Archive for November, 2010

Creative houses from reclaimed stuff

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I love TED Talks. My friend Leah (thank you!) just sent me this one. It’s adorable and informative. I think you’ll dig it, too. It’s this guy, Dan Phillips, explaining how he makes neat houses from salvaged materials. He shows photos, but also gets high brow about it all, explaining that the real problem is our need for things to look the same.

The Twist-Ties that Bind

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Wednesday, December 8th, Dr. Robin Nagle, New York’s Department of Sanitation anthropologist in residence, is giving  a talk entitled “The Twist-Ties that Bind” as part of an ongoing series of Freshkills Park talks. Here’s the description:

Join Dr. Robin Nagle to learn (almost) everything you ever wanted to know about garbage in New York. Discover how profoundly it connects us to each other, to history, to politics, to infrastructure and technology. Hear stories and reflections from people who shoulder its burdens. Glimpse some of its surprising secrets. Consider why we need to ignore it, and ponder the consequences of its invisibility. The insights you glean migh…t just change forever the way you see your city.

Dr. Nagle is the anthropologist-in-residence for the Department of Sanitation. She is also director of the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University, where she teaches anthropology and urban studies. Her book Picking Up, about what it is to be a sanitation worker in New York and why you should care, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the New York City Department of Sanitation and the John W. Draper Interdisciplinary Master’s Program in Humanities and Social Thought at New York University.

I highly recommend checking out this event if you’re in or near NYC. Freshkills Park has created a Facebook event so you don’t forget. And even if you can’t make it, check out Dr. Nagle’s garblog, Discard Studies. As we’ve mentioned before, it’s rad.

Weekly Compactor: Blogroll edition

Friday, November 19, 2010

This week around the garblogosphere:

A plastic video made the rounds, prompting commentary from smarties like Beth of Fake Plastic Fish and Elizabeth Royte of the eponymous blog about “waste, water, whatever.”

The Edgemere Landfill Trilogy

Thursday, November 11, 2010

You may remember photographer Nathan Kensinger from past mention on this blog of his coverage of Fresh Kills and the Hamilton Avenue marine transfer station.  Nathan’s latest project is a three-part series examining the section of the Rockaways (a beachfront neighborhood in Queens) that once housed the Edgemere, America’s longest-running landfill, and remains home to its toxic legacy.

The Edgemere Landfill, photo by Nathan Kensinger

Check out Nathan’s series here, here and here.

Less is More

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

For the second year in a row, is participating in the Green Books Campaign, an effort to promote sustainable reading organized by Eco-Libris. And we’re not alone, 200 green blogs are publishing reviews of green books at 1pm today (or, as in this case, thereabouts). Find out more here.

From the long list of environmentally-themed books donated by publishers for the purposes of this e-happening, I chose to review Less is More, edited by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska and put out by New Society Publishers. The book carries the subtitle “Embracing simplicity for a healthy planet, a caring economy and lasting happiness” and treats the complexity of simplicity in three sections by way of essays written by a number of journalists, academics and bloggers.

I should preface this review by saying that while this book was not for me, some other green bloggers seem to have loved it. After reading this post I encourage you to check out this glowing review on Sustainablog.

Part one of Less is More includes essays defining simplicity, part two offers solutions and part three addresses policies. An afterward follows, suggesting that readers use this book to get conversation flowing in “Simplicity Talking Circles.”

“Simplicity,” the editors state in their introduction, “is a response to the crisis of our planet.” Fair enough. They then explain that the concept of simplicity can, in fact, be complicated. Still with you there. Next, they go on to present (count them) 10 essays defining simple living. And that’s where they lost me. A bunch of people cited Thoreau. A few veered down a spiritual path.* A chapter would end and then, all over again, a new dry voice would make the same case for simpler living in a style too abstract to connect to a general audience and not foot noted enough for an academic one. With each turn of the page, I found myself wishing that Malcolm Gladwell, Oliver Sacks or Jonah Leher had had a crack at the topic (in all fairness, this is a wish for all nonfiction ever).

I’m not trying to be a hater, really, I’m not. Generally speaking I love philosophy and applaud attempts to connect issues of waste and consumption to broader frameworks. But the only thing I could focus on during part one of Less is More is that the editors (yes, I think we have to go there) should have kept the title closer in hand.

