Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Steam Vents at the University of Michigan

They're all over the Central Campus, often acting as notice boards for student organizations; plastered with paper and wrapped with layers of tape. The vents are supposed to be used to literally let off steam, and - now that it's cool enough to see the condensation - we can see just how much steam there is to be released...


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

And I thought I had a big bike

Well, it's not so much a LONG bike as a friggin' TALL bike:

Richie Trimble’s 14.5 ft. Tall Bike

I read about L.A.'s CicLAvia a few years back, and I've thought that it was a great idea to encourage cycling in the city as something more than a recreational hobby for men in lycra. Of course, this sort of event tends to bring out everyone (except maybe the road-racers) for a nice and easy ride through the streets.

...including a man on a 14.5 foot bike. :D


Friday, April 12, 2013


The crows are back,
Cawing in the rain-beaten morning.
Black heralds of spring.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Console Themes in Acapella

I remember these games. And now you can listen to them sung acapella by a man with long hair and a long beard.

Heh. :)

Street Fighter 2 - Guile Theme Acapella

Castlevania - Bloody Tears Acapella

Final Fantasy VII - JENOVA Theme Acapella

Final Fantasy VII - Aerith's (Aeris) Theme Acapella

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Cool website: Sustainable China

I just came across the Sustainable China website today. While the title of the site may - for people like me - evoke images of ecosystem sustainability, of industrial sustainability, or of economic sustainability and the dystopic landscape that we (in natural resource management) often hear about, this site is actually filled with issues regarding how Chinese people in different regions of mainland China and Taiwan are associating themselves with ideas of sustainability. In other words, instead of doom-and-gloom reporting about the terrible smog in Beijing (or dead pigs floating through Shanghai, algae growth choking bays, mine tailings poisoning the waters of countless villages, day-long traffic jams, drying rivers, etc., etc.), this blog talks about how local and regional culture shapes how people interact with their landscape.

The most recent story -
green spirituality and the limits to modernity
- ties the sustainability mission to the rise and return of spirituality in the country:
In China, the quest for a sustainable future is mirrored in the “back to the future” rise of religions. For sure this is a complex phenomenon: people pray to the gods for wealth and happiness, not for a lower ecological footprint. But at the same time, Chinese religions send messages about reducing desire, non-violence to living beings, harmony with nature, and the value of balance and moderation.
In another story - religious diversity and ecological sustainability - the author posts his defense of why we - outside China - need to change our view of what a modern China is and how a modern China thinks of itself:
it is necessary to resist the simplistic construction of “New China” as exclusively “secular”, “modern”, or “materialistic.” The resurgence of religious expression in contemporary China, the attention paid to minority nationalities throughout China’s diverse environmental contexts, and the resuscitation of Confucius as supreme icon of Chinese culture together compel us to pay attention to the cultural and religious diversity of contemporary China. Doing so leads us to question the binary taxonomies of tradition / modernity, sacred / secular, rural / urban, religion / science that inform the ideology of mo- dernity, and to pay particular attention to the way their attendant ideologies and narratives serve to construct and authorize particular views of nature and environment.
I have to say that this sort of website is really useful in helping non-native scholars and activists for sustainability understand how to think of the China/Taiwan region and its people. One mantra for (ecological) sustainability is, "Think globally, act locally," and one of the most important parts of being able to accomplish the second part is to divest yourself of your previous assumptions (especially in a rapidly changing part of the world) and invest strongly in information that best informs you about the root causes and motivations of the people that you are trying to reach.

I have, myself, been interested in trying to learn what the social and personal motivations are for people entering the area of natural resource conservation. We aren't all hippy tree-huggers and we aren't also all hunters and fishers (nor do we all get along). Our personal stories are all different, but I imagine that most US citizens likely share some similar themes. Getting to those themes - especially as we move further from the environmental movement of the 1970s, when the major themes of environmentalism in the US emerged - is going to be important in maintaining relevance in natural resource conservation efforts within the US; the activists of Earth Day 1970 are (if they are still alive) 43 years older now, and their university-age counterparts were born as much as 25 years after that first Earth Day. Understanding how to connect and keep relevant the message of environmentalism and (now) sustainability will require connecting it to robust existing social structures, and I believe this is already happening.

However, that is merely "acting locally" within the context of the United States. In an increasingly globalized world that is increasingly less willing to just take social policy that we foist upon them, and one that is moving ever faster toward inescapable effects of climate change, an important aspect of creating "buy-in" to the ideas of sustainability is to learn what the cultural resonances are between the goals of sustainability and already existing social institutions. Scholars like James Miller are doing this work in China and Taiwan. Similarly motivated scholars are working on this question in various parts of the world, too.

... and I think that it's a good thing that they're doing.

Friday, April 05, 2013