Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Hope Blogging


Bruce Mau makes a good point in an interview with WorldChanging:

One of the big discussions in our project was the value of open source. I met this extraordinary guy who runs IIT in India, and he said, "You have no concept of what it means because it's inconsequential to you….You're not going to do it because there's no real incentive for you to do it. When you get to the developing world and go into India and provide free access to software, you have no idea how revolutionary that is in terms of providing tools to people that simply wouldn't have access before."

We were working at MIT the day that they put all of their coursework online. Think about what that does. A kid in India can now access everything that MIT has.
It’s very interesting to think about the extent to which considering a given change “inconsequential” is a luxury. Apropos of which, WorldChanging also has an interview with Inveneo, which builds communication stations in rural Africa:
Our Communication Stations are ultra-low-power PCs, running on Linux, requiring 12 watts of power. They can be run on solar, bicycle, wind, or other power; solar is the primary. This is important because most communities they serve are off the grid. They are very simple machines, with no moving parts, using off-the-shelf technology; they can also can be modified to add voice communication (VOIP).
New open-source tools allow ordinary people to make their own maps:
[Mark] Harrower, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is devoted to giving people powerful new tools to improve map-making. Building on his research theme of visualization and animation in cartography, Harrower has created a fleet of public domain software programs that help mapmakers with fundamental tasks such as selecting colors, filtering data, representing change and generalizing lines…. Harrower very strongly believes in making his inventions free and publicly available, rather than locking them up in an academic journal or a commercial license.
Speaking of maps, the federal government has been mapping radiological hotspots in New York’s five boroughs, in order to have a baseline reading in case of a dirty bomb detonation. It found some unexpected areas of radioactivity, including a large piece of parkland on Staten Island that has since been cordoned off from the public. Probably for the best, I’d say.

The government of Namibia is directing all institutions to heat their water with solar power:
It has been found that all Namibian households with electric geysers combined consume N$100 million worth of electricity every year. Suppose the government made it compulsory for all to use solar water heaters, the country would cut down its electricity consumption by between 15 and 20 percent.
Isn’t it odd how the American “unitary executive” claims the right to torture, but not to mandate the use of solar power?

Still, you can mandate solar power for yourself with this attractive little device:
I bought this portable solar panel from SolarStyle on eBay for $20…. With this portable solar panel, I charge my MP3 player, a portable amplifier, a set of battery-powered Sony surround sound speakers, a cellular phone, a digital camera, two LED lamps, a LED booklight, and a LED flashlight.
BushCo’s harebrained attack on the Roadless Rule has run into a wee snag:
A federal judge on Wednesday reinstated the "Roadless Rule," a Clinton-era ban on road construction in nearly a third of national forests. U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled that the Bush administration failed to conduct necessary environmental studies before making changes that allowed states to decide how to manage individual national forests.
They’ve been losing a lot of these battles lately. Perhaps they’re a bit overextended at the moment? In related news, the BLM has just banned off-roading in 222 square miles of Utah’s badlands.

San Francisco has what strikes me as an effective way of educating people about rising sea levels:
Today, they launched FutureSeaLevel.org to bring the climate crisis home. It's an ingeniously simple idea: Participants tape up public spaces with a line of blue tape that marks the new sea level after unchecked global warming.

In a coastal city like San Francsico, it's a disturbing sight indeed -- the blue line cuts the urban landscape mercilessly, and you can really feel yourself going under. The project launched at Pier 39 -- tourist central here in SF -- so it's getting lots of exposure.
Richard Branson claims that he’ll spend $3 billion to fight climate change. Remarkable, if true. And if it comes to pass, you can thank Al Gore. (You can thank him for this, too.)

A group of scientists is trying to put an end to Japan’s demented, mindbogglingly sadistic annual dolphin slaughter:
[T]he ethical argument for ending the drive is supported by a solid foundation of scientific evidence indicating that dolphins possess the mental and emotional capacities for pain and suffering on a par with great apes and humans. It is also increasingly clear that dolphins have social traditions and cultures, complex interdependent relationships, and strong family ties all of which are susceptible to disruption or even dissolution in the drives.

