Posted by: Tataj | May 20, 2009

Citizen Journalism and Objectivity

“There are some people who want to hear what other members of the public are saying, and there are other people who will always want to go to professionals. There is a little chance one will replace the other, I think we augment.” The Editors Weblog spoke to AllVoices founder Amra Tareen says.

Tareen’s voice reflexes well the view of a few quite recently set citizen media agencies, where everybody can report anything from everywhere. Such a freedom might be appreciated by many, but the serious journalists as well as audience would be very likely questioning the portion of objectivity in such news and stories. But we will return to the objectivity agenda a bit later.

In the article Editing with algorithms: the citizen journalism of AllVoices, published recently by Editorsweblog, Tareen vehemently stressed that AllVoices is not aiming to replace mainstream media in any way, rather she sees AllVoices as an alternative voice to complement traditional publications, and a way for anybody who chooses to have a chance to interact with a global audience. By reading the functional structure of the site, one understands Tareen’s words better. AllVoices does not have a member of staff editing the site; it relies purely on its proprietary algorithms and its community.In fact, rather than a world news site AllVoices is more a community based agency. The site is not trying to provide authoritative news, but rather offering different points of view and allowing  readers to come to their own conclusions about what is actually happening. Staff only check content if it is flagged by another community member.

A bit different story offers another citizen media based site, called Citizenside. It operates in two different ways. On its own site, it functions in a similar way to other agencies: it gathers photos from its community – 35,000 members, close to 7,000 of which are active – which are published after thorough checking of the photos’ validity. Staff receive 500-600 images a day, and those which pass the checking are categorised into sections such as headlines, showbiz, or unusual, or gathered into portfolios with others along the same theme or about the same event. Media outlets can purchase the photos from Citzenside, with up to 75% of the price going to the contributor. Content is clearly labeled as amateur, and Citizenside stressed the importance of differentiating the work of ‘citizens’ from that of professionals. The team behind the company also created unique credibility control tool software, as well as some special software to link directly the magazines and contributors, where Citizenside takes a commission for each contribution. It seems like the company monitors the atmosphere on today’s market precisely and responds adequately  (detailed article – Citizenside: is there a future for citizen photojournalism?).

The same could not be said about Getty Images and their Scoopt citizen photojournalism agency it bought from Glasgow-based founder Kyle MacRae in 2007.

Although convinced there is a space for public journalism, for a giant such as Getty it simply was not an attractive business. “Sorry it didn’t work out,” MacRae than apologized to the contributors. See the entire Article from The Guardian “Getty shutting Scoopt citizen journalism photo site to focus on core business” if interested.

While even the media giants such as BBC News or CNN offers the general public the “uncensored” unlimited uploading possibilities into the special public news section (but unlike the above mentioned agencies do not offer any payment to their contributors), many seriously question the notion of objectivity of such news and stories, the capabilities and lack of journalistic education of the contributors, etc. Philip Meyer, a Knight Professor at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, addresses the issue of Citizen journalism and objectivity in his article Public Journalism and the Problem of Objectivity. Mayer calls for a clearer definition on both – journalism and citizen journalism and believes that the goal of public journalism is to create a learning community, one that discusses issues, not just on the basis of emotion but on facts about how things work. Abandoning the traditional stance of journalistic objectivity to practice public journalism need not be a bad thing if we can substitute objectivity of journalistic method. He furthermore notes, that “the notion of public journalism has the potential for adding value to the work we do as investigative reporters if it does not displace our quest for empirical fact but instead supplements and informs that quest. There is indeed more than one way of knowing. And the objectively verifiable knowledge produced by investigative journalists will never be of much use unless the public attends to it and arrives”…Mayer is also looking at the historical movement behind journalistic objectivity, pointing out briefly terms such as “socially constructed and politicized true” accordingly.

Mayer in his conclusion joins Amra Tareen from AllVoices asking for the discipline of method in Investigative reporting and editing. “And the focus provided by public journalism can keep the fruits of investigative reporting and editing from being lost in the fuzzy buzz of information overload”, he continues. Public journalism and investigative journalism need one another, if we recognize that they have a chance of preserving our traditions and responsibilities.

Posted by: Tataj | March 26, 2009

Making quality jpegs for your website

This is an excellent article written by photographer Lonna Tucker about making  good jpegs for your website, especially from large files (large, medium format film scans).

For full article click here.

Posted by: Tataj | March 16, 2009

Guerrillas conquer the Elephant

The war on neglect of public space leads Richard Reynolds and his fellow guerrilla gardeners to the Elephant and Castle roundabout … and a run-in with the police.

watch this short video from Elephant and Castle, London – here.

Vast amounts of water are often used to produce the food and drink we eat, frequently in countries already suffering from drought. See the volumes of water needed for coffee, beef, bread and more. Data source: waterfootprint.org

All article in The Guardian:http: water.food?picture=336718185

Plus the same on Britain :

Revealed: the massive scale of UK’s water consumption

Each Briton uses 4,645 litres a day when hidden factors are included – read –  here.

Now in its fifth year, and with 800 exhibitors, Ecobuild presents the biggest and best showcase of sustainable construction products anywhere, plus dozens of inspiring attractions and more than 100 free conferences and seminar sessions.

