Monthly Archives: November 2004

because Design Within Reach isn’t

IKEAユs recent advertising campain takes advantage of the concept it has fostered since inception… that great design is useless if only the most wealthy can afford it. By creating a fictitious organization – Elite Designers Against IKEA– they spinal tap a stereotype product designer and humorously capitalize on a disdain for pretentiousness and the publicユs inability to distinguish between a Dunker and a Pablo beyond price alone.

Wind power not all pleasant

Wind power not all pleasant breezes

Globe and Mail Update
A cool if not quite cold wind is blowing over the ballyhooed environmental benefits of a big shift to wind power.
A group of Canadian and U.S. scientists reported Tuesday that computer simulations show that a large-scale use of wind farms to generate electrical power could create a significant temperature change over Earth’s land masses.
While the precise tradeoff between the climate changes from wind farms versus that from carbon-based power systems is still a matter of contention, the fact that wind power isn’t climate neutral leaps out of the simulations.
“We shouldn’t be surprised that extracting wind energy on a global scale is going to have a noticeable effect. … There is really no such thing as a free lunch,” said David Keith, a professor of energy and the environment at the University of Calgary and lead author of the report, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Specifically, if wind generation were expanded to the point where it produced one-10th of today’s energy, the models say cooling in the Arctic and a warming across the southern parts of North America should happen.
The exact mechanism for this is unclear, but the scientists believe it may have to do with the disruption of the flow of heat from the equator to the poles.
Depending on how much energy is ultimately generated by wind power, the study’s simulations say these changes could range from one-third of a degree to 2 degrees Celsius.
One unexpected finding to the study is that the hotter temperate zone/cooler Arctic effect exists in the simulations if the wind farms are concentrated in a few spots or scattered across the world.
Prof. Keith and others involved in the study strongly caution, however, against an anti-wind-power reading of their work.
“This is really a ‘but, yes’ article,” says Stephen Pacala, a professor of ecology at Princeton University, who is a co-author of the paper.
The “but” is the fact that wind farms would alter the climate, the “yes” is the paper’s preliminary estimation that if wind power produced one-10th of today’s energy, its climate-altering effects would be only one-fifth that of the carbon dioxide it would replace.
But there may also be a “yes, but” lying in the future.
Prof. Keith argues that the paper is so ringed with uncertainties that one cannot rule out scenarios where at some size wind farms might cause more climate ill than good.
Specifically, the new paper’s simulations do not include any of the jaw-dropping calculations of the local temperature effects of large-scale wind farms that appeared last month.
Dr. Pacala’s then-graduate student Somnath Roy and others reported that simulations of a wind farm in Oklahoma with 10,000 windmills could increase temperatures by upward of 2C for several hours in the early morning. These findings mirror an actual but previously ignored temperature rise that U.S. government meteorologist Neil Kelley observed at an actual wind farm in California in 1990.
The mechanism for local temperature changes are the vertical eddies that behemoth windmills – these monsters can be 30 stories tall and have turbines that spin at 400 kilometres an hour – would generate.
These local temperature shifts occurred because eddies heated, dried and lifted ground air.
Even before publication, the new paper has been intensely controversial.
Joseph Romm, a former acting assistant secretary of energy for the United States Department of Energy, wrote a blistering critique of early drafts in which he pointed out that carbon dioxide-induced global warming might cause a complete shift in the world’s climate, whereas wind power would raise local temperatures only.
The scientists involved in the PNAS paper spent 1½years rewriting it.
“The first version of the paper caused a lot of outrage, and we are trying to pull our punches and not to draw conclusions,” Prof. Keith said.
Nonetheless, Dr. Keith says that after a rumour about his findings got out, he was contacted by a group fighting the establishment of a wind farm in Cape Cod in Massachusetts.
Wind power’s proponents are cautiously optimistic that all climate changes will prove minor when compared with the sea level rises, crop failures, and disease spread that have been linked to the continuing use of carbon based energy sources.
“It seems to me this is an area that requires further research to see if there is a problem there … although there doesn’t seem to be anything in the paper itself that leads you to that conclusion,” says Robert Hornung, president of the Canadian Wind Energy Association.

