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Assemblage V

October 7, 2008

Gathering stuff from the internest on Beer, Archaeology, the Environment, Aquaponics and anything else that strikes us as interesting, since May.

On architecture and planning, parasitic cities, the death of the ‘first family’ (a phrase that will surely draw the attention of the all seeing totalitarian tea-drinking technocrats), roadkill and rodents, politics, Palin, Beer and Knitting, and the great greenwash…

Over at Planning Dispatch, Garry has published his submission to a recent RIAI request from members on suggestions as to how the Irish planning system can be improved. There’s no argument that the quality of the design of a development proposal is of utmost importance, but we would disagree somewhat with Garry that planning officers should be architects, with all due respect to architects (although he is just suggesting a primary degree). We’d argue that a professional planner, supported by a well-resourced, multi-disciplinary backup team including town & city architects, environmental officers, heritage and conservation officers, engineers as well as support staff and other related specialities would suffice (surprisingly, although there were 38 conservation and heritage officers in Local Authorities in 2006 there were only 9 Architects!). Surely that’s not too much to ask.

One of the main problems in Local Authority (LA) planning mirrors that which has been faced by every other LA and Government department over the past ten years – due to the unprecedented growth in both population and property development there was huge pressure on planners, with a system that was reactive and under-resourced – although given the downturn in housing applications and the projected downturn in commercial development this may not be as significant a problem over the coming years… now that we have time to draw breath, it’s time for a major review and shakeup – what’s the bet on that happening?

On the subject of planning and cities, Shawn over at Electric Archaeology, points to an agent based model by André Ourednik and Pierre Dessemontet of the emergence of cities. Shawn has been playing around with the model….

One of the pre-sets that they thoughtfully include is for ‘parasitic cities’. Rome being the archetypical parasitic, or ‘consumer’ city. I thought I would try it out. Lo! and behold, an enormous city emerges, with one other major centre….

Aferensis summarizes the mystery of the deaths of the collection of australopithecenes found at Hadar (the site in East Africa where Lucy was found) known as ‘the first family’..

Rodents & Roadkill

Rodents & Roadkill

That’s a shot of part of our reference collection of animal bones. An additional element of the interoperability between our ecologists and archaeologists is the continuing improvement of this resource (OK, we sometimes collect roadkill, and the Ethical Palaeontologist has a vivid description of the process of making them bone!).

A hot cup of Joe has a little bit of politics…

And Greg has lots (our source for much of our Sarah Palin fun)…

The Frosted Brew is a home brew blog we’ve just come across, It’s

a place where all home beer brewers can gather to share knowledge, ideas and recipes with each other.  The Frosted Brew is run by Jesse Seymour, an enthusiastic home brewer who is willing to try to ferment just about anything that is not nailed down.

And for another great beer blog have a read of Aran Brew, a blog which records Bionic Laura’s adventures in brewing, knitting, crochet and other crafts, and has become a regular read for us.

On Aquaponics, Joel Malcolm has posted the second edition of ‘Backyard Aquaponics‘. The first issue is available as a free download, with further editions available for Aus $7.50 each with an annual subscription available for $25.00. In this edition, there are articles on numerous different aquaponic systems from around the world as well as recipes using aquaponic produce, information about using Google Sketchup, aquaponic news from around the world, and more.

On environment, Tom Philpott, writing at Gristmill discusses a new book, Green Inc. by Christine MacDonald, who argues that large environmental NGOs have compromised their agendas in exchange for corporate cash. MacDonald, a former media manager at Conservation International (CI), exposes the ‘clubby, well-upholstered world of conservationists’ according to the blurb. Reminiscent of recent controversy in Archaeology in Ireland whereby private sector archaeologists have been accused of being in the pocket of major developers, the book is apparently scathing in regard to the high salaries paid to the CEO’s and ‘outraged by organizations routinely accepting donations from oil, lumber and mining industries and corporate behemoths such as Wal-Mart without holding them accountable for ongoing pollution practices’.

Tom Philpott discusses CI and their work with Cargill and Bunge, the world’s largest and third-largest agribusiness companies respectively. There’s a difficult conundrum in all this – as MacDonald points out, despite the fact that CI have ‘saved’ 120,000 Ha of rainforest, 2.2 million hectares of El Cerrado’s ecosystem are lost every year (although Philpott doesn’t contextualise this loss).

It’s certain that the mindset of big business needs to change given that we’re currently stuck with a corporate world view which hasn’t changed since the industrial revolution, and a system of capitalism that is inherently flawed and unsustainable. It’s perhaps beyond time that biodiversity and both the economic and health benefits of a healthy and diverse ecosystem should be accounted for in planning for a sustainable future. And that’s where innovative and imaginative ideas from both large corporate entities and small to medium sized business must play a part, as well as strategic local and national biodiversity planning and proper sustainable urban planning, if that’s not asking for too much again.

Whatever your opinion on ‘natural capitalism’ versus ‘greenwashing’ there is an inherent problem in environmental NGO’s working with multinational corporations and the movement from activism to collaboration, and its difficult to see what the immediate solution is at this juncture.

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