Earl's Court Exhibition Centre, London, 2009

Earl's Court Exhibition Centre, London, 2009

With budgets continuing to tighten, reducing waste and saving costs makes good business sense.

That is about the official introduction to this important event, held in Earls Court Exhibition Centre for three full days 3-5 March, 2009. Since I am planning and researching the theme of Sustainability and all connected issues (such as UK government plan of Sustainable towns by the year 2016 and many others – I will write more about it in the next few days)) for my next long term project, which should form a part of my major MA project as well, I was quite exited to learn how many interesting speakers and ghosts the event hosted.

Personally, I was curious what Ecobuild was all about. The actual curiosity came from my perhaps a bit subjective view that combining sustainable “green” living” and business is somehow and in some aspects suspicious.

In fact, it was not that bad to start with. I would divide the actual event into two main parts – the Exhibition of sustainable industry (indeed, everything was in some way made with popular “Eco” and “Sustainable” labels stuck on it) and a web of conferences, seminars and discussions on environment and the future (from various points of view – economic, ecologic, local, governmental, individual…).

Road to Zero Carbon, EcoBuild 2009
Road to Zero Carbon, EcoBuild 2009

EcoBuild 2009, London

EcoBuild 2009, London

Because I managed to register well in advance, I could make my “wish-list “according to my interest. Since the event was packed into just few days and held over a hundred seminars, many of them were overlapping each other, so my decision was more about what “to miss” rather than what to see. Everything was perfectly organized, mapped and quite importantly – FREE.

Seminar, EcoBuild 2009, London

Seminar, EcoBuild 2009, London

Here is the list of the main seminars and conferences I managed to visit:

“TOMORROW‘S TOWNS ARE ALL ECO-TOWNS”

The Government’s initiative to build a series of ‘eco-towns’ has provoked much debate about their likely effectiveness. But the bigger question is how to apply the concept to every large scale development and embed it in our planning strategy.

In couple of hours we learnt the definition of ‘eco-town’, according to government, about the transport in eco-towns, how they can enable us to live within a sustainable carbon and ecological footprint and finally we witnessed an impressive slideshow of some real successful examples from Europe. While one speaker put Britain far behind the rest of the Western Europe in that respect, the other made Britain rather leaders in the green revolution.

Worth of note is the fact, that Britain, as usual, probably really is the leader. The problem is that this leadership is only visible on paper. There was also a very impressive and strong presentation on people’s responses to the plans and on importance not only to change our environment but our way of thinking, way of life, habits accordingly.

It all looks nice on paper.

There would be in between 5000-20 000 new affordable eco houses by 2020.

There would be at least one job per each dwelling in each eco-town created, with no more than 10 minutes walk from home (what kind of jobs not specified)

80% of the inhabitants will be using alternative ways of transport, mainly walking, cycling and public transport. It is worth to note that transport is rather smartly excluded from the Carbon Zero 2016 Government plan.

Walking out from the seminar and riding my bicycle back home proved that the journey to persuade the population on cycling might be very difficult – I was almost smashed twice by ignorant drivers on the way.

What is impressive is the thought given to the socially weaker part of population – at least 30% of all inhabitants will be coming, as far as I understood, from social estates likes.

All facilities will be in walkable distance from home and at least 40% of all land will be open space, linked to the country side.

Well, my further research shows that could be challenging in some proposed places. Former Industrial wastelands, landfills etc can be quite challenging for one’s imagination. (I will address this in some near future).

The positive side, say, would include planned water management – Flood management and rain water harvesting and recycling.

I could continue for hours to come. Dependency on cars reduced to 50% in Eco-towns, suggested 80%, introducing car clubs (sharing), sat navigation for all, not just car users…emphasis on residents, who should not be made another ‘species’, but would be consider as a normal part of the society…numbers, suggestion, terrifying present situation…

However, the talks were strong, well presented and without argument honest. I guess everything was included, even the wild species connected to the urban open space, importance of local food production was also mentioned, although, as noted by one of the speakers, not much included in current design plans.

The strongest message was, in my opinion as follow:

Eco footprinting shows that if everyone in the world consumed as much as the average UK resident we would need 3 planets to support us.

In my own words, we live on debt not only in our virtual existing-no existing money world, but from what belongs to our children, even their children.

The case studies were most interesting. Scandinavia seems to be the leaders as usual, as is Germany. Hamburg, Hannover, Freiburg all already built their sub urban eco towns, as did the Dutch with their best transport system in Amersfoort. Also Adamstown near Dublin in Ireland is being currently built.

While the general voice was that English makes things too complicated for them, some examples were also given:

Brighton New England Quarter, with its eco homes and social hub

As part of One Planet Living, BioRegional – an entrepreneurial charity, which invents and delivers practical solutions for sustainability (http://www.bioregional.com/index.htm),

Working with London 2012 for a One Planet Living® Olympics Endorsed Project

One Planet Living recognizes that if everyone in the world lived as we do in Europe, we would need three planets to support us. Therefore we need to reduce our impact by two thirds to a sustainable and globally equitable level. Drawing on these principles, London 2012 is proposing a range of sustainable development themes, including:

Low carbon Games – to reduce energy demand and meet it from zero/low carbon and renewable sources and to showcase how the Olympic Games are adapting to a world increasingly affected by climate change
Zero waste Games – to avoid landfill by reducing waste at source, then reusing, recycling and recovering all remaining waste
Conservation of biodiversity – to conserve natural habitats and wildlife, improve the quality of urban greenspace and to bring nature closer to people
Sustainable transport – to reduce the need for travel and provide sustainable alternatives to the private car
Sustainable legacy – to promote health and wellbeing through an integrated package of sporting, environmental and cultural initiatives.