Ok. The snarky part is over. On to the positive: Part two. “Solutions,” came as a welcome breath of tangible after all those unwieldy and somewhat sappy definitions of simplicity. Should you pick up Less is More, I recommend jumping right to the middle of the book. Here is where real people share stories with story arc, scenes and tangible examples that link everyday life to our lofty ideals. In particular, I recommend Alan AtKisson’s essay “The Lagom Solution” describing how, upon moving to Sweden at age 40, he discovered the concept of lagom which in Swedish means  “just enough” (not too much, not too little).

Part three is called policies. As with first section, I think the third would have been stronger written as a single chapter citing the six authors who contribute essays. The content covered in each did not feel distinct enough to warrant another essay with a beginning, middle and conclusion.

Late in Less is More, another contributor cites editor Cecile Andrews’ book The Circle of Simplicity in which she hearkens back in American history to point out that a lot of women’s rights advancements were first discussed among circles gathered in people’s homes. At the close this book, Andrews offers some tips on how to create a circle of one’s own to keep the conversation flowing. Sounds like a cool idea to me and I’m glad to see a book that sets out discussing high brow thought culminate with action points. I just wish the path from one to the other had been less segmented.

*As a side note, I think there is enough content spread across a couple of the chapters that if woven together, would make for a compelling article on simplicity in faith traditions.

Here Comes the Garbage Barge!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The New York Times book review’s 2010 pick for best illustrated children’s book is Here Comes the Garbage Barge! by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Red Nose Studio and published by Schwartz & Wade Books.

Here Comes the Garbage Barge!

The Times’ 2010 holiday gift guide slide show text efficiently sums the book up as “The story of a barge carrying 3,168 tons of garbage that couldn’t find a home — and how its ill-fated journey helped usher in the recycling era.” Can’t wait to read it. Here’s a link to the longer review with more on that true story, which we’ve mentioned here before.

via the ever-fabulous Ruby Re-Usable

TEDx Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The green blogs are abuzz. Did you virtually attend the TEDx Great Garbage Patch—an independently organized TED conference focused on plastic—this weekend? If not, here’s a link to everything that went down. And Beth Terry of FakePlasticFish has a great overview of Van Jones‘ presentation here. Knock yourself out, plasticheads. There’s a LOT of good stuff here. The video gallery alone could consume an afternoon. I’m still catching up, more to come.

Newtown Creek

Monday, November 1, 2010

It’s been an unseasonably warm fall in New York, which was perfect last Saturday for a tour of Newtown Creek—the industrial waterway that serves as part of the border between Brooklyn and Queens—with photographer (and Brooklyn native) Anthony Hamboussi who recently published a gorgeous book of photos also called Newtown Creek.

Newtown Creek the book

Tony was nice enough to revisit a lot of the vantage spots he frequented to create the book. We spent around five hours exploring different views of the creek and comparing the sites as they are now to some of the images preserved in his book. It was especially cool to see the huge shiny silver wastewater treatment plant “digester eggs” up close and in person and then flip backwards through the book to recall various points of their construction. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I encourage you to visit the space between Brooklyn and Queens to see these massive metal eggs that separate sewage from water.

For me, a highlight was getting to see a barge up close. They’re huge!


We also stopped to peep local graffiti art, like this metal welded piece by the legendary “Revs.” I love how this piece is structured so that the sun itself becomes the tag.

Fuckin Revs

In addition to the predictably industrial bits, we saw some naturally beautiful hidden bits of beach.

Pretty beach

And stumbled upon art in unexpected places.


All in all, it was a great day. I lost count of how many times we crossed from Brooklyn to Queens or Queens to Brooklyn. It was a lovely interborough adventure. I recommend checking it out for yourself. And whether or not you make the trek in person, I recommend checking out Newtown Creek the book. My five hour tour pales in comparison to the five years Tony spent photographing these in-between and unused spaces.  His next project is a study of “La petite ceinture,” the abandoned railway tracks that encircle Paris like “a little belt.” Now THERE’s a tour I’d like to take!

Thanks again, Tony!

%d bloggers like this: