cover to attain that goal and admittedly we all ought to be in a better place by now, courtesy Maps Mania, we should pause and consider this interactive essay, chart and timeline from Carbon Brief illustrating the progress that the UK has already made in overhauling how it gets and uses its energy, an achievement encapsulated in the record-setting span of time that the country has gone without having to resort to coal. Records are made to be broken. Much more to explore at the links above.

Friday, 7 June 2019


I found this campaign from the Icelandic tourism board especially shaming and the scold that I deserve since—especially owing to the fact the justifications of mandatory sorting of trash, deposits (Pfand) to encourage recycling are starting to hold less and less water or even a panic over Legionnaires’ disease tap water is generally clean and safe—I too am guilty of imbibing exclusively the bottled variety.
Like Kranavatn (Icelandic for tap water), it’s not out of fear for safety that I prefer to get my bottled water, which is even sourced not far from where we live and assuredly is piped in as well, but because I’ve come to prefer the carbonation—something I am confident that could be otherwise arranged. This is a small pledge for visitors that we could all make.

Monday, 11 February 2019

achievement unlocked

In a move that makes the Olympics seem a little more relevant and meaningful—rather than an expensive showcase whose benefits are very, very fleeting for the venue—the always brilliant Nag on the Lake informs that for the 2020 Tokyo Games, in order to make a bold statement about sustainability and what we toss away with our mounting trash heaps of electronic waste, athlete’s medals will be sourced essentially fully from recovered precious metal. The symbolic recycling reflects Japan’s growing more conscience of the impact that such rampant consumption has for the planet and will hopeful influence more not just to prospect but to reduce buying what’s disposable and apt to be superannuated in the first place.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

spaceship earth

Sponsored by the partnership of a senator and environmental activist in response to a devastating oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, Earth Day was first observed in 1970 on this date. The movement has grown exponentially since and in 1990 spread internationally, set aside by nearly two hundred countries as time to focus on ecological challenges and solutions.
Despite growing support and awareness of the importance of our being better stewards of the environment and that Nature is not ours to dominate, the movement is facing regressive forces, not the least being narratives that global-warming is a myth. Originally celebrated about a month earlier on the Spring Equinox, the 22 April date was chosen so to make the day truly universal and not tied to a particular hemisphere and as the April date would fall within most colleges’ Spring Breaks and allow the chance for students to organize rallies. Unfortunately, as like contemporary conspiracy theorists—the date chosen was a bit inauspicious as 22 April 1870 was the birthday of Vladimir Lenin (unbeknownst to the event’s organisers, especially considering the need to translate it from the Old Style calendar to the Gregorian) and some harboured suspicions in the US particularly at the time (and through to this day) that that signaled a Communist inculcation and was reminiscent of the coerced “voluntary” Saturday (Subbotnik) spent in community service, to include the sorting and recycling of trash. Fortunately, Earth Day’s message has transcended those arguing that we’re separate and outside of the natural world.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

PET project or post-consumer comment

The big ideas blog, the Big Think, features an article about a new concept, inclusive grocery store scheduled to open soon in Austin, Texas that will be among the first of its kind—mainstream and not a farmers’ market or cooperative, to sell a range of products without packaging. Shoppers would be encouraged to bring in their own containers and top off however much of whatever product they need. Moreover, produce, in addition to loosing that wasteful veil of packaging, would only be offered in season and promote local sources. Even in places with fully-ingrained recycling programmes, it is shocking how much packaging goes immediately after purchase to separate bins and how quickly it accumulates. I think it lessens environmental impact and any and every effort is important, but there are more consequences, I think, to reduction on the outset. Recycling is noble but it’s prohibitively expensive to reincarnate a bit of plastic wrap back into a new bit of plastic wrap and instead there’s some devolution. Another really shocking thing, aside from all the decorations that go on to throw-away card-board boxes and drinks containers, is that statutory scheme of deposits on bottles (Pfand). The bottles are not cleaned, even the glass ones, and re-issued sparkly new but are shredded and shipped away for processing like everything else. Driving around ones trash to return it to the place of purchase probably negates any net gain. I hope this idea of a food-filling station, where one not only brings one’s own bag, takes off internationally.

In die groรŸe Ideen Blog, Big Think, findet sich ein Artikel รผber eine neue Lebensmittelgeschรคft in Texas, verpackungsfrei Ware anbieten fรผr Verbraucher. Einkรคufer werden ermutigt, um ihre eigenen Behรคlter zu verwenden. Wie an einer Tankstelle, sie kรถnnen sich damit fรผllen, was sie brauchen. Neben die Verringerung der Verpackungen, fรถrdert das Lebensmittel den Gebrauch Produkten der Saison und lokal angebauten Nahrungsmitteln. Trotz fester Wiederverwertungsprogramme gibt es viel Verschwendung. Das Recycling ist wichtig, aber die Verminderung hat mehr Wirkung. Recyclingmaterialien sich einer Abbau unterzieht, und Kunststoff-Mehrwegflaschen (oder einer aus Glas) sind nicht wiedergeboren bei Rรผcklauf. Pfand macht Flasche brandneu nicht, und der Extratransport verneint wahrscheinlich jeden Streben. Ich hoffe, dass diese Vorstellung startet durch, und Einkรคufer werden mehr wiederverwenden als nur ihre Tragtaschen.