BedZed – (http://www.bedzedhouse.co.uk/)

The Beddington Zero Energy Development, or BedZED, is the UK’s largest eco-village.

Located in Wallington, South London, BedZED comprises 100 homes, community facilities and workspace for 100 people. Residents have been living at BedZED since March 2002.

The multi-award winning development is one of the most coherent examples of sustainable living in the UK.

Eco Town Proposal, EcoBuild 2009, London

Eco Town Proposal, EcoBuild 2009, London

Well, sounds promising, but…

As Sue Riddlestone, Executive Director and Co-founder of BioRegional, who also lives in Bed Zed, noted: “…We (in BedZed) managed to put our eco print down to about 1.8 planets. I believe, if everyone was keen for more, we could reduce it to 1.7 planets…but overall, the life has improved, its far more sociable, safe…”

While people in BedZed took, as they say, more “holistic” approach to life and, without doubt the quality of life has improved to them, most remain in their old –built – habit way of living of consumption. Some argue that is better than nothing and the change should be gradual and painless. While appreciating the achievement of BedZed, we have to reconsider our definition of eco life, eco village and sustainability for the near future. If usage of 1.7 planets would be labeled as “eco” and we all followed it as an example, there would be no definition for future needed anyway. As much as I look into my Universe Atlas, I can see just one planet Earth around…

Strangely, there is a voice of many people around who seem to know the way (at least part of it)…more and more people want to put their hands (and minds) back to land; take responsibility for their own life space, local food production, work in communities…not like 200 years ago…as some people point in disgust – but rather as a modern, experienced and working together species.

REFERENCES:

Another sample eco-projects:

Greenwich Millenium Village (East London) – http://www.urbandesigncompendium.co.uk/greenwichmillenniumvillage2

One Planet Sutton – Sutton (outer London) is seeking to become a “One Planet Borough” by 2025, in other words to be living within the resources and capacity of the one planet on which we all live. – http://www.sutton.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=2507

One Planet Living® UK: Endorsed Community – One Brighton – http://www.bioregional.com/oneplanetliving/uk/brighton

BedZed – http://www.bedzedhouse.co.uk/)http://www.bioregional.com/oneplanetliving/uk/brighton

BioRegional – http://www.bioregional.com/index.htm

Hulme Estate, Manchester – “High rises to turn into eco homes in Manchester” – http://www.safestyle-windows.co.uk/news/property-values/high-rises-to-turn-into-eco-homes-in-manchester-18626746.news

TOWARDS A QUALITY CHARTER FOR GROWTH IN THE CAMBRIDGE AREA Charter Symposium – detailed study for development of Cambridge Area – http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:pZIrmab5qlUJ:www.urbed.com/cgi-bin/get_binary_doc_object.cgi%3Fdoc_id%3D275%26fname%3Dextra_pdf_6.pdf+cambridge+charter+for+growth&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=uk

Hanham Hall (near Bristol) – This site is the first in the government’s Carbon Challenge initiative and is scheduled to become one of the first zero carbon communities in England. Green spaces, allotments, hedges, cycle and walking routes are proposed throughout the new development. It will provide a mixture of houses, apartments and facilities for community activities which will make achieving a sustainable lifestyle easier for the neighbouring residents and the new community. Zero carbon, local food, recycling opportunities and enhanced and a green transport plan.( http://www.hanhamhall.co.uk/home/).

And something a bit controversial:

“Robin Hood Gardens: iconic or eyesore?”- Should the Robin Hood Gardens estate in London become a listed landmark or demolished? – read in The Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/blog/2008/jul/01/robinhoodgardensnotfitfor)

Ireland:

Adamstown, Dublin – Adamstown is a new urban district on a greenfield site adjoining the main Dublin-Kildare railway line,16km west of Dublin City Centre. http://www.adamstown.ie/

Europe:

Eco-towns: Learning from International Experience – an excellent chart with a few major eco sites across Europe(click on pdf file for better viewing) – http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:_2m8Gm3stykJ:www.urbed.com/cgi-bin/get_binary_doc_object.cgi%3Fdoc_id%3D281%26fname%3Dextra_pdf_5.pdf+hafen+city+hamburg+eco&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=8&gl=uk

Sorry, no anything from the rest of the World as yet, but will keep updating as well as contributions are more than welcome!!! (But for those with bigger interest I have got a few links to some very interesting eco projects – villages in Russia, USA, Canada, Mexico, Portugal etc…just let me knowJ)

Also, the more alternative eco settlements, villages, permaculture farms etc. will be discussed in the near future articles as the research goes…(again, any tips are welcome!).

