Thursday, November 30, 2006

There is a light that never goes out

The Sun-jar
The Glowbrick
On the occasion of Morissey’s gig the other day and since I've been thinking lately how much energy we are wasting almost every night that we leave on a small lamp for my girlfriend’s young daughter who doesn’t want to sleep in total darkness, low and behold today’s post!
An average lamp that’s on for about 45 mins consumes 6500 watts, which means we are wasting a lot every night. So this got me looking for eco-friendly lamps on the internet. I came up with these solar powered - cool looking gadgets, that feature an appropriately soft light for the little one to sleep with. The design is super simple, a solar cell, battery and LED lights.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Smog-eating chemical

The unit cell of Anatase - one of the mineral forms of TiO2

Richard Meier's church in Tor Tre Teste, Rome, that features the TiO2 coating

The chemical industry (e.g. Italcementi Group, Millennium Chemicals) has come up with a revolutionary coating, of titanium dioxide (TiO2), that can be applied to the surface of buildings or as an ingredient in plastics, fabrics, ceramic tiles and road paving materials. TiO2, particularly in the anatase form, is a photocatalyst under UV light that allows the pollutants in the air to react with the oxygen in the air and coverts it to a form which then falls onto the ground and is washed away by the rain. So, in addition to keeping walls clean, it has the potential to cut breathing problems by cleaning the air around buildings. According to Italcementi, tests in urban settings determined that some pollutants could be reduced by 20 to 70 percent. The reduction of pollutants is greatest within about 8 ft. of a surface that has been treated, the company said. This means that a pedestrian on a street with traffic would inhale fewer pollutants while passing treated buildings. It has already been tested on Meier's church and more trials are under way on a pavement in Southampton Row in central London, and at Sir John Cass’s school in the City.

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Unsafe is the new safe

(photo by Alon Brik)
I've been reading today (via The Spiegel, Gristmill, CSMonitor) on this really cool (but kinda risky) idea, that some progressive cities and towns, like many Dutch towns, Ejby in Denmark, Ipswich in the UK and Ostende in Belgium, have been experimenting with as a cure for traffic chaos. Basically it all has to do with removing the conventional road signs - traffic lights, white lines, sidewalks etc- and create a single "shared space" for everyone, motorized or not!
The Dutch traffic guru Hans Monderman says "The many rules strip us of the most important thing: the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior. The greater the number of prescriptions, the more people's sense of personal responsibility dwindles.".
You'd be suprised to hear that the number of accidents has declined dramatically and there's improved flow of traffic in these demo-cities. London is also entertaining this new idea of road anarchy, and its been currentlly tested in Kensington.
Hmm, this may very well work for the civilized parts of the world but just imagine if we tried this over here in times huh?!


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Athens green spaces: degradation instead of regeneration

For every citizen of Athens there are only 2-3 m2 of green space*, the lowest percentage in all of the EU Member States.
But how is this possible, in a beautiful city that has been endowed with quite a number of green areas?

The reason is that very simply the Greek State itself has decided in the recent years to irreversibly degrade them, either by transferring them to private individuals, or with land use changes, or even uncontrolled commercial exploitation by Local Authority Organizations etc. All this, with the pretence that this is happening for the common public good.

Some shocking examples:

  • The transfer of 5000 m2 from the Pedion tou Areos to the Panellinios gymnastics club (with very dodgy legal doings) that also entailed plans to cut down lots of trees and illegal building.
  • The siting of the Metro station and the Contemporary Art Museum in the Rizari Park area (original area 115000 m2 – now only 50000 m2), that was mysteriously handed over from the Greek State to the Goulandris family.
  • The expansion of the Athens Concert Hall (Megaron) at the expense of the Eleftherias Park.
  • The transfer of a large part of the Nea Philadelphia Park to the AEK football club.
  • Many illegal actions, like new buildings and destruction of existing greenhouses within the Syngrou Estate

And the list just goes on and on.
We are losing these priceless “lungs” of our city and apart from the local NGOs like the WWF and some, not many, concerned citizens, nobody else seems to give a damn.

*According to the Ministry of Environment, February 2004, there are 3,55 m2 for each citizen, that is the figure when adding the green on the traffic islands, the lawn on Attiki Odos and Ymittos Circular, but without considering the serious reductions in green space that occurred during their construction (e.g. Ymittos)

References/ useful links for further reading:

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Greece slacking on Natura 2000

The Greek Natura network consists of 239 Sites of Community Importance and 151 Special Protection Zones.

