Archive for September, 2008

A Celebration of Light and Life

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

Get an online sneak peak of the new California Academy of Sciences, which will open this week. Unlike typical natural history museums, which architect Renzo Piano dubbed “kingdoms of darkness,” the stunning new facility is suffused with light. The combined natural history museum, aquarium, indoor rainforest, planetarium, and world-class research and education facility is on track for LEED Platinum certification. Its 2.5-acre living roof, which mimics the San Francisco Bay area’s rolling topography, is designed in part as replacement habitat for the imperiled Bay Checkerspot butterfly. A transparent four-story dome in the Academy’s east wing houses the “Rainforests of the World” exhibit, complete with birds, butterflies, and frogs living amongst the jungle vegetation. As executive director Greg Farrington notes, the new Academy looks forward and embraces life rather than cataloging the dark halls of distant history. The museum seeks to explore, in his words, “how we got here, and how are we going to find a way to stay.”

Public Garden Trend Alert Con’t

Friday, September 19th, 2008

The University of British Columbia Botanical Garden has a new forest canopy walkway that enables visitors to explore the treetop biodiversity of the lush Pacific Coastal Rainforest. Continuing a trend at other public gardens, it’s reportedly the first canopy walkway in Canada. 

How Valuable Are Pollinators?

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Here’s a statistic that will come in handy next time you’re at a one of those cocktail parties where somebody pooh-poohs biological diversity by asking “Who needs insects anyway?” According to a paper in the journal Ecological Economics, the economic value of pollinators, especially bees, is about $217 billion a year. As reported in Science Daily, the study suggests that if it continues, the current decline of pollinators worldwide will have the biggest effect on fruits and vegetables, followed by oilseed crops. Crops that generally don’t depend on pollinators, such as cereals, sugar cane, and spices, would suffer fewer adverse affects.

Arugula vs. Moose Meat

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

So far in this year’s presidential campaign we’ve heard about sexism, ageism, racism, and other social ills. Well, what about phytoism?  How come it’s socially acceptable to put down plants? Why is it elitist to eat arugula (or frequent “fern bars,” or drink beverages made from coffee beans), but not elitist to dine on a trophy animal? As one of my favorite bloggers pointed out today, arugula is available at any local McDonalds, but there isn’t even a website that sells moose meat, which all of a sudden is considered as American as Thanksgiving turkey.

Superstar City

Tuesday, September 16th, 2008

If you’re headed to the Venice Biennale in the next couple of months, check out the latest figment of MAD Architects‘ imagination — Superstar, a mobile, self-sustaining city capable of housing, growing food, producing energy, and recycling the waste of 15,000 people. The Beijing-based firm conceived Superstar as an alternative to the “sloppy patchwork of poor construction and nostalgia” (if not the astonishing diversity of the vegetable markets and array of restaurants) of the typical Chinatown in cities around the world. The sparkling, three-dimensional star-shaped superstructure, which has been described as looking a little like a Cylon Base Star from Battlestar Galactica by Inhabitat, will be able to travel around the globe, providing a taste of Chinese cuisine and culture wherever it docks. 

The Antidote to Pigs and Lipstick

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

The Lifepod, Kyu Che’s sustainable, portable, off-the-grid mini-capsule for getting away from it all. Just be back when it’s time to vote.