——————————————————————————————————————————————

Global Resources of Poverty – When The Rivers Run Dry

Powerful discussion board about the importance of water, lead by Fred Pearce, author of a strong story-study book “When The Rivers Run Dry” (I can borrow you a copyJ)and many others publications and books, also presented by Prof John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Sara Parking, Natural Environment Research Council, Rt Hon Clare Short MP, Secretary of State for International Development 1997 -2003.

While Fred Pearce did not say anything new to me (since I know his work very well), I will just sum up for you the most important: If you don’t know what the term “VIRTUAL WATER” stands for, look at you pack of rice (for example) next time you buy it. It takes not only about 2,000 to 5,000 litres of water to grow kilo of rice (500litres for kilo of potatoes, and let’s rather not start the discussion of the price of a kilo of meat – 24 000 litres per kilo of beef, just to give us an example), but it is also not the water of your home country (if imported, which means over 60% of British food). Because it would be impractical to do business with actual water, we are talking about Virtual Water Trade ( a term invented by Tony Allan, of the School Of Oriental and African Studies in London) – you use your water to grow an industrial crop for some other country and sell it – cases when this was happening while the local people were facing draughts are less known and published : Ethiopia, Egypt, Middle East…to name a few.

In just an hour the discussion could not go to any depth, however the numbers and the facts are alarming. Britain seems to be “wet enough” and yet, as stated above, 60% of its food production is imported, therefore Virtual Water. In the matter of fact, England would not have enough water to feed its people. According to Pearce and many others, England is one of the driest but most densely populated parts of Europe.

Pearce than gave a few examples of the half-death rivers across Britain, that succumbed to the industrial and agricultural boom in the past century (such as the river Kennet and the town of Swindon).

He did not omit the recycle cycles of The River Thames , of course, I hope most Londoners know their water has been repeatedly used, filtered and put back again by towns on the river’s Thames “on-route”.

I guess most do not know there are secret plans for evacuation of as many as a million people from Bradford and Halifax if their taps ran dry.

Well, if some of you still keep the tap open while brushing the teeth or shaving, think again.

Pearce is not negative about the future. He, as many of aware people, believes that through proper education, management and built-in-sense of responsibility for the place we live in (planet), the water as all the other natural resources will be used sensitively, with no place for an egocentric behavior anymore.

The majority of the remaining talk was focused on the most populated countries – China and India. The enormous hydro projects in both countries to meet the growing demand of ever growing population and for their bursting industry are rather scary to look at. Diverting Rivers thousands of miles, building dams in sizes of some smaller European countries, stopping floods in one place and creating dozens of others somewhere else, draughts … In 20 years the demand for food will increase by 50%.

While listening to these scary facts, I felt that these are not purely “their” problems and issues. In fact, it was British Empire who built the first dam in Pakistan and India and passed the technology and beliefs onto the locals. But it is not only the past and the British who to blame. It is all of us, cruelly putting our own needs and comfort as the main priority of life, leaving even our neighbors without the basic resources, just because we grasped first. Perhaps is a time to sometimes change the “first come, first served” to “first come, first serves”… the others…

To my surprise, this was the message of the former Secretary of State for International Development Clare Short. Her strong voice was calling for “climate” change in within individuals, families and societies. This change needs to be supported by local authorities, schools, governments etc. She also pointed out, that the “image, that the poor countries will remain poor, while the Western countries will be richer” and richer was a mistake. By some estimate, the HDP of China in 2035 is predicted to reach the level of the USA today.

Short very openly agrees the recession, of which we are just at the door step at the moment, is needed. She emphasized the lack of wisdom from the political bodies as well as the fact, that the transformation of the life values and habits will be very nasty for many people.

However, she remains very excited about it all.

As many people are, including me.

Fred Pearce on the "Water" Conference, Ecobuild 2009, London

Fred Pearce on the "Water" Conference, Ecobuild 2009, London

"When The Rivers Run Dry" Debatem EcoBuild 2009, London

"When The Rivers Run Dry" Debate EcoBuild 2009, London

"When The Rivers Run Dry" Debate EcoBuild 2009, London

"When The Rivers Run Dry" Debate EcoBuild 2009, London

REFERENCES:

When The Rivers Run Dry – Fred Pearce, 2007; published by Eden Project Books.

For an interesting comparison, check out :

James Hutton (1726 – 1797) and his Theory of the Earth –

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Hutton

——————————————————————————————————————————-

“APPETITE FOR CHANGE: URBAN FOOD PRODUCTION”

Sudden rises in commodity and food process in 2008 reminded many that food production once had a place in the urban and suburban environment, and should do so again. It has social and ecological benefits too.

Seminar included:

How the production of food has influenced urban design”

(Carolyn Steel, an author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives)

Finding 2,012 food growing spaces in London by 2,012

(presented by Seb Mayfield, Director for Food up Front and Project officer, Capital Growth)

Roof top Allotments” (by Hillary Reid Evans, Head of Sustainability Initiatives, Quintain Estates and Development plc)

“Future Food Systems: hydroponic and aquaponic systems for use on allotments” (Fleur Timmer, Graduate Environmental designer, Biodiversity by design)

“The G.R.O.F.U.N project – getting the community involved in growing skills” (Nadia Hillman, Founder, G.R.O.F.U.N)

Since I am going to write more about the importance of local (individual, community based) food production in the upcoming months, I will try to summarize what turned to be a very interesting afternoon, packed with presentations, different possibilities and views.