The map above is proof that our country is one of the richest in terms of biodiversity in the Mediterranean, but also on the whole continent. Approximately 1/4 of the country belongs to this network! However, the latest review of management practices, in terms of carrying out projects within the framework of the Natura 2000, places Greece second from last. The study carried out by the WWF and other NGOs, looked at all EU-25 Member States, and also Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania and Turkey. The assessment is very critical of Greece, stressing on the absence of management measures for realizing the targets of the Natura network, and the absence of government funding...once again, way to go Ministry of Environment...what a shame...
For more on this, read:
The full report: Natura 2000 in Europe - An NGO assessment
The related WWF Hellas article
Check the EC's Nature & Biodiversity pages.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

The Cinematic Orchestra

Clip from their live performance on the 18th Nov. 2006, in Athens. The place was ultra-packed, sold out show...

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Word of the Year (2006)

The reason for this choice, says editor in chief Erin McKean, is because "The increasing use of the word carbon neutral reflects not just the greening of our culture, but the greening of our language. When you see first graders trying to make their classrooms carbon neutral, you know the word has become mainstream."
As it seems the fun never ends for those crazy Oxford lexicographers!


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Fashion Statements

The models at last night's Hugo Boss opening
This very chic lady at the bus stop this morning...


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Climate Change Denial Overload

I'm in the process of putting together a presentation regarding paleoclimate evidence (proxy records etc.) for climate change and I've been reading for a few weeks now the various related blog posts and environmental news commentaries. In the beginning I was shocked at the mere stupidity of those leading the arguments (mostly in the US) on how invalid anthropogenic warming is and so on. I read so much stuff from so many different sources, with loads of great rebuttals (see the Gristmill's "How to talk to a climate skeptic" guide!) and even some name calling (!) (see Peiser vs Oreskes, Gray vs Trenberth etc).
But what's really making me furious instead of laughing at these guys anymore, is statements and manipulations by people like:
1) Mike Morano, communications director of Oklahoma Senator and Environment Committee Chair Jim Inhofe (hear the live audio recording of Morano vs Revkin, Blakemore and Fagin at the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference here - a very kind contribution of da lovely DeSmogBlog)
2) Tom Harris, leading the latest perversion by public discourse by public relations professionals - Canada's Natural Resources Stewardship Project (NRSP - or aka Not Really Science People or Not Really Serious People! once again brava SmogBlog!). I quote him: "Gore (talking about An Inconvenient Truth)repeatedly labels carbon dioxide (CO2) as “global warming pollution” when, in reality, it is no more pollution than is oxygen. CO2 is plant food, an ingredient essential for photosynthesis without which Earth would be a lifeless, frozen ice ball....The hypothesis that human release of CO2 is a major contributor to global warming is just that – an unproven hypothesis, against which evidence is increasingly mounting."
3) and the tip of the iceberg, Republican pollster Frank Luntz, a guy who has made a career of massaging language to his clients advantage. Check out his now infamous enviro-speak memo to the Republican party, where he advises the following:
"The three words Americans are looking for in an environmental policy, they are (sic) 'safer,' 'cleaner,' and 'healthier."
"If you must use the economic argument, stress that you are seeking 'a fair balance' between the environment and the economy."
Ouff, angry and tired as well...

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Knight Riders Opening

Marita & Lilly at the exhibition entrance, in front of Kaimax Creative Industries graphics

There were some technical difficulties at first but still I found these pixeled "wrong" images quite interesting

The "correct" images

Images and video from last Thursday's opening of the Knight Riders. Photographer - video engineer Maria Mitzali, artist Alexander Mistriotis and musician Spyros Moschoutis have created an audio-visual installation of the Greek landscape, from images and sounds they have gathered from their wanderings all over Greece. It's on until 18/11/2006 (19.00-23.00 pm) in a very cool industrial building, Kiriadon str. 16-22 Kato Petralona, Athens.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Every man's memory is his private literature (Aldous Huxley)

Just got home after havin' watched one of the most interesting and moving documentaries ever, brought on loads of existential thoughts, the human condition blah blah. "Unknown white male", is the true story of 37 year old Douglas Bruce who for no apparent reason lost his entire memory one day (that is his "episodic" and "semantic" memory, not so much his "procedural"...from what I figured at least). Loved the way it was filmed, and directed by Rupert Murray. I am really curious to hear and watch how Douglas feels, reacts when he regains his memory one day (95% chance he does).