clever bastards…

Take a Ride to Exurbia

NY Times, Op-Ed
November 9, 2004
Orlando, Fla.
About six months ago I came out with a book on the booming exurbs – places
like the I-4 corridor in central Florida and Henderson, Nev. These are the
places where George Bush racked up the amazing vote totals that allowed him
to retain the presidency.
My book started with Witold Rybczynski’s observation that America’s
population is decentralizing faster than any other society’s in history.
People in established suburbs are moving out to vast sprawling exurbs that
have broken free of the gravitational pull of the cities and now exist in
their own world far beyond.
Ninety percent of the office space built in America in the 1990’s was built
in suburbia, usually in low office parks along the interstates. Now you
have a tribe of people who not only don’t work in cities, they don’t
commute to cities or go to the movies in cities or have any contact with
urban life. You have these huge, sprawling communities with no center.
Mesa, Ariz., for example, has more people than St. Louis or Minneapolis.
In my book I tried to describe the culture in these places – the office
parks, the big-box malls, the travel teams and the immigrant enclaves. But
when it came to marketing the book, I failed in two important ways.
I couldn’t figure out how to tell the people in exurbia that I had written
a book about them. Here I was writing about places like Loudoun County,
Va., and Polk County, Fla., but my book tour took me to places like
downtown Philadelphia, downtown Seattle and the Upper West Side. The places
I was writing about are so new, and civic life is as yet so spare, there
are few lecture series or big libraries to host author talks. The normal
publishing infrastructure is missing.
I was about to give a reading in Berkeley when I asked a few of the
bookstore employees if they sold many copies of Rick Warren’s book, “The
Purpose-Driven Life.” They weren’t familiar with the book, even though it
has sold millions and millions of copies. I realized there are two
conversations in this country. I was in the establishment conversation, but
somehow I needed to get into the Rick Warren conversation and I could never
find a way.
That’s why I’m so impressed by Karl Rove. As a group of Times reporters
demonstrated in Sunday’s paper, the Republicans achieved huge turnout gains
in exurbs like the ones in central Florida. The Republicans permeated those
communities, and spread their message.
My second failure is that I could never get my parts of blue America really
curious about exurban culture. There were exceptions. For example, when Al
From of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council learned what I was
writing about, he was right on it, inviting me to speak to Democratic
groups to describe the importance of the exurbs. He knew how vital they
would be.
But I couldn’t get most of the people I spoke to really fascinated, even in
an anthropological sense, by these new places. That’s in part because I was
struggling against a half-century of stereotyping. Movies from “The
Graduate” to “American Beauty” have reinforced the idea that the suburbs
are bland, materialistic, ticky-tacky boxes in a hillside where people are
conformist on the outside and hollow within. The stereotype is absurd, but
it closes off fresh thinking.
The other problem I had is that I didn’t adequately describe the oxymoronic
attraction these places have for millions of people. On the one hand,
people move to exurbs because they want some order in their lives. They
leave places with arduous commutes, backbreaking mortgages, broken families
and stressed social structures and they head for towns with ample living
space, intact families, child-friendly public culture and intensely
enforced social equality. That’s bourgeois.
On the other hand, they are taking a daring leap into the unknown, moving
to towns that have barely been built, working often in high-tech office
parks doing pioneering work in biotech and nanotechnology. These exurbs are
conservative but also utopian – Mayberrys with BlackBerrys.
The Republicans won in part because Bush and Rove understand this culture.
Everybody is giving advice to Democrats these days, and mine is don’t take
any advice from anybody with access to the media – including me, just to be
Get out into the sprawl, into that other conversation. Take your time. It’s
a new world out there.