I have written my own comments here, but also just selected some extracts from different websites, not to confuse too much the overall messageJ

Carolyn Steel, an author of Hungry City: How Food Shapes Our Lives, managed to squeeze about 10000 years of human history into her half an hour presentation.

The main points:

The modern way of farming was invented about 10000 years ago in Mesopotamia. The movement made possible for people in cities to live without farming. Different Trades could be developing.

Gradually, as the distribution multiplied, the “Journey of Food” was not visible anymore.

Capital Growth is coordinated by London Food Link (http://www.sustainweb.org/londonfoodlink/), the large and rapidly growing network of people and organizations interested in healthy and sustainable food for the capital. Its members are as diverse as farmers and food writers, caterers and community food projects. Both London Food Link and its members work towards:

· increasing the availability of sustainable food in London

· tackling barriers preventing access to healthy and sustainable food for all Londoners

· protecting and celebrating London’s diverse food culture

Capital Growth wants to help Londoners transform the capital by creating 2,012 new food growing spaces by 2012. The Capital Growth campaign will offer practical and financial support to communities around London, helping people get access to land and create successful food growing spaces.


In recent years there has been a tremendous upsurge of interest in food growing. This is in response to concerns about food prices, food miles and the environment. It is also because people want better access to good, healthy and affordable food, and to enjoy cultivating beautiful green spaces and meeting local people.


Just under a third of London’s total area is either green space or water. There is also a large amount of roof space that can be used to great effect. We have the space available; we just need to use it!


Grow your own at home

If you are looking for some help to start food growing at home, in your front garden, back garden, or on your roof or window ledge, this is not part of the Capital Growth campaign. But there is a wide range of organizations who can help with this.

Well, what to say. Fantastic! The Capital Growth took it, in my view, in the most practical way possible. Grow you own food wherever you are, get together with others, find a place…

Actually, that is the biggest problem of all the increasing number of people wanting to gropw their own food. LAND!!!

My research shows, there are about 30000 people in London renting allotments.

And about 10 000 on waiting list. (at least in inner London) And the list is getting bigger each year. Accordingly, there was about 60% decrease in local food production in London since 1970 till 2005 (as measured). Alarming.

The point of urban agriculture is to reduce “distance of food to the plate” to start with; but even more importantly, you know what you eat (at least as long as you don’t measure pollution in your local area etc) and as the old proverb goes: “You are what you eat”.

No doubt this saying works well, just look around or perhaps on yourself.

The benefits are endless, I will address them in a bit slower pace later.

There were also some successful samples given in urban food production – such as Vancouver (Canada) 2010 Challenge (due to winter Olympics). The proposal included issues such as shared garden plots and edible plants to be used in forming the urban landscape (such as parks).

In Britain the successful similar schemes were introduced in Reading, Middlesbrough Islington (starting)…

One of the possibilities in a limited (well, sickly created in the past) spaces of the urban areas are green rooftops.

While due to technical demands there are only few successfully running edible roof allotments yet, there is one a very efficient one in Reading, at the Reading International Solidarity Centre

Behind central Reading’s only renewable energy installation lies the RISC edible roof garden; a forest garden complete with over 120 species of edible and medicinal trees, shrubs, vines and plants from around the globe. Fed by stored rainwater gathered from the roof, pumped by energy generated by solar cells and wind collectors on the chimneys; this urban oasis is fed by paper and food waste compost from the RISC offices and is one of the nicest places in Reading for a picnic!

The salad list in their restaurant is fully supplied from their roof (talking about fresh vegetables, of course)!

Also extremely popular in the UK is so called “Square Meter Garden”. Almost everyone can grow a bit of own food almost everywhere. Square Meter Garden Training Manual is an excellent step by step guide for this type of gardening and is available for free as pdf at http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:gN8dOj3jxAcJ:www.uwsp.edu/cnr/gem/Training%2520Program%2520in%2520EnglishWeb.pdf+the+square+meter+garden&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=uk (published by Global Environmental Management Education Center {GEM}, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA).

And looking around the world, the “overscraped” America has got a few well-maintained roof gardens, such as Chicago’s famous cool city rooftops gardens, New York, Montreal, Vancouver (both Canada)…

And surprisingly – Singapore’s Changi general hospital is harvesting about 200 kg of cherry tomatoes a year to supply their hospital canteen.

It cannot be all that bad, can be? Well, have a look around your home place. It is not great.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

One of the solutions to feed the world is to listen to the latest scientific inventions. I am quite impervious to the voice of science being able to feed the world, nonetheless we should be able to give a chance and look what solutions science got.

First of all, the terrible and money driven idea of GM food is hopefully out of the agenda of normally thinking inhabitant of this planet. If not, then go and have look at some terribly dry plantations in Western parts of the US, so heavily chemically fertilized , that apart from actual desired GM crop absolutely nothing is able to grow. The land is destroyed for years to come and I can just feel sorry for many Americans, who has no chance to see if their food is GM or not (by the US law, similar was introduced, but was not approved and hopefully will not be anywhere in Europe yet). A good source of information is a book “The Botany of Desire –a plant’s eye view of the world”, by Michael Pollan.