"The scientific evidence is abundantly clear--the Japanese dolphin hunts are an assault on intelligent, sentient, and emotional beings with brains that should make us all stop and think" said Dr. Lori Marino, Senior Lecturer in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology at Emory University.
I couldn’t agree more, and I hope everyone who reads this will sign their petition. Now.

Okay, now that you’re back, here are some amazing mountain panoramas by Jack Brauer (via Coudal). Click on the photos to enlarge them, and then drag the cursor to scroll over them. Italy's Monte Paterno is particularly impressive.


Also, nine months of gestation in 20 seconds, and some lovely photos of Quebec and Ontario, including "a mosaic of 50 gilt lettering apartment names from Greater Montréal" (both via Things.)


Here are some sites I've found on my own: A world survey of doorknobs. A study of Wyoming rangelands through time. Pictures from the Museum of Comparative Oology. And last but not least, Trapeze Disrobing Act, a short film from 1903.

(Photo at top by greynotgrey.)

7 comments:

lahke said...

I'm afraid that the Museum of Oology was incredibly saddening--so many small lives sacrificed.

Phila said...

lahke said...
I'm afraid that the Museum of Oology was incredibly saddening--so many small lives sacrificed.


Sorry about that. If it's any consolation, your response makes me feel more hopeful.

Nanette said...

Open source projects make me very hopeful. I'm sort of a believer in a 'cast your bread upon the waters' type of thing, anyway, and I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages.

Plus, we are often so limited in our thinking... we sort of have everything served up on a platter in most Western nations, so while there are ongoing inventions and faster computer processors and more of this and that, it sometimes seems (to me, anyway) that not a lot of it is very um... inventive, maybe ;).

Then again, I stopped following Every New Thing long ago, so I could be so wrong.

I remember a story, though, not too long ago... some country in Africa, I can't remember which, and some everyday product - might have been cell phones. But the way the people who had them used them caused the makers of the product to say... "wow, we'd never thought of anyone doing that." Okay, I went and looked it up, it was cell phones.

And it doesn't really have all that much to do with open source, of course... mostly with the ingenuity, inventiveness and imagination that I can't help but think we are missing out on (all over the place, but especially in places where the mother of invention definitely resides) by so many things being proprietary. Well, and the need some have to see a clear profit from something.

Phila said...

mostly with the ingenuity, inventiveness and imagination that I can't help but think we are missing out on

I think you see a lot more personal ingenuity and inventiveness in the developing world, by and large...both in terms of coming up with inventive practical solutions to everyday problems, and turning existing technology into new uses. I'm generalizing, obviously, but they do seem to be more collaborators with technology than consumers of it. Which is just one reason why the open source stuff is exciting.

Nanette said...

they do seem to be more collaborators with technology than consumers of it.

I think that this is what I sometimes feel is missing, when we just have soooo much of it. And, as you say, generalities, but still I would say we are definitely more consumers than collaborators.

That word also reminds me of another story I read that I thought was pretty neat... in South Africa, I think. The colloboration between a group of, I think, Western environmentalists and um... can't remember the name but I believe they speak that sort of click click language.

Anyway, neither spoke the others language, but the people who lived there lived with the land and knew all the habits of the animals native to the area... what they ate, when they roamed, where they went and how and through what paths, all about the plants and rainfall and all that... all those things environmentalists and such always want to know.

Anyway, using some sort of software that probably included pictures, GPS and whatever else it had (details are obviously not my strong suit), they were able to communicate back and forth, allowing the environmentalists to gather at least some of the detailed knowledge these South Africans held, and use it (somehow) for the further protection of the land and the animals and, presumably, the people. At least, I think that was their goal.

Then again, there may be such a thing as too much collaboration. I am not sure what I think of these "Play Pump" things... I probably should just look it up but I hope the clean water pumps don't depend only on the children playing on the merry go round. What happens if or when it rains for extended periods of time? Can't just shoo the kids out to play ;).

I have signed the petition and I think I must have inner ear issues because the mountain panoramas make me dizzy. Wonderful photos tho, as long as they just stay still.

Phila said...

Anyway, using some sort of software that probably included pictures, GPS and whatever else it had (details are obviously not my strong suit), they were able to communicate back and forth,

Sounds vaguely familiar...

Nanette said...

I have found a story on it.

I forgot some details (CyberTracker software) and added others (they don't speak the click language), but I got parts of it right.