Fleur Timmer cannot be characterized by having scientific only answer to the food production. She spoke quite excitedly about the new ways of producing healthy, organic food on a very small place. Her research showed that to feed all inhabitants in London from land available, we would need a chunk of land 293 times the size of London.

She calls cities quite rightly “Food Deserts”, where cities are fully dependant on the countryside production from all around the world. For some reason she also spent some time on the theme of child obesity in Britain (according to her half of the UK children will be obese by 2020), as well as the quality of food in general. The trace of minerals in fresh vegetables, for instance, fallen by 71 % since 1940.

Her answer is two systems – Hydroponics and Aquaponics.

Ok, here are definitions from Wikipedia:

Hydroponics (from the Greek words hydro water and ponos labour) is a method of growing plants using mineral nutrient solutions, without soil. Terrestrial plants may be grown with their roots in the mineral nutrient solution only or in an inert medium, such as perlite, gravel, or mineral wool.

Aquaponics (IPA: /ˈækwəˈpɒnɪks/) is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment. Alternate definition: An integrated hydroponics (growing plants in water) and aquaculture (growing fish) system.

Aquatic animal effluent (for example fish waste) accumulates in water as a by-product of keeping them in a closed system or tank (for example a recirculating aquaculture system). The effluent-rich water becomes high in plant nutrients but this is correspondingly toxic to the aquatic animal.

Plants are grown in a way (for example a hydroponic system) that enables them to utilize the nutrient-rich water. The plants uptake the nutrients, reducing or eliminating the water’s toxicity for the aquatic animal.

The water, now clean, is returned to the aquatic animal environment and the cycle continues. Aquaponic systems do not discharge or exchange water. The systems rely on the natural relationship between the aquatic animals and the plants to maintain the environment. Water is only added to replace water loss from absorption by the plants or evaporation into the air.

Aquaponic systems vary in size from small indoor units to large commercial units. They can use fresh or salt water depending on the aquatic animal and vegetation (fresh or salt water).

Just by the way, the aquaponic system is quite old method, known in America as CHINAMPA much longer before the “best of the world” arrived.

Chinampa was a method of ancient Mesoamerican agriculture which used small, rectangle-shaped areas of fertile arable land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds in the Valley of Mexico.

Often referred to as “floating gardens,” chinampas were stationary artificial islands that usually measured roughly 30 by 2½ meters, although they were sometimes longer. They were created by staking out the shallow lake bed and then fencing in the rectangle with wattle. The fenced-off area was then layered with mud, lake sediment, and decaying vegetation, eventually bringing it above the level of the lake. Often trees such as willows were planted at the corners to secure the chinampa. Chinampas were separated by channels wide enough for a canoe to pass.

The earliest fields that have been securely dated are from the Middle Postclassic period, 1150 – 1350 CE.

With the destruction of the dams and sluice gates during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, many chinampas fields were abandoned, although remnants are still in use today in what remains of Lake Xochimilco.

It is estimated that food provided by chinampas made up one-half to two-thirds of the food consumed by the city of Tenochtitlán. Chinampas were fertilized using lake sediments as well as human excrement.

So, as many times before, science found something what was well-known and used thousands of years ago. I wonder, when we finally open our minds, stop following the mass-created junk life, labeling the ancient cultures as “savage”, primitive or less developed (at least) than our present one. I am going to do some extended research on such “ancient” cultures in connection to gather the best of their knowledge together for our own inspiration and education.

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinampa)

If you still have no clear idea what it is all about, Timmer recommends visiting Omega Garden Website (http://www.omegagarden.com/), where everything is explained in detail and accompanied by visual demos (and photos)

To make a very simple calculation, to feed 7.4 mil inhabitants of London, only 75 hectares of land would be required.

Well, in the end of the day, we are at the trade showJ

G.R.O.F.U.N project – getting the community involved in growing skills”

Nadia Hillman, Founder of G.R.O.F.U.N was the most appealing person to me at the stage. Subjectively speaking partly because she studied the Permaculture Design (which is my main interest at the moment, also studying and practically trying), but mostly because she managed introducing her remarkable achievements in a healthy amount of modesty.

I do not think I should say much about her project, since you can watch her short video about it bellow.

GROFUN (Growing Real Organic Food in Urban Neigbourhoods) Aims to increase local food production by empowering communities at the grass-roots to sustain themselves with healthy, fresh & organic home-grown food.
It also addresses the damaging effects of air-freighted produce, over-packaging & redefines what is truly ‘fresh’.

And most importantly (at least in this stage) – Brings people together to collectively grow food in back gardens (or balconies, patios, window boxes).
Its members share fun, labour, skills, resources & delicious home-grown organic produce.

Well, it is free, of course.

On my question about how much susistanability they managed to achieve, she just smiled and pointed out, that the journey has just started and in most cases they just grow enough to have few dinners together, meet each other, have fun…but the plans are more serious. Oh, by the way, BBC will be broadcasting her project as part of the Garden weekend on 11.April, 2009.

Ok, check her website – http://www.grofun.org.uk/

And the film is here:



So what is the best solution for local food sustainability? Are we able to feed the world in such ways?

My answer is – YES. We are. We are able to feed ourselves, not the world. “We” want to feed the world, yet unable to feed ourselves. Bizarre.

Perhaps you need some very BIG example. Look at this.

White House (Mr. Obama) will very likely create a vegetable garden in the White House area this summer (see all the article here – http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/02/24/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry4824828.shtml%E2%80%9D). The last time the 18-plus acre White House lawn was used for vegetable gardening was the ‘40s, when Eleanor Roosevelt started a home-gardening movement that helped feed the nation in wartime. “Victory Gardens” popped up across the country – and even the residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. could eat what their plot produced.

Hm. Still not enough? All over the former Soviet Union there are millions of Gardens, called “Dachas”. They served as a way of self-sustainability during the difficult times of economic crises in 1930’s and during the wars. Many are obviously still in operation. So, it looks like we need some extremely difficult conditions in order to do things simply and efficiently.

There are certainly many approaches of the same today. The key lies in giving people access to the land, resources to learn proper land management, applying different aspects of permaculture** according to the climatic and geographic positions and situations. To stop feeding the poor in refugee camps and instead to give them piece of land, education and self-responsibility. The same apply for the “developed” part of the World, the cities and towns especially. Last year was the first year in known history there were more humans living in the cities than countryside.

We need to reconsider our approach to the landscape, urban living and nature. We should be able to blend this all together rather than continue separating ourselves from it. Well researched techniques and philosophies such as permaculture are all widely available and open for application.

However, it will be quite a fight – there is too much money floating all around, owned by multi “whatever” companies, governments and individuals. They will be all more than eager to keep the control of the world and they will do all possible to mislead us.

** Permaculture

-is an approach to designing human settlements and perennial agricultural systems that mimic the relationships found in the natural ecologies. It was first developed by Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren and their associates during the 1970s in a series of publications. The word permaculture is a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, as well as permanent culture.

Permaculture design principles extend from the position that “The only ethical decision is to take responsibility for our own existence and that of our children” (Mollison, 1990). The intent was that, by rapidly training individuals in a core set of design principles, those individuals could design their own environments and build increasingly self-sufficient human settlements — ones that reduce society’s reliance on industrial systems of production and distribution that Mollison identified as fundamentally and systematically destroying Earth’s ecosystems.

For excellent links and further info see:

http://www.permaculture.org.uk/

http://www.permaculture.co.uk/main2.html

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=659155658226666080 (excellent video about permaculture in the UK)

I have got a few essential books as well, if interested, drop me an email, will send you a list.

REFERENCES:

Capital Growth – http://www.capitalgrowth.org/

(http://www.sustainweb.org/londonfoodlink/

Reading International Solidarity Centre – http://www.risc.org.uk/

Square Meter Garden Training Manual – http://209.85.229.132/search?q=cache:gN8dOj3jxAcJ:www.uwsp.edu/cnr/gem/Training%2520Program%2520in%2520EnglishWeb.pdf+the+square+meter+garden&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=1&gl=uk

“Roof allotments a capital way to feed Olympians, says mayor” – (Times online) – http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article5068607.ece

“White House Vegetable Garden Coming This Summer” – (cbs news) – (http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/02/24/politics/politicalhotsheet/entry4824828.shtml%E2%80%9D)

“Investigating Chinampa Farming”http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/ioa/backdirt/Fallwinter00/farming.html

Omega Garden – http://www.omegagarden.com

G.R.O.F.U.N- http://www.grofun.org.uk/

BOOKS:

“The Botany of Desire –a plant’s eye view of the world”, by Michael Pollan

“Introduction to Permaculture”, by Bill Mollison

AppetiteE For Change, Warren J. Belasco – How the Counterculture Took On the Food Industry,

In this engaging inquiry, originally published in 1989 and now fully updated for the twenty-first century, Warren J. Belasco considers the rise of the “countercuisine” in the 1960s, the subsequent success of mainstream businesses in turning granola, herbal tea, and other “revolutionary” foodstuffs into profitable products; the popularity of vegetarian and vegan diets; and the increasing availability of organic foods.

This book documents not only how cultural rebels created a new set of foodways, brown rice and all, but also how American capitalists commercialized these innovations to their own economic advantage.

MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EXHIBITION:

Natural Building Material (Clay), Ecobuild 2009, London

Natural Building Material (Clay), Ecobuild 2009, London

Natural Building Material (Clay), Ecobuild 2009, London

Natural Building Material (Clay), Ecobuild 2009, London

Solar Energy Panel, Ecobuild 2009, London

Solar Energy Panel, Ecobuild 2009, London

"Solar" woman having a break in the Sun light, Ecobuild 2009, London

"Solar" woman having a break in the Sun light, Ecobuild 2009, London

A new electric car, made of recycled material, Ecobuild 2009, Londo

A new electric car, made of recycled material, Ecobuild 2009, Londo

Recycled Solar Boiler System, Ecobuild 2009, London

Recycled Solar Boiler System, Ecobuild 2009, London

Eco Window frames' admirer, Ecobuild 2009, London

Eco Window frames' admirer, Ecobuild 2009, London

The Arch House, cheap, portable, sustainable,Ecobuild 2009, London

The Arch House, cheap, portable, sustainable,Ecobuild 2009, London

The Eco House, sustainable, succesful solution,Ecobuild 2009, London

The Eco House, sustainable, succesful solution,Ecobuild 2009, London

Ecobuild 2009, London

Ecobuild 2009, London

The American timber stall, Ecobuild 2009, London

The American timber stall, Ecobuild 2009, London

The rain water harvesting system, Ecobuild 2009, London

The rain water harvesting system, Ecobuild 2009, London

Visitors having rest at the real grass - roof garden sample, Ecobuild 2009, London

Visitors having rest at the real grass - roof garden sample, Ecobuild 2009, London

A "REAL GREEN MAN", Ecobuild 2009, London

A "REAL GREEN MAN", Ecobuild 2009, London

Watering of the Roof Garden's Grass at the end of the day, Ecobiuld 2009, London

Watering of the Roof Garden's Grass at the end of the day, Ecobiuld 2009, London

Ever wondered why this higly technocratic world have not prodused and is not using “cleaner cars?” Well, it has. But it has been killed!

Watch this interesting  trailer video bellow:

or watch FULL FILM bellow:

For an excellent info presentation, visit the SonyClassic site:

http://www.sonyclassics.com/whokilledtheelectriccar/electric.html?detectflash=false&

But that is perhaps the past…what about the future? Car running on AIR? Really? REALLY!

It runs on AIR and is made from LOCAL MATERIALS – is this the world’s 1st truly zero-carbon car?

Ok, it is not completelly “ZERO POLLUTION” car, but looks we are near:-)

Title: Time to recalibrate
Feature: Comment
Date: 4 March 2009

Personally, I’ve got no axe to grind about the thousands of young people studying photography each year, despite the fact they have virtually no prospect of making a living from it when they graduate. After all, for most students university is primarily an educational signpost; a piece of paper that says they’ve attained the same level of academic achievement as nearly 50% of other recent school leavers in the UK. So why not go study something you enjoy, and therefore might actually learn some transferable skills from in the process?

But most final year photography students I meet are hopelessly naive about their prospects, and the failure of colleges to spell out the facts is, at the very least, a moral failure. There are simply too many photographers – good ones, with real skills and experience, and with at least half-baked business models – to survive the current climate. So please, spare me another student telling me they plan to do a bit of art, a bit of editorial and – begrudgingly – a bit of advertising when they get out there and begin their God-given career.

Here’s the verdict of a photographer who’s the role model for students who think they can do a bit of everything in service of their own art. ‘My advice? Get re-skilled,’ says Simon Norfolk (writing for World Press Photo, not long after losing his savings to a collapsed Icelandic bank). ‘Keep your photographic aspirations but try to get a trade like film editing, web-design or accounting. Soon we’ll all be amateur photographers with real money-making jobs on the side that we don’t tell our colleagues about. We need to get over the snobbery attached to that.’

Title: Lessons to be learned
Feature: Comment
Date: 11 March 2009

Last week’s Comment on photo education and student’s woeful lack of awareness about their career opportunities provoked a predictable response. College lecturers accused me of launching a personal attack on them, while I was congratulated by many in the industry for sticking it to colleges, who in their eyes are robbing students blind.

Both miss the point. But what particularly worried were the responses from college lecturers that said BJP shouldn’t be talking about this issue at all, given students and universities buy and read the magazine. Perhaps our equipment tests should ignore any defects if the company in question has advertised with us …

Likewise, as I stated last week, the purpose of colleges is not necessarily vocational. As Roger Blackwell writes on the BJP-Online.com professional forum: ‘Some people find it difficult to grasp the concept of education and think that it should simply be “training” for a job.’

Between these two polarised (and often knee-jerk) opinions, lies a real issue. What are photography students’ expectations, and how are they informed and managed? I know many colleges make real efforts on this front, but if you meet graduates on a regular basis – as I do – you quickly realise that most don’t.

It’s difficult to get a proper picture of the number of photography graduates coming into the market, and just how many full-time photographers are working in the UK, so I turned to Skillset, which has produced the most recent and extensive research (visit skillset.org/photo/industry/).

If you count retail, labs, post-production, picture libraries and agencies, manufacturers and support services, the photo industry employed approximately 44,000 people in 2007 – of which less than half are actual photographers.

It’s harder to get figures for students because photography isn’t calculated as its own subset (it’s part of creative arts and design), but a rough estimate is that nearly 5000 people graduate each year. That’s based on the Association for Photography in Higher Education’s assumption that each of the 164 BA courses in photography has around 30 students per year. At last count, there were a further 45 Foundation Degrees, and a total of 270 higher education courses directly related to photo imaging.

From that basis I’d like to have a reasoned discussion about the purpose and value of photographic education.

Simon Bainbridge, Editor.

Source:

© Incisive Media Ltd. 2009
Incisive Media Limited, Haymarket House, 28-29 Haymarket, London SW1Y 4RX, is a company registered in the United Kingdom with company registration number 04038503

Today I finally started this pages and will hope that by creating them the pollution“* caused by each webpage or even click on them will be at least a bit palliated by the need to share and develop the ideas and information.

But is that a real excuse? How much information we really need in order to communicate, educate ourselves etc. and to suistain our health and environment?

*by pollution